Rate of out-of-school children

Definition

Number of children of official primary school age who are not enrolled in primary or secondary school, expressed as a percentage of the population of official primary school age. Children enrolled in pre-primary education are excluded and considered out of school.

Calculation method

Subtract the number of primary school-age pupils enrolled in primary or secondary school from the total population of official primary school age, divide the difference by the population of primary school age, and multiply by 100. Alternatively, subtract the adjusted net enrolment rate in primary education from 100.

Data required

Population of official primary school age, and number of pupils of primary school age enrolled in primary or secondary school.

Data source

School register, school survey or census for enrolment; population census or estimates.

Interpretation

The rate of out-of-school children is a useful measure for comparison across countries with different population sizes. It combines the number of children of official primary age who never attended school or dropped out, and the population of official primary school age that is nationally and internationally considered as the target population. The higher the rate, the greater the need for interventions to target out-of-school children to achieve the goal of universal primary education. When disaggregated by geographical location and gender, this indicator can identify areas or groups needing the greatest efforts.

Limitations

The administrative data used in the calculation of the rate of out-of-school children are based on enrolment at a specific date which can bias the results by either counting enrolled children who never attend school or by omitting those who enrol after the reference date for reporting enrolment data. Furthermore, children who drop out of school after the reference date are not counted as out of school. Discrepancies between enrolment and population data from different sources can also result in over- or underestimates of the rate. Lastly, the international comparability of this indicator can be affected by the use of different concepts of enrolment and out-of-school children across countries.

Purpose

To measure the size of the population of official primary school age who never attended primary education or dropped out, to identify the target population for policies and interventions aimed at achieving universal primary education.

Quality standards

The enrolment count should cover primary and secondary education and all types of schools and education institutions, including all public and private institutions that provide organized educational programmes. Children in the official primary age group that are in pre-primary education should be considered out of school.

Types of disaggregation

By sex.