Education Data Release – September 2023

New education data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) released this week track country progress towards Sustainable Development Goal objectives for education (SDG 4).

The UIS has been reporting education data since its founding in 1999. As the custodian agency for SDG 4, the UIS provides high quality and reliable education data for all 43 SDG 4 indicators. Collecting and producing statistics for the Education 2030 Agenda is central to our mandate of providing policy makers with actionable data, and key inputs for reports and analyses conducted by global agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academia.

UIS education data, for example, support the World Bank Learning Poverty metric, the Global Education Monitoring Reports, the Human Development Index, and others.

That is why we are proud to present our 2023 Education Data Release, with new data available in the SDG 4 Data Explorer. This release updates all education data and offers a specific focus on equity considerations which are a key part of the SDG 4 over-arching objective of ensuring a quality education for all children. Data users will find a wider availability of disaggregation for SDG 4 indicators based on gender, location in urban and rural areas, as well as the impact of family wealth on schooling. In addition, the UIS is releasing data on the proportion of children at least two years over age for their grade level.

Inequalities in educational participation, attainment and outcomes persist (Indicator 4.5.1).

Disaggregating data by measures of inequality help countries design policies reaching students facing higher barriers to education. Despite significant progress in increasing access to education, socioeconomic disparities in participation and attainment persist. Parity ratios at the global and regional levels mask gender inequalities within countries that disadvantage either girls or boys, with a substantial share of countries failing to achieve parity. Inequalities by other socioeconomic factors such as urban/rural location or household wealth are starker, and are often strongly biased against rural or poorer households.

Parity ratios tend to widen at higher levels of education. The proportion of countries meeting gender parity in completion rates decreases from two thirds at the primary age group, to less than a fifth at the upper secondary. For wealth disparities, only a single country out of 73 with recent data achieved parity at the upper secondary level compared to a quarter at the primary age group.

In addition to parity indices for Indicator 4.5.1, gender disparities are also evident in other indicators. Primary completion rates (Indicator 4.1.2), for example, were lower for boys in eight out of ten countries, most in sub-Saharan Africa. Disparities by location (urban/rural) and household wealth are typically more extreme. For example, among countries with recent data, only a third reached parity between rural and urban areas for primary completion, while one in six experienced parity between children from rich and poor households.

In regards to learning outcomes Indicator 4.1.1, the majority of countries with data have not reached gender parity, with girls generally outperforming boys in math and reading at the end of primary, although inequalities in mathematics are more balanced between the genders at the lower secondary level. For mathematical proficiency at the lower secondary level, only 5% of 63 countries with data achieved urban/rural parity, while no countries achieved wealth parity.

Significant shares of children are overage at the primary and secondary levels (Indicator 4.1.5).

This data release provides new disaggregated indicators on the percentage of students two or more years overage for their grade level. In many low-income countries, over-age rates exceed 50%. In Liberia, Central African Republic, and Guinea-Bissau, over three-quarters of students are overage at the lower secondary level. Data reveal large discrepancies within countries by location, with children in rural areas significantly more likely to be overage relative to their urban counterparts. Disparities are even greater between children from poor and rich households.

New data show significant disparities in educational attainment for adults over age 25, both within and between countries (Indicator 4.4.3).

The UIS is disseminating wealth-disaggregated data on adult educational attainment in the September 2023 release for the first time.

In most sub-Saharan African countries with available data, fewer than half of adults have attained primary education, and for a sizable minority of countries, less than a quarter of adults have done so. This compares with over 75% of the population attaining a primary education in most countries in Eastern Asia, Northern Africa and Western Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. With the exception of North America and Europe, less than half of adults have attained upper secondary education in most countries for each region.

For countries with available data, wealth disparities increase substantially from primary educational attainment to lower secondary, upper secondary, and tertiary education. At the tertiary level, among most low- and middle-income countries with data, fewer than 1 in 100 adults from the poorest households have attained at least a bachelor’s degree. In comparison, more than one in ten adults from the richest households have done so, and more than 25% in approximately a third of countries.

Only in one every two children participate in early childhood education (ECE) one year before primary in sub-Saharan Africa and Northern Africa and Western Asia (Indicator 4.2.2).

Globally, the participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age) has been stable at 70% since 2010, through there is an uneven distribution across SDG regions. The lowest pre-primary participation rates are in sub-Saharan Africa (47% in 2021) and Northern Africa and Western Asia (46% in 2022) – even though these regions have free and compulsory pre-primary education. The SDG region Europe and Northern America had an ECE participation rate of 91% in 2022, unchanged since 2010. There have been no changes to ECE participation since 2016 in Latin America and the Caribbean (90% in 2022) and in Oceania (79% in 2022).

Globally, participation in formal and non-formal education and training is higher for younger age groups (Indicator 4.3.1).

Among 131 countries with recent data, youth aged 15 to 24 have higher participation rates in formal and non-formal education and training, with an average participation rate of 56%. This compares with approximately 15% of youth and adults aged 15 to 64 participating in formal or non-formal education and training. There is relatively little difference between SDG regions, with the median rate ranging from around 11% in Oceania and East and South Eastern Asia to 17% in Europe and Northern America. It is important to note that as the reference period for participation in the formal and non-formal education and training varies across countries, we urge caution when comparing data across countries.

New mappings added for the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED)

The UIS September release includes 200 country-approved ISCED 2011 mappings. New and updated mappings for the International Standard of Education Classification ISCED explain country education systems. ISCED mappings for 59 countries have been updated while two – Somalia and Serbia – are being published for the first time this week.

ISCED is a crucial component of creating cross-nationally comparable education data. The mappings highlight the structure of countries’ education systems, tracking levels of education by age and programme from pre-primary (ISCED 0) up to tertiary education (ISCED 7). ISCED mappings and graphic visualizations (diagrams) are available on our website.