Education is one of the key determinants of national development. Countries that spared no expense and effort to provide accessible, quality education to their populations leave no doubt about the results: booming economies, globally competitive talents and businesses, and industries and academies that continuously work toward the common goal of producing quality workers at every level (Ozturk, 2001).
The emergence of state-of-the-art technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics, the Internet of Things, and machine learning, among others, serves only to punctuate the gap between countries that prioritized the delivery of quality education and those that did not.
Educated peoples everywhere also foster global understanding. To illustrate: 98% of students in a survey (Montanile, 2014) states that a strong understanding of world history and events is critical to developing solutions to a global problem
Economic development and fostering global understanding should be in the radar of world governments, serving as a prime impetus to invest in human capital everywhere, and substantially. In this school statistics article, we strive to investigate whether we’ll see any evidence of it happening everywhere or just in some selected regions of the world.
Education is a primary global concern. In the past decades, enrollment in primary and secondary levels was dismal. However, the numbers have risen in the past years, as the enrollment statistics below show.
Early Childhood Education
Globally, 175 million children are not enrolled in early childhood education (UNICEF Data, 2020).
Over 25 countries have less than 25% of pre-primary aged children enrolled (UNICEF Data, 2020).
China’s early childhood education enrollment increased from 26.6 million in 2010 to 46 million in 2018 (The World Bank Group, 2020).
Indonesia had 14 million children enrolled in early childhood education (The World Bank Group, 2020).
The Russian Federation’s early childhood enrollment rose from 6 million in 2013 to 7.3 million in 2017 (The World Bank Group, 2020).
Source: UNICEF Data, 2020
While primary school enrollment had achieved remarkable gains, elementary education completion rates have remained flat since 1999 (UNESCO IS, 2017b; Earle et al., 2018). Here are some key primary education statistics:
In the Arab World, the net enrolment rate for primary education in 2018 was 85.4% (The World Bank, 2020).
In the same year, for East Asia and the Pacific, the enrollment rate was 96% (The World Bank, 2020).
Meanwhile, in Europe and Central Asia, 96.1% of primary age children were enrolled (The World Bank, 2020).
In the European Union, the number was 96.8% (The World Bank, 2020).
Heavily indebted poor countries only had 80.4% of primary age children enrolled (The World Bank, 2020).
High-income countries’ primary age children had a near-perfect enrollment at 96.3% (The World Bank, 2020).
94.9% of primary school children in Latin America and the Caribbean were enrolled in 2018 (The World Bank, 2020).
In 2018, the adjusted net enrollment rate of primary school children was 90% (UNICEF Data, 2019).
In 2016, the number was 1% higher, at 91% (UNICEF Data, 2019).
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Primary School Enrollment Rates - Global
Primary School Enrollment Rates - Global Arab World: 85.4%
Primary School Enrollment Rates - Global Latin America and the Caribbean: 94.9%
Latin America and the Caribbean
Primary School Enrollment Rates - Global East Asia and the Pacific: 96%
East Asia and the Pacific
Primary School Enrollment Rates - Global Europe and Central Asia: 96.1%
Europe and Central Asia
Primary School Enrollment Rates - Global European Union: 96.8%
Source: The World Bank, 2020
Cheung and Chan (2008, cited in Cheung & Chan, 2009) found that, across countries, quality of education and enrollment rate are predicted by education expenditure. The following are some notable global secondary education statistics:
85% of lower secondary school-age children are enrolled in primary or secondary schools. That means around 4 out of 5 children go to school (UNICEF Data, 2019).
Meanwhile, only 65% of upper secondary school-age youth are enrolled in primary, secondary, or higher education institutions (UNICEF Data, 2019).
The gross enrollment ratio in East Asia and the Pacific is 92.5% for lower secondary education in 2018 (The World Bank, 2020).
In the Arab World, that figure was 86.4% in 2018 (The World Bank, 2020).
For Europe and Central Asia, the gross enrollment ratio was 102.8% for 2018 (The World Bank, 2020).
In the Middle East and North Africa, the gross enrollment ratio in 2018 was 93.6% (The World Bank, 2020).
In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 51.3% of students are enrolled in lower secondary schools (The World Bank, 2020).
In the West Bank and Gaza, 97.6% of children of secondary school age are enrolled (The World Bank, 2020).
Globally, the completion rate for secondary students is 69% as of 2019 (UNICEF Data, 2019).
Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the highest completion rate at 95% (UNICEF Data, 2019).
Meanwhile, East Africa has the lowest completion rate at 36% (UNICEF Data, 2019).
In the U.S., around 15.3 million students attended high school in 2019 (Bustamante, 2019).
3.3 million students graduated from high school in 2018. This number increased by 1% from 2017 (Bustamante, 2019).
Source: The World Bank, 2020; Bustamante, 2019; UNICEF Data, 2019
Trade schools, which are referred to as vocational or career colleges, depending on the country, are specialized institutions that teach students technical and practical skills specific to the career path they are leaning towards. Among the courses that trade schools offer are carpentry, automotive, culinary arts, and fashion design (TBS Staff, 2020).
Unlike traditional college education, trade school education can be completed in two years or fewer. Another thing that differentiates it from college is that it offers rigorous hands-on training. On top of that, it can provide a direct pathway to a career.
Globally, there are 62.5 million vocational pupils in the secondary education level (The World Bank, 2020).
In 2000, that figure was 45.8 million (The World Bank, 2020).
Enrollment in vocational schools for middle-income countries and territories in 2018 was 46.3 million. It is the highest enrollment rate among income levels (The World Bank, 2020).
Heavily-indebted poor countries had nearly 4 million students who took up technical or vocational courses in 2018 (The World Bank, 2020).
The market size of the trade and technical schools industry in the United States is $16 billion (IBISWorld, 2020).
In the school year 2016-2017, there were 2,246 non-degree-granting institutions in the U.S. (Number of educational institutions, 2018).
335 of those were public schools (Number of educational institutions, 2018).
1,911 of those were private schools (Number of educational institutions, 2018).
Trade school enrollment in the United States rose from 9.6 million in 1999 to 16 million students in 2014 (TBS Staff, 2020).
The Perry Technical Institute, one of the largest technical schools in the U.S., had 777 full-time students in 2019 (Thompson, 2019).
Graduates from Perry Tech earn $54,300 annually on average (Thompson, 2019).
48% of trade school enrollment went to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning programs in 2018 in the U.S (Bustamante, 2019).
14% of vocational school students in the United States were aged 18 to 21 in 2018 (Bustamante, 2019).
45% of U.S. trade school enrollees were aged 22 to 37 in 2018 (Bustamante, 2019).
94% of technical school students were male in 2018 in the U.S. (Bustamante, 2019).
Latin America and Caribbean countries or territories had nearly 8 million pupils in their technical and vocational institutions (The World Bank, 2020).
4.3% of students in lower secondary education enrolled in vocational programs in 2017 (Statistics Explained, 2019).
In upper secondary education, that number is 47.8% (Statistics Explained, 2019).
For post-secondary non-tertiary education, the figure reaches 92% (Statistics Explained, 2019).
30.5% of companies in the EU-28 in 2015 had 10 or more employees who underwent vocational training (Statistics Explained, 2019).
The number of males enrolled in technical programs in 2017 for lower secondary education was higher: 4.8% (Statistics Explained, 2019).
Meanwhile, 3.8% of female students were in vocational schools (Statistics Explained, 2019).
Serbia had the highest enrollment rate in the upper secondary stage in 2017 at 74.4% (Statistics Explained, 2019).
Ireland had the lowest at just 10.3% (Statistics Explained, 2019).
In 2016, 47.2% of German residents had vocational training (Megayo, 2019).
1.3 million students were enrolled in the German Vocational Education and Training programs (Megayo, 2019).
The European Union had a combined enrollment in technical and vocational schools of 11.2 million in 2018 (The World Bank, 2020).
Vocational and technical schools only had 6% of the total secondary level enrollment in the African region in 2012.
Only 2% to 6% of the education budget of African countries went to technical and vocational training (Africa-America Institute, 2015).
In 2014, there were a total of 341 technical and vocational schools in South Africa (Macha & Kadakia, 2017).
Enrollment in technical and vocational schools went up to 781,378 in 2014 in South Africa (Macha & Kadakia, 2017).
That was double the number of enrollment in 2010, which was 405, 275 (Macha and Kadakia, 2017).
For the Middle East and North Africa, enrollment rates hit 4.2 million in 2018 (The World Bank, 2020).
In 2013, there were only nine technical schools in the United Arab Emirates (Hamdan, 2013).
The Higher Colleges of Technology in the Emirates had around 20,000 students enrolled in 17 campuses (Hamdan, 2013).
South Asia has over 3.6 million students enrolled in technical and vocational programs (The World Bank, 2020).
East Asia and the Pacific had 22.9 million students who took up technical or vocational courses (The World Bank, 2020).
Global Literacy Rates
Literacy has become a widely used determinant of the extent to which people gain the most fundamental skills required to effectively function in modern society (Dorius, 2013). UNESCO, in 2017, declared that literacy rates globally continue to rise from generation to generation. This is largely due to governments that have been pushing the literacy agenda for decades. This is despite the fact that the majority of countries did not meet the Education for All goals of slashing illiteracy by half in the period between 2000 and 2015 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2017).
Uzbekistan and San Marino have 100% literacy rates in 2018 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2020).
Italy and Singapore are not far behind with 99.93% literacy rates in 2018 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2020).
Kazakhstan, Belarus, Latvia, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, Spain, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and the Russian Federation also hover near 100% when it comes to literacy (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2020).
Eastern Asian countries also have nearly 100% literacy at 99.59% (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2020).
Among the countries with 99% literacy rates are Argentina, Aruba, Tonga, Romania, Mexico, Montenegro, and Peru (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2020).
There are 16 countries that have below 50% literacy rates (The World Bank, 2020)
The last known data for Somalia (1972), shows that the literacy rate was only at 5% (The World Bank, 2020).
Chad had the lowest literacy rate in (last data in 2016) at 30.8% (UNICEF Data, 2019).
However, according to The World Bank, the literacy rate was at 22% for the same year (The World Bank, 2020).
Niger had a literacy rate of 31% in 2012 (The World Bank, 2020).
The Central African Republic had a 38.3% literacy rate in 2018 (UNICEF Data, 2019).
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2020
10% of the population has learning disabilities like dyscalculia, autism, and dyslexia (Butterworth & Kovas, 2013).
About 466 million people globally have hearing loss that impairs their learning and function (WHO, 2020).
Of those, 34 million are children (WHO, 2020).
A study involving 1,000 children between the ages of 10 and 16 showed that 25% did not have a role model. Rather than receiving advice from parents, guardians, or teachers, they turned to YouTube (Knight, 2018).
In a 2015 estimate, 10% of the global population (734 million) only had $1.90 per day for their living expenses, which affected children’s education (The World Bank, 2020).
One in every five children is out of school (UNESCO, 2018).
In the U.S., the average student-teacher ratio. in public schools is 16:1 (Public School Review, 2020).
The highest student-teacher ratio for the U.S. is in Utah, which is 34:1 (Public School Review, 2020).
The global pupil-teacher ratio in the primary levels is 23.44 (2018 data) (The World Bank, 2020).
The highest ratio is 83, in the Central African Republic, according to 2016 data (The World Bank, 2020).
According to UNESCO (2019), $14 billion is needed to fund literacy projects to achieve universal literacy. Fortunately, there are various non-profit organizations that extend a helping hand to those that need help.
Among the steps these organizations have taken are to offer teachers and leaders the resources to enable them to support students (ILA, n.d.). Foundations also counter illiteracy by working with families to promote reading and studying. Corporations can also help by encouraging basic training for adults (Literacy Foundation, n.d.).
Education Expenditure Statistics
Studies indicate that government spending on education stimulates human capital development, which, in turn, helps boost labor productivity (Mankiw et al., 1992 cited in Vinichenko et al., 2017). How much they value education can also be seen on the budget they set aside for the agenda, relative to their GDPs.
Percentage of GDP/Average per Person
Government expenditure per student worldwide for primary education was 15.56% of GDP per capita in 2013 (The World Bank, 2020).
For secondary education, it was 20.08% in 2013 (The World Bank, 2020).
In 2011, government expenditure per student at the tertiary level was 29.91% of GDP per capita (The World Bank, 2020).
Government Expenditure per Student (GDP per Capita) - Global
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Source: The World Bank, 2020
Countries with the Highest Investment in Education
In 2016, Sweden had the highest public spending on education relative to GDP at 7.1% (Statistics Explained, 2019).
Finland followed closely at 6.6% (Statistics Explained, 2019).
American Samoa had the highest investment in education with 14.6% (2006 data) (The World Bank, 2020).
It is followed by Cuba, which allocates 12.8% towards education (2010 data) (The World Bank, 2020).
The Federal States of Micronesia follows closely with 12.5% (2015 data).
The Marshall Islands are not far behind at 12.2% (2003 data) (The World Bank, 2020).
Source: The World Bank, 2020
Countries with the Lowest Investment in Education
Romania had the lowest public investment in education relative to GDP in 2016 at just 2.6% (Statistics Explained, 2019).
South Sudan has the lowest investment in education, according to 2017 data with just 1% of its GDP (The World Bank, 2020).
Hope in the Horizon: Solutions to Mitigate Global School Challenges
In the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26 stipulates that “Everyone has the right to education.” Unfortunately, tens of millions of children remain out of school because of circumstances such as poverty. Nevertheless, organizations and governments continue to ensure that every child is able to attend school, especially the primary or elementary levels. This has led to a steady increase in literacy worldwide.
Though it is still a long way to go before universal literacy, these small victories are worth celebrating. After all, international organizations’ education agendas have taken off and are becoming successful. The Education for All initiative by UNESCO may have fallen short of its goals, but it does not mean that other institutions are unable to achieve their own objectives.
Moreover, enterprises are pushing the envelope with corporate literacy programs. And in the grassroots level, members of the community are also helping in their own way to promote the importance of education.
Earle, A., Milovantseva, N., & Heymann, J. (2018). Is free pre-primary education associated with increased primary school completion? A global study. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 12 (1), 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40723-018-0054-1
Hamdan, S. (2013, November 25). United Arab Emirates looks to vocational education. The New York Times.
IBISWorld (2020, June 15). Industry market research, reports, and statistics. IBISWorld.com.
UNICEF (2019b, October). Primary school age education. UNICEF Data.
UNICEF (2019c, October). Secondary education and enrollment statistics. UNICEF Data.
Vinichenko, M., Ushakov, D., & Melnichuk, A. (2017). Government expenditures on education in economic progress stimulation: Regional limitations of rationality. In Economic and Social Development: Book of Proceedings (pp. 356-363). Varazdin: Varazdin Development and Entrepreneurship Agency (VADEA). Proquest