Of the world’s 1.2 billion teens, 9 out of 10 live in developing countries. Of those who are enrolled in school, a third are struggling to complete their primary education. The teachers charged with preparing these children for the future work in conditions where power outages are par for the course, computers, when available, are outdated, classrooms are bare, textbooks are outdated, and support is minimal. In a world where knowledge changes practically every day, what does the future hold for these children?
An excerpt from UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children 2011. Read the full report here.
Secondary education is critical to adolescent development and well-being. To successfully negotiate the multiple risks to their development and rights, adolescents must be armed with a broad spectrum of knowledge and essential skills, including solving problems creatively, finding and critically evaluating information and communicating effectively. Where secondary schooling is available, primary schools tend to be of higher quality and to enrol more children, while communities benefit from greater civic participation, lower levels of youth violence, reduced poverty and greater social empowerment. Most children start secondary education in early adolescence. But within this age group, 1 in 5 is not in school at all (1 in 3 in sub-Saharan Africa) – a total of almost 71 million adolescents. Meanwhile, a third of adolescents who attend school are still completing primary grades. Despite significant progress over the last decade, many millions do not make the transition to secondary grades. Incomplete primary education, higher costs, greater distance to school and economic imperatives are just some of the obstacles preventing children from continuing their schooling. Education yields many long-term benefits, particularly for adolescent girls, contributing to later marriage, lower fertility rates and reduced domestic violence as well as lower infant mortality and improved child nutrition. In most regions of the world, girls’ attendance rates are lower than those of boys. At the same time, in almost all developed countries and in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as East Asia and the Pacific, girls outperform boys in school achievement. Adolescents from marginalized groups often lose out even where secondary schooling is available. To grant them the opportunity to gain the skills to make a decent living, and the knowledge they need to protect themselves and realize their rights, a greater variety of educational options is required. Educationally disadvantaged adolescents can benefit from non-formal or peer education, vocational and technical courses and flexible ‘catch-up’ programmes for those whose schooling has been interrupted. By focusing more keenly on equity in education, we can better reach vulnerable adolescents excluded by poverty, HIV and AIDS, disability or ethnicity.