6 Achieve universal primary education

Where do we stand?

Considerable progress has been made in expanding primary education enrolment since 1990, particularly since the adoption of the MDGs in 2000.

The global number of out-of-school children has fallen considerably since 1990, although the pace of improvement has been insufficient to achieve universal primary enrolment by 2015. Currently, 57 million children of primary school age are estimated to be out of school, down from 100 million in 2000. Of these, 33 million are in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than half (55 percent) are girls.

Adjusted net enrolment rate for primary education, 2000 and 2015 (Percentage)
Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015

Bar Chart
  • The primary school net enrolment rate in the developing regions has reached an estimated 91 percent in 2015, up from 83 percent in 2000.
  • The number of out-of-school children of primary school age worldwide has fallen by almost half, to an estimated 57 million in 2015, from 100 million in 2000.
  • Between 1990 and 2012, the number of children enrolled in primary school in sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled, from 62 to 149 million.
  • In the developing regions,children in the poorest households are four times as likely to be out of school as those in the richest households.
  • The literacy rate among youth aged 15 to 24 has increased globally from 83 percent to 91 percent between 1990 and 2015.

Read more in The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015.

Our stories
  •  Value Chains: Supporting inclusive markets in agriculture and trade in UgandaOct 14, 2014Value Chains: Supporting inclusive markets in agriculture and trade in UgandaGrace Lawilu, a rice farmer in northern Uganda, has increased her income with support from a UNDP project that helps small scale farmers improve their products and access international markets.

  • 'People, planet, profit' jumpstarts progress in TajikistanAug 2, 2013'People, planet, profit' jumpstarts progress in TajikistanTajikistan is investing in green businesses, helping drive development that improves livelihoods while considering the environment.

  • Bangladesh: Transforming life in the slumsFeb 10, 2014Bangladesh: Transforming life in the slumsA poverty-reduction programme offers poor urban communities resources, knowledge and skills to increase their income, as well as spaces to mobilise and create community development committees.

  • Benin: New opportunities for young graduatesMar 20, 2013Benin: New opportunities for young graduatesBenin’s labour market is unable to support its university graduates, so a project is helping them start small businesses.

  • Biodiversity projects improve lives in ChinaMay 29, 2013Biodiversity projects improve lives in ChinaThe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), identified 18 villages in the area to carry out community-based projects aimed at conserving biodiversity and improving local people’s livelihoods.

2015: Time for Global Action

Ensuring that leaders take ambitious decisions to reduce poverty and inequality and protect our planet this year is everyone’s responsibility.

Here’s how you can do your part...
Targets for MDG2
  1. Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling
    • Net enrolment ratio in primary education
    • Proportion of pupils starting grade 1 who reach last grade of primary
    • Literacy rate of 15-24 year-olds, women and men