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
  • Cambodian councils cooperate to provide community with schoolCambodian councils cooperate to provide community with schoolJul 23, 2015Several years ago, Soy Pheap, a 39-year-old mother of seven, was forced to make a tough decision: send her daughter away, or forfeit the young girl’s education.

  • Classrooms promote peace in SudanClassrooms promote peace in SudanMay 7, 2015A UNDP-supported scheme in Sudan is helping conflict-affected children go to back school while providing support to returnees and ex-combatants as they take steps to rebuild their lives following decades of conflict.

  • In Senegal, access to water 'life-transforming'In Senegal, access to water 'life-transforming'Jul 23, 2015Kalla Niang, 12, is highly self-assured and energetic. She is busily preparing herself for high school, an opportunity that, until recently, would not have been available to her.

  • Kyrgyzstan: Community development Kyrgyzstan: Community development Jul 23, 2015Thanks to a new heating system installed as part of a UNDP-sponsored project, residents of Kazybek can now send their children to kindergarten throughout the winter.

  • Strengthening education in BangladeshStrengthening education in BangladeshJul 23, 2015It is 8:30 a.m. in the village of Matiranga, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. School is about to begin and, unlike in years past, the children arriving for their preschool and primary school classes know they will have no trouble understanding what is said in their lessons.

2015: Time for Global Action
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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