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Since 2000, there has been enormous progress in achieving the target of universal primary education. The total enrolment rate in developing regions reached 91 percent in 2015, and the worldwide number of children out of school has dropped by almost half. There has also been a dramatic increase in literacy rates, and many more girls are in school than ever before. These are all remarkable successes.

Sub-Saharan Africa made the greatest progress in primary school enrolment among all developing regions – from 52 percent in 1990, up to 78 percent in 2012 – yet large disparities persist. Children from the poorest households are up to four times more likely to be out of school than those of the richest households. Disparities between rural and urban areas also remain high.

The Arab region has made good progress on school enrollment. Gross enrollment rates increased from 15.5 percent in 2000 to 27 percent in 2014 at the pre-primary level; from 90.78 percent in 2000 to 99.75 percent in 2014 at the primary level; 61.07 percent in 2000 to 73.01 percent in 2014 at the secondary level; and from 18.6 percent in 2000 to 28.9 percent in 2014 at the tertiary level.

In 2013, Girl’s gross enrollment ratio in tertiary education (28.2 percent) was higher than that of boy’s in Arab countries (26.8 percent). The highest tertiary enrollment rates for girls are observed in Saudi Arabia (59.9 percent in 2014) followed by Bahrain (56.5 percent in 2014). Figures are much higher for gross enrollment ratio in primary education, reaching 96.1 percent for girls and 103.2 percent for boys in 2013.

However, increasing armed conflicts and other emergencies, and accompanying increases in levels of poverty in several countries in the region are increasing the number of children out of school. Half of Syria's school-aged children are not in school –2.1 million inside Syria and 700,000 Syrian refugee children in neighboring countries.

Achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, to eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to a quality higher education.

Goals in action

UNDP Sudan

A kindergarten story from Sudan

Aisha Jumma, or Mamma Aish as the young boys and girls in her kindergarten call her, is one of 300 female ex-combatants who received reintegration support package in 2011 as part of UNDP's Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme in Sudan MORE >

UNDP Programme Assistance to the Palestinian People

When economic and education empowerment pave the way for success

Divorced in 2010, Hala Da’lsa, 29, a refugee at Al Bureej Camp in Gaza, was left devastated and alone to provide for herself. She embarked on an uncertain journey to start her own business making long black traditional dresses—Abayas. Her chances of success were not high, but the stakes left no room for failure. MORE >

UNDP in Iraq

Yazidi women find economic independence in Iraqi Kurdistan

The Dost Bakery is a small cake business that opened in Iraqi Kurdistan in the autumn of 2015. Dost means “friend” in Kurdish, as the bakery is run by 10 friends. All of them are women who were displaced by ISIS... MORE >

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