Ensuring Access & Quality

Achievement of the EFA goals requires an equal focus on ensuring access to, and the quality of, global basic education.


The world has made significant progress in improving access to education.  Since 1999, the number of out-of-school children has dropped worldwide by 47 million. 

Yet, for millions of children around the world, access to education is uncertain, and the benefits of education left unrealized.  In 2010, 61 million children and 71 million adolescents were not in school. A lack of education consigns people to lives of limited opportunities, scarce resources and fewer options for supporting themselves and their families.

Access to education is denied for a variety of reasons.  For many poor families, the cost of school fees, textbooks and uniforms is more than they can afford.  In other cases, schools are too far away or they lack adequate supplies and resources.  For some children, particularly girls, formal learning is culturally prohibited.  Still others are denied an education because conflicts or natural disasters have displaced entire families and placed meeting basic needs, like food and shelter, above all else.


The ultimate measure of success in school lies in what children learn and the quality of their education experience.  Unfortunately, for too many children who do attend school, low quality education severely limits students’ learning potential.  Dilapidated school buildings, overcrowded and under-resourced classrooms, and an inadequate supply of both qualified teachers and teaching materials lead millions of students to drop out of school before the fifth grade.

Absolute learning levels are so low in many developing countries that millions of children complete primary school without acquiring basic skills in reading and math.  These children will face considerable challenges in making a smooth transition to secondary school.

Gains in quality will depend on effective approaches to teaching, learning and curriculum development.  For example, early grade reading difficulties need to be detected early and acted upon quickly through early grade reading assessments.  More broadly, there exists a great need for more reliable and regular monitoring and evaluation of whether children are learning in school, as well as the sharing and utilization of such data to improve the quality of education.

In addition, addressing low achievement levels requires that schools are habitable and safe, with basic facilities such as blackboards and separate latrines for boys and girls, and appropriate textbooks and other learning materials.  It is also important that adequate time is spent on learning with trained teachers employing classroom practices that promote active learning.

Key Facts


  1. In 2010, 61 million primary-school-age children around the world were not in school.
  2. On current trends, 72 million children will remain out of school by 2015, more than there are today.
  3. An additional 71 million children of secondary school age are also out of school.
  4. The number of out-of-school children in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 1.6 million between 2008 and 2010.
  5. In half the countries in South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, almost one child in three enrolling in school drops out before completing school – reflecting continuing problems of unsafe, overcrowded and poorly equipped schools and inadequately trained teachers.
  6. Among the world’s 650 million children of primary school age, 120 million do not reach 4th grade and an additional 130 million are in school but failing to learn basic skills in reading, writing and math.

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