Education is not only a fundamental right
but also one of the most basic ways people
can achieve well-being. It increases lifetime
earnings, as well as how much a person can
engage with and contribute to society. Bettereducated
individuals tend to be healthier and
to live longer. A workforce with the right skills
is critical to the success of an economy.
Investing in education brings individuals
and societies enormous benefits socially,
environmentally and economically. To realize
these benefits, children and adolescents must
have access to education, starting with preprimary
Almost half of all children in the Asian
and Pacific region do not receive preprimary
Early childhood, defined as the period from birth
to age 8, is a time of remarkable brain growth.
Pre-primary programmes that attend to health,
nutrition, security and learning, and provide for
children’s holistic development are critical for
laying the foundation for children’s subsequent
learning and development. Opportunities for preprimary
education vary widely across Asia and
the Pacific. In the countries with recent data, of
which there are just under 40, enrolment in preprimary
education was less than 50 per cent in
about half. Pre-primary enrolment was as low as
9 per cent in Bhutan and Tajikistan. For the rest
of the countries, the rate ranged from slightly
above 50 per cent, for example 51.3 in the
Philippines, 52.7 in Kazakhstan and 54.8 in
India, to over 100 per cent in the Cook Islands,
Maldives, the Republic of Korea and Thailand.
Enrolment in pre-primary education in Asia
and the Pacific has increased significantly over the
last 10 years, with the rate doubling or more in
many countries in South and South-West Asia.
Other countries that experienced the doubling of
pre-primary enrolment rates include Cambodia,
Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and the
Philippines. Despite this progress, as many as
50 per cent or more of young children in about
half of the countries in the region still do not
receive pre-primary education.
Figure C.1-1 Gross enrolment in pre-primary education,
Asia and the Pacific, 2000 and 2011
It is important to have pre-primary education as
the platform upon which future learning is built,
and it is recommend that countries expand and
improve the provision of pre-primary education.
To this end, significant progress has been made
by several countries in the region, including the
Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, the Lao
People’s Democratic Republic and Mongolia.
Although even after a rapid increase, pre-primary
education in the Lao People’s Democratic
Republic still reached only about 20 per cent of
the target population in 2011. In Viet Nam,
there has also been rapid and expansive
improvement in the provision of pre-primary
education, with more than 70 per cent of
children enrolled in 2011.
Other countries in the region, however, have not
performed as well. For example, enrolment in
pre-primary education in Uzbekistan has
increased only marginally since 2001, and in
Bhutan, Cambodia, Myanmar and Tajikistan,
gross enrolment is below 15 per cent. Samoa and
Macao, China, are two places where the preprimary
enrolment rate declined between 2000
Despite overall high levels of enrolment
in the Asian and Pacific region, access to
primary school remains unavailable to as
many as one out of every four children
of primary school age in least developed
countries and landlocked developing
Achieving the goal of universal primary education
for all1 by 2015 requires 100 per cent of children
of primary school age to have access to primary
education and to be enrolled. In the Asian and
Pacific region, approximately 95 per cent of the
targeted population were enrolled in primary
school in 2011, which is comparable to levels in
Latin America and the Caribbean (95 per cent)
and North America (96 per cent), higher than
the level in Africa (80 per cent) but lower than
that in Europe (98 per cent). Within the Asian
and Pacific region, net enrolment rates for
primary education ranged from close to 87 per
cent in the Pacific to 93 per cent in South and
South-West Asia to 98 per cent in East and
North-East Asia. Overall, the challenge to
provide access to primary schooling seems the
greatest in the least developed countries and
landlocked developing countries, where the
overall net primary enrolment rate is estimated
to be 74 per cent. In other words, one out of
every four children of primary school age in these
countries in the region is not enrolled in primary
Figure C.1-2 Net enrolment rates in primary education,
selected Asian and Pacific countries and areas,
2000 and 2011
The region has made substantial strides in
improving access to primary education, raising
the net primary enrolment rate from less than
88 per cent in 2000 to almost 95 per cent in
2011. Progress is particularly visible in South
and South-West Asia, where the net primary
enrolment rate increased from 79 per cent in
2000 to 93 per cent in 2011. In Bhutan and
India, net enrolment rates increased from
respectively 59 per cent and 83 per cent in 2000
to 89 per cent and 99 per cent in 2011. Other
countries in Asia and the Pacific that made notable progress between 2000 and 2011 include
Cambodia (92 per cent to 98 per cent), the
Islamic Republic of Iran (86 per cent to almost
100 per cent), Kazakhstan (94 per cent to almost
100 per cent), the Lao People’s Democratic
Republic (78 per cent to 97 per cent), Mongolia
(92 per cent to 99 per cent) and Pakistan (58 per
cent to 72 per cent).
Note: Data for 2000 include observations of 1999 and 2001 when data
for 2000 are missing. Data for 2011 include observations of 2010 when
data for 2011 are missing.
Box C.1-1 Out-of-school children
Progress in reducing the number of out-of-school children
The number of children of primary school age
worldwide who are not in school has remained at about
61 million over the last three years. This stagnation is
largely due to trends in sub-Saharan Africa, where the
number of primary school age children who were
out of school increased from 29 million in 2008 to
31 million in 2010 due to the population increasing
faster than the primary school enrolment rate.
In recent decades, the number of out-of-school children
in the Asian and Pacific region has decreased from over
51 million to about 20 million. The most significant
progress occurred in South and West Asia,a where the
number of out-of-school children fell by two thirds, from
39 million in 1990 to 13 million in 2010.
Pakistan has the largest number of out-of-school children
(5.4 million in 2011, of which more than 60 per cent
were female) followed by India (1.7 million in 2010, of
which more than half were female).
Have these children ever been to school? What are their
chances of enrolling in the future?
Of the children in the Asian and Pacific region who are
currently out of school, about half will never enter
school, more than one fifth are likely to enter school in
the future, and one third have left school early.
Gender, geography and socioeconomic status: Which children
are out of school?
An analysis of countries around the world (for which
data are available) shows that:
Girls are more likely than boys to be out of school
Rural children are twice as likely as urban children
to be out of school
Children from the poorest quintile (of household
wealth) are four times more likely to be out of
school than children from the richest quintile.
Whom to target, where to target and how to target:
Designing effective policies to deliver education for all
requires information and data on out-of-school children
The problem of out-of-school children can be addressed
with broader policies to address social exclusion and
marginalization. In 2009, UNICEF and the UNESCO
Institute for Statistics launched a global initiative on outof-
school children to accomplish the following:
To improve information and the statistical analysis
of data on out-of-school children and develop
complex profiles of these children that reflect the
multiple deprivations and disparities they face in
relation to education;
To analyse existing interventions related to
enhanced school participation, identify
bottlenecks, and develop context-appropriate
policies and strategies for increasing the enrolment
and attendance of excluded and marginalized
This initiative is designed to support countries
worldwide in providing all children with not only access
to primary education but also the support they need to
stay in school and to learn.
aIn this case, the subregion of South and West Asia comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Maldives,
Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
For every 10 children of eligible age in
Asia and the Pacific, 6 are enrolled in
secondary education, compared with
fewer than 5 a decade ago.
Enrolment in secondary education has continued
to increase in the region in recent years. Between
1999 and 2011, enrolment increased by 14
percentage points to over 60 per cent. In South-
East Asia, the increase was even greater, with
net enrolment in secondary education reaching
65 per cent in 2011 compared with 48 per cent
Although these trends are encouraging, there are
large differences in access between countries. For
example, Brunei Darussalam, Japan, Kazakhstan,
New Zealand and the Republic of Korea report
enrolment rates close to or above 90 per cent,
while in contrast, the Lao People’s Democratic
Republic, Pakistan, Solomon Islands and Timor-
Leste have enrolment rates below 45 per cent.
Regional averages also reflect relatively low rates
of enrolment in secondary education overall
compared with net enrolment in primary
education. Only 6 in every 10 eligible students
in the region were enrolled in secondary education in 2010, compared with more than 9
in every 10 primary school-aged students.
Tertiary enrolment rate reached 31 per
cent in East and North-East Asia, which
led the region in rapid expansion of
Enrolment in tertiary education has increased
significantly in the Asian and Pacific region in
the last decade, from a gross enrolment rate of
13 per cent in 1999 to over 26 per cent in 2011.
This trend appears to be continuing most
prominently in East and North-East Asia, where
gross enrolment rates increased from 13 per cent
in 1999 to over 30 per cent in 2011.
There are large differences in tertiary enrolment
rates across countries in the region. For example,
2011 data reveal that, of the countries for which
data have been reported, three (Bhutan, Pakistan
and Uzbekistan) have gross enrolment rates of
less than 10 per cent. By contrast, Australia, New
Zealand and the Republic of Korea reported rates
of about 80 per cent in 2010.
Figure C.1-3 Gross enrolment in tertiary education, subregional weighted averages, 1999 and 2011
Source:United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2011: The Hidden Crisis – Armed Conflict and Education (Paris, 2011).
Levels of participation in tertiary education are higher in wealthier countries. For 2011, highincome economies reported gross enrolment rates of about 74 per cent, while rates for uppermiddle- income, lower-middle-income and lowincome economies were 34 per cent, 19 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively.
The increasing numbers of tertiary students in
each country reflect growth in both domestic
and international students, and the patterns of
where students choose to study in the region are
changing over time. In general, more students
are choosing to study overseas and many of them
are choosing to study in countries within the
region rather than in traditional destination
countries such as the United States and the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Box C.1-2 Mobility of international students in the Asian and Pacific region
In 2010, almost 3 million tertiary students around the
world chose to study in a country other than their own,
which is almost double the number from 10 years before.
All regions of the world have been sending more students
overseas for tertiary study, but the most significant
growth has been in the Asian and Pacific region. In
2011, more than half of all international students came
from countries in the region (see figure A).
Figure A.Total number of international students by
source region, 2000-2011
In 2011, within the Asian and Pacific region, China sent
the greatest number of tertiary students overseas
(accounting for 46 per cent of the region’s total),
followed by India, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia.
Source:UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Date Centre. Available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org/unesco/tableviewer/document.aspx? ReportId=143.
The rapid growth in the number of international
students in the region is due to several possible factors.
First, gross enrolment in tertiary education has increased
faster than the global average over the decade (13 per cent in the region compared with 12 per cent
worldwide). Second, some Governments in the region
have implemented policies to encourage students to
move overseas to study, such as Campus Asia and the
ASEAN International Mobility for Students Program.a,
b The Global 30 project in Japan seeks to encourage
students from other countries to study at Japanese
universities, including by offering courses in English and
by providing access to scholarships.c Universities in the
region have also actively sought to raise their profiles as
desirable international destinations to study, including
by designing high quality courses that reflect current
areas of interest for students.
Figure B.Share of total international students by
destination, 2005 and 2010
Australia, China, Japan and Malaysia were the most popular destinations in 2010. The Republic of Korea and Thailand also recorded high growth rates in the enrolment of international students, especially for students from Europe and North America (see figure B)
Note:Data for Austria, Brazil and Malaysia are for 2004, data for
China are for 2006, and data for Bangladesh, Canada and the Russian
Federation are for 2009.
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Date Centre. Available from
cOther examples include the “211” and “985” projects in China, the “Brain Korea 21” project in the Republic of Korea and the “21st Century
Center of Excellence” in Japan. See Akiyoshi Yonezawa, “The internationalization of Japanese higher education: policy debates and realities”, in Higher Education in the Asia-Pacific, Simon Marginson, Sarjit Kaur and Erlenawati Sawir, eds. (Stringer, 2007).
On average, the Asian and Pacific region
has achieved gender parity at the
primary school level. There are
disparities, however, at the secondary
and tertiary levels.
The gender parity index (GPI) is used to assess
the degree of gender disparities at primary,
secondary and tertiary levels in terms of net
enrolment ratios. In this context, a GPI value of
less than 1 shows that the net enrolment rate for
boys is higher than the net enrolment rate for
girls, and vice versa for a GPI value of more than
1. A GPI value of between 0.97 and 1.03 is
generally considered to reflect gender parity.
Figure C.1-4 Gender parity index for enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education, Asia and the Pacific, 2010 or 2011
In 2011, almost all countries in the region for
which primary net enrolment data by gender
were available reached gender parity except
Tajikistan, and most notably, Pakistan.
Gender disparities are larger and more widespread
throughout the region for secondary net
enrolment. Relatively more boys than girls are
enrolled in secondary education in Pakistan, Tajikistan and the Lao People’s Democratic
Republic, where the GPI value for secondary
education is 0.74, 0.89 and 0.91, respectively.
The opposite is true in Bangladesh, Bhutan, the
Cook Islands, Fiji, Mongolia, Samoa, Sri Lanka,
Thailand and Timor-Leste, which have GPI
values between 1.06 and 1.18.
At the tertiary level, gender disparities are
reflected in differences between gross enrolment
rates by gender, and these differences show that
gender disparities are more extreme at the tertiary
level, but they are not always in favour of males.
At one extreme are countries where the
enrolment rates for females are far lower than
those for males, resulting in GPI values far below
the parity level of 1. These countries include
Tajikistan (0.52), Cambodia (0.62), Bhutan
(0.68) and Bangladesh (0.70). At the other
extreme are countries where the enrolment rates
for females far exceed those for males, resulting
in GPI values that are much higher than the
parity level of 1. These countries include
Sri Lanka (1.83), Brunei Darussalam (1.69),
Mongolia (1.49) and Kazakhstan (1.44).
Note:Net enrolment rates are used to calculate the gender parity index for primary and secondary education. Gross enrolment rates are used for tertiary education.
The expected duration of education in
Asia and the Pacific has been increasing,
although children and youth have very
different schooling opportunities across
In 2000, a typical girl at the age of starting
primary school in the region could expect to have
a total of less than 9 years of schooling by the
time she reached the age of completing tertiary
education. By 2011, this number had increased
to over 11. The increase for a typical boy was
from less than 10 years to almost 12 years.
Mongolia had one of the largest increases, where
the expected duration of education for girls
increased from about 10 years in 2001 to over
15 years in 2011 and from less than 9 to almost
14 for boys. Other countries in the region have
also experienced significant increases in the
expected duration of education, including
Cambodia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and the Lao
People’s Democratic Republic. In Indonesia,
males and females receive almost the same
number of years of schooling, while in Mongolia
and Kazakhstan females are expected to receive
on average 1.3 and 0.7 years more than boys, respectively. In Cambodia and the Lao People’s
Democratic Republic, males receive about 1 year
more education than females, although this
disparity has decreased from about 1.5 years’
difference in 2001.
Figure C.1-5 Expected duration of education from primary
to tertiary, Asia and the Pacific, 2010 or 2011
Despite significant improvement in some
countries, there is still a gap between the countries
providing the longest duration of education. For
instance, males and females in Australia and New
Zealand could expect to receive at least 19 years
of schooling in 2010. In contrast their
counterparts in Pakistan and the Lao People’s
Democratic Republic could expect to have no
more than 11 years as recently as in 2011.
Gross enrolment in pre-primary education
(percentage of the population in the relevant
official age group)
Total number of children enrolled in early
childhood care and education programmes,
regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the
population in the relevant official age group.
Net enrolment in primary and secondary
education (percentage of primary or secondary
school age children)
Enrolment of the official age group for primary
or secondary education expressed as a percentage
of primary or secondary school age population.
Aggregate calculations: UNESCO Institute for
Gross enrolment in tertiary education
(percentage of tertiary school age population)
Total enrolment in tertiary education, regardless
of age, expressed as a percentage of the eligible
official school age population corresponding to
tertiary education in a given school year. For the
tertiary level, the population used is the five age
cohorts immediately following the official
secondary school graduation age. Aggregate
GPI: net primary enrolment, net secondary
enrolment and gross tertiary enrolment
The ratio of female-to-male enrolment ratios for
each level of education. Aggregate calculations:
Expected duration of education, primary to
tertiary, female and male (years)
The number of years a 4-year-old girl or boy can
be expected to spend in education from the
primary to the tertiary level, including years spent
in repetition. Data are disaggregated by sex.
Aggregate calculations: UIS.
Source of participation in education data
(except gross enrolment in pre-primary
education): UIS. Collected from school registers,
school surveys or censuses for data on enrolment
by age or level of education, population censuses
or estimates for school age population. Data obtained: May and June 2013.
Source of gross enrolment in pre-primary
education data: UIS Data Centre. Collected
from school registers, school surveys or censuses,
population censuses or estimates for school age
population. Data obtained: 12 July 2013.
1The goal of universal primary education is to ensure that, by 2015, all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those
belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality.