Out-of-school children cost by country

The urgency of reaching out-of-school children for economic and social development

Nicholas Burnett is managing director at Results for Development Institute, where he manages the Education portfolio.

New analysis from the Results for Development Institute sheds light on the cost to countries’ economies from out-of-school children. Among the most alarming revelations is that, if unaddressed, out-of-school children can cost as much as 7% of a country’s GDP, depending on the country and the size of the out-of-school population.

Out-of-school children cost by countryGreat strides have been made towards realizing universal primary education, with the global number of out-of-school children declining from over 100 million in 2000 to 61 million in 2010, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). Still, the most recent Education for All Global Monitoring Report  reveals that progress in reducing the number of out-of-school children has stalled in some countries, notably in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Now is an opportune time to reconsider the wide-ranging benefits of primary education and the economic costs borne by countries with large out-of-school child populations.

At this week’s High Level Strategic Meeting to Accelerate Efforts to Reach Out Of School Children, held in Doha by Educate A Child (EAC), I presented a paper (“A Moral Obligation, An Economic Priority: The Urgency of Enrolling Out-of-School Children,” commissioned by EAC) that explores these two aspects of the global out-of-school children problem.

The first half of the paper reviews empirical studies of primary education’s economic, social, and political benefits, underscoring its role in breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty and building stable, equitable societies. In addition, it summarizes emerging evidence that primary education can help to mitigate climate change and the effects of natural disasters – issues that will also be highlighted in the 2013/14 EFA Global Monitoring Report. The paper then quantifies the economic cost of large out-of-school child populations for six countries: Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mali, Pakistan and Yemen. Based on labour market data and education data from UIS, it is estimated that if today’s out-of-school children are not able to complete primary school, this will result in large income gaps in these countries – from 1.3% of GDP in Pakistan to 6.8% of GDP in Côte d’Ivoire, equivalent to $1.6 billion.

The Economic Costs of Out-of-School Children

The challenge in achieving global primary education lies in reaching marginalized and remote populations, and accelerating efforts in the countries where out-of-school children remains a systemic problem. While the study does not discuss the mechanics or financing of the necessary education sector interventions, our findings confirm that efforts to enroll out-of-school children are extremely cost-effective. On average, the six countries spend 3.8% of GDP per year on their entire public education systems. The incremental investment in primary education systems, along the order of millions of dollars, needed to reach out-of-school children is far less than the economic gain the countries are estimated to achieve from enrolling out-of-school children, measured in billions of dollars.




    1. THanks for this comment. Nigeria has the largest number of OOSC (over 10 million) and it would be very interesting to find out how to calculate the loss of future income as a result of this huge number.

      1. Yes, for us in Nigeria to function and plan ahead. CSO‘s, NGO,s and other Developmental partners should stand in the gap for the ordinary Nigerian who are suppressed, depressed becouse of lack of political will to fullfill thier promesis. Corruption and nepotism has glue Nigerians to the core. I maging, must of these OOSC are found from the Northern Nigeria. This is as a result of core-poverty, echo-of religion.
        Thank, God for the comming of ESSPIN, supported by DFID who piloted some states, LGEAS and SCHOOLS. The area coverd by esspin is yielding result and a lot of impacts.however, we still need partiners to come and intervane.

  1. Thank you for sharing this exchange,. The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) continues to be a strong global partner for supporting teachers as a key element in expanding the reach and quality of education. Enrolment figures are empty without the fulness of teaching and learning that nurtures completion and engaged citizens. We believe that “Education for All” means the delivery of quality, publicly supported education that is child-centred and relevant to all children and youth. Our partnerships focus on supporting teaching capacity to deliver quality education with an emphasis on meaningful learning outcomes in safe, non-violent and girl-friendly teaching and learning environments. We include parent and community engagement and the development of local tools to strengthen comprehension in literacy, practical application in numeracy, and a space for critical thinking that supports sustainable development.

    We welcome partnerships with like-minded organizations and donors who wish to integrate elements of our programming into ongoing action plans or help expand our capacity. Canadian teachers bring a wide range of practical, professional experience into teacher-to-teacher support that becomes a catalyst for increasing the reach and quality of EFA. CTF welcomes support to reach further and more quickly.

    The urgency to bring out-of-school children and youth into the educated momentum of economic, social and sustianable development is well-defined. The Canadian Teachers’ Federation has a proven track record for building the teacher capacity to follow-through in classrooms, in communuities and in national education planning.

Leave a Reply