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Education statistics around the globe

By Jana Angeles

We think it's important that Australians understand not only where we stand in our own educational system but what's happening globally, so that we're more empowered to make better decisions for growth. From understanding the socio-economic and cultural impact of education in other countries, this can help us be familiar with their own systems and the effects it has on their citizens.  

Education is a tool that aids the development of our society, so much so that it is recognised as a basic human right to all global citizens. This is because having an education enables an individual to access all of their human rights.

Education reduces poverty, decreases social inequalities, empowers women and allows individuals to reach their full potential. Since 1948, education has been recognised as a basic human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Education differs around the world, from its format to the underlying cultural beliefs in why education may or may not be a priority.

Most countries have their own approach to education systems. There is no universal measure of what success looks like, although, literacy rates, access to education, economic indicators, and how much a government invests in educational streams are common metrics.

In the past decade, education delivery has experienced a paradigm shift with a skew towards online delivery and a move away from traditional student-teacher platform.

As cellular technology enters its fifth iteration and digital connectivity intertwines with everyday living, challenges such as cost, cultural values, and accessibility to an uncensored internet still exist for millions around the world.

We explore the impact of the adoption of online learning and education methodology has had on various countries by examining statistics from around the world before making a comment on how education will look like for future generations.

Education statistics around the globe

  1. Global education statistics: an overview.
  2. Cost of education.
  3. Challenges in education.
  4. Online vs offline education.
  5. Impact of online learning on education.
  6. Factors impacting education.
  7. Education statistics in Australia.
  8. Education statistics in the United States.
  9. Education statistics in the United Kingdom.
  10. The future of education.

1. Global education statistics: an overview.

  • One in five children, adolescents and youth worldwide are out of school - a figure that has barely changed over the past five years (UNESCO).
  • Youth literacy rates have improved from 83% to 91% over two decades (UNICEF).
  • Western and Southern Asia has the lion's share of illiterate people aged 15 years and older, accounting for 52% of 774 million illiterate people (UNESCO).
  • Sudan ranks lowest of sub-Saharan Africa with a literacy rate of 27%, followed by Afghanistan (28.1%), Niger (28.7%), Mali (33.4%), Chad (35.4%), Ethiopia (39%) and Guinea (41%).
  • 493 million women are illiterate, representing two-thirds of the entire illiterate population in 2013.
  • In one of three countries, less than three quarters of teachers are trained to national standards, resulting in 130 million children enrolled in schools who are not even learning the basics (Global Citizen).
  • UIS data shows that 750 million adults, two-thirds of which are women, still lack basic reading and writing skills (UNESCO).
  • A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5 (Global Citizen).
  • Worldwide, there are more than 150 million children aged 3 to 5 who do not have access to pre-primary education, including more than 80% of children in low-income countries (GEM Report Policy Paper).
  • For every 100 boys of primary school age out of school, there are 123 girls denied the right to education (UNESCO).

2. Cost of education.

piggy bank with 'education costs' sign

Although education is a basic human right, having uninterrupted access to education remains a challenge for millions of people. Cost barriers such as school fees, textbooks, and uniforms make it difficult for disadvantaged students to have complete access to education.

For those who live in developing nations, cost factors are the leading reason for low education completion rates. 
  • Education costs, on average, US$1.25 a day per child in developing countries (Education for All Monitoring Report). 
  • In 2016, the lowest average total expenditure on education, as a proportion of government spending was Greece, at 6% (OECD). 
  • In the US, the average family spends $685 on their child’s back-to-school necessities from kindergarten through to secondary school, an increase of nearly $250 from 2005 (BBC). 
  • Hong Kong is the most expensive place to go to school, where parents contribute an average of $131,161 to their child’s schooling (BBC). 
  • Norway, Finland and Iceland are a few of the countries where university study is available free of charge to all students (Top Universities). 
  • Only 1% of all early childhood development aid funding goes to pre-primary education (Just Beginning: Addressing Inequality in Donor Funding for Early Childhood Development, 2018)
  • 22% of aid to basic education went to low income countries in 2016, in comparison to 36% in 2002 (GEM Report Policy Paper).

3. Challenges in education.

challenges concept

Increasing education can improve the overall health and longevity of a population, aid the growth of economies, and boost the overall quality of life for many. The biggest challenge is providing equal access to education for all.
  • Funding for education is lacking: according to Global Partnership for Education, less than 20% of aid for education goes to low-income countries (Global Citizen).
  • Inappropriate educational environment: the average first grade classroom in Malawi has 130 children (Global Citizen). Contrast this to Iceland where the average number of children per classroom in first grade is 18.4 (OECD).
  • Not enough teachers: the United Nation estimates that 69 million new teachers (24.4 million primary school teachers + 44.4 million secondary school teachers) are required to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030 (The Guardian).
  • Conflict-affected situations, insecurity and instability act as one of the largest barriers to children receiving a quality primary education (World Bank Development Report). 
  • Less than 5% of children have access to pre-primary school in some countries affected by conflict (GEM Report: Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all, 2016)

4. Online vs offline education.

young man typing on laptop

An increasing number of teachers and students are choosing to take advantage of the flexibility and practicality of online learning. This has been made possible with technology and accessibility to fast internet. One of the primary advantages of online learning is that it can be done anywhere as long as there is an internet connection.
  • One of the greatest benefits to online learning is the increased interaction and group learning with peers online (The University of Melbourne).
  • The worldwide e-learning market is projected to be worth $325 billion in 2025 (Global News Wire).
  • Online courses make up $46 billion of the overall e-learning market (Statista).
  • One of the biggest reasons why e-learning is becoming so popular is because work fields are constantly changing and evolving (Podia).

5. Impact of online learning on education.

blonde woman working from home

Technology is changing the relationship held between teacher and student where teaching and learning has moved away from traditional platforms to a digital experience. Before e-learning, students had limited contact hours with educators. 

Online learning platforms have lead to greater interactivity in classrooms. Where students used to rely on offline methods of collaboration, online connectivity has supplemented their learning and has increased the overall interaction and opportunities for collaboration.
  • Technology could be the solution to inaccessible education, especially for children in developing countries (UNESCO).
  • 46% percent of students in grades 9–12 who responded to Project Tomorrow’s 2015 survey reported that they were using online textbooks, compared with 30% in 2005 (National Science Board).
  • 64% of Australian schools are implementing more online resources into teaching and learning (Pearson).
  • 48% of educators have a strong interest in professional development using digital learning to increase student engagement and achievement (Pearson).

6. Factors impacting education.

gender equality concept

There are many factors that impact the access to education: the quality and the type of education offered to students. In some countries, socio-economic factors such as poverty and gender inequality limit access to education.
  • In developing, low-income countries, every additional year of education can increase a child’s future income by an average of 10% (Paw Research Centre). 
  • 75 million children aged 3 to 18 live in countries facing war and violence. This demographic is in most need of educational support (Global Partnership).
  • If all women received primary education, there would be 1.7 million fewer malnourished children (Global Citizen). 
  • Globally, 9 in 10 girls complete their primary education but only 3 in 4 complete their lower secondary levels (Global Partnership).
  • Malnourished and stunted children are 19% less likely to be able to read by the age of 8 (Global Citizen). 
  • As a result of poverty and marginalisation, more than 27 million children around the world remain unschooled (Humanium).

7. Education statistics in Australia.

Australia on world map with two red passports

Australia’s educational system is a dynamic and growing service market. Having ranked as the 3rd largest provider of education to international students in 2016, the following years have seen education stay as a prominent issue for Australia.
  • 66.7% Australians aged between 20 and 64 years had attained a non-school qualification.
  • From 2008 to 2018, the percentage of the Australian population who had received a school qualification increased from 59.2% to 66.7% (ABS).
  • The average cost of an undergraduate bachelor’s degree is between $15,000 and $33,000 per year (Studies in Australia).
  • In Australia, mindfulness and mental health programs are likely to become a regular fixture in many Australian classrooms (SMH).
  • In 2018, almost one fifth of Australians aged between 15 and 64 were studying (ABS).
  • The most popular field of study for a non-school qualification was society and culture (22.0%), followed by management and commerce (20.5%) and health (14.9%) (ABS).

8. Education statistics in the United States.

United States on world map

Education in the United States is continuously growing and evolving. Home to the largest amount of schools and universities, the United States’ education system is huge. In 2018, the US ranked 27th in the world for its level of education.
  • According to NCES data 2015-2016, 21.1% of public schools, including charter schools, offered at least one course entirely online, but only 5.7% offered all courses online (Ed Week). 
  • Findings from the Pew Research Centre show that the US is ranked 38 out of 71 countries when it comes to mathematics (Business Insider).
  • Approximately 3% of the school-age population was homeschooled in the 2011-12 school year.
  • The current expenditure per student is projected to be $12,910 for the 2018–19 school year (NCES Gov).
  • Teacher quality is one of the most significant factors related to student achievement. In the US, 14% of new teachers resign by the end of their first year, 33% leave within their first three years and almost half leave by their fifth year (Wanted: A National Teacher Supply Policy for Education: The Right Way to Meet The "Highly Qualified Teacher" Challenge). 

9. Education statistics in the United Kingdom.

United Kingdom on world map

Education in the United Kingdom is considered to be one of the top educational systems in the world. According to a study done by US News, the UK is ranked first in education, globally. As a highly developed nation, the United Kingdom’s education system is influenced by the country’s considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural impact.
  • According to the Department of Education, the average size of primary schools have increased by 42 students, the equivalent of more than one extra class per school.
  • Despite a small increase in the number of schools, the increase in student numbers has meant that schools are larger than average.
  • About 35% of all people in the UK between 25 and 64 years old have a tertiary degree.
  • The UK has seen a sharp fall in mature student numbers – with the average age for a graduate being 23, the youngest in the OECD countries (BBC). 
  • In 2000, the UK education spending was less than £42.7 billion. In March 2019, education spending is at £87 billion (UK Public Spending). 
  • The amount spent on each primary school child in the UK  was £4700 in 2017-18, compared to £6,200 for secondary school children (BBC).
  • The UK is ranked the second most popular study destination. In 2018, 458,490 foreign students were attending university in the UK (Study in UK)

10. The future of education.

future concept

The educational sphere is continuously adapting and evolving. With new technologies created and replacing traditional classroom tools, the future of education is bright.
  • Pressure on teachers – 75% find their workload unmanageable – as well as rising student numbers means technology will play a larger role performing tasks to save time (Randstad Education).
  • It is predicted that in the future, there will be greater focus on individualised learning (The Millennium Project). 
  • ​It is predicted that classrooms will join the Internet of Things – a network of devices like smartwatches connecting and sharing data with other items and systems – and creating ‘smart schools’ where the teachers, students and devices become more connected (Randstad Education)
  • Technology will continue to advance educational systems and will see an even greater impact in the future (Education World).
  • There is a predicted 73% growth in teaching jobs between now and 2030 (Pearson).
Education is a global tool that has the impact to create great change.

The ability of one child to be educated can lead to a greater national economic stance, greater standard of living and continuous development of technology and innovations to improve our society. 

As technology becomes more advanced, the way education is being taught is also changing. In hope that this new impact technology has had on education, will improve the accessibility and quality of education around the world, 2019 and future years will see how the adaptation of education for future generations.

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