Unequal access to education among countries

Education is much less accessible to children in developing countries than it is to children in developed countries. It is also less accessible to rural than urban populations, and less accessible to females than to males.
With only about one-third the total population and only one-quarter of the young people in the world, industrialized countries spend ten times more money on education than do developing countries; and this difference is increasing. About half of the world's school enrolments are recorded in developed countries, where those of school age (5-14) form only one-quarter of the world total for their age group. Conversely, the developing countries, twice as populous and containing three times as many children and young people as the developed countries, have hardly more than half of the world's school pupils. In Europe, USSR and North America, the increase in primary and secondary school enrolments run parallel to the increase in the population of young people between 5 and 19 years of age. In developing countries, the population in that age group increases by millions more than the increases in school enrolments. Over 100 million children between the ages of 6 and 11 are without schools.

Figures on higher education show that in North America about one in two people who have reached post-secondary age are in fact enrolled at that level. The attendance rate is markedly lower in Europe but remains considerable at about one in seven, whereas in Latin America and Asia this proportion is greatly reduced (about ten times less), falls sharply again among Arab States (fourteen times less) and is infinitesimal by comparison in Africa (thirty-four times less). There are nearly two-and-a-half times as many students in the European and North American higher educational systems than in all the other regions of the world combined. In North America, one student in eight attends a higher educational establishment, and the ratio in Europe is 1 in 20. Corresponding ratios in developing regions are: 1 in 38 in Asia, 1 in 45 in the Arab States, 1 in 49 in Latin America, and 1 in 90 in Africa.

Again, differences are marked in education for girls and women. In North America, Europe and Latin America, school enrolments of boys and girls at primary and secondary levels are approximately equal. But grouping Africa, Asia and the Arab States together, we find 50% more boys than girls in primary schools, and 100% more in secondary schools. World illiteracy figures show further the extent to which women are at a disadvantage. 80% of the adult population in low income countries are illiterate; of these over-800 million people, nearly 500 million are female.

In so far as wealth in the modern world is closely related to knowledge, the distribution of educational resources is fundamental to an understanding of income distribution in future generations. In 1992 the percentage of students of an age to study at universities (or colleges) in the poor countries was 2.78% the poor countries, 11.29% in the middle income countries and 39.45% in the rich countries. The same gap may be observed in secondary education. In this case the poor and middle income countries have more boys than girls in education, while in the rich countries there are now more girls than boys.

Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
17.02.2000 – 00:00 CET