On current trends, UNESCO projects that it will take until 2072 until all the poorest young women in developing countries are literate.
Teaching and Learning: Achieving quality for all is the 11th Education for All Global Monitoring Report and estimates that 10 per cent of global spending on education is being lost on poor-quality education.
Around 250 million children are not learning basic skills even though half of them have spent at least four years in school. In a third of the countries analysed, less than three-quarters of existing primary school teachers are trained to national standards.
UNESCO says that 5.2 million teachers must be recruited by 2015 to help tackle the problem.
In 2000, governments across the world pledged to deliver universal primary education for all children by 2015. However, with that deadline fast approaching, an estimated 57 million children are still missing out.
Half of these live in conflict affected countries and there continues to be a huge gender and poverty divide, with girls making up 54 per cent of the global population of children out-of-school. If current trends continue, the richest boys will achieve universal primary education in 2021 but the poorest girls will not catch up until 2086.
Currently, 56 per cent of countries have achieved a universal primary education. Of the rest, 12 per cent of countries are considered to be “very far” away, 25 per cent are “far” from the target, and seven per cent are “close”.
The report praises countries including Rwanda and Vietnam, where out-of-school populations have reduced by 85 per cent in the last five years.
It is thought 14 countries have more than one million children out of school, including Afghanistan, China, the Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania.
The report recommends that the goals for universal education are updated to include an explicit commitment to equity and to have measurable targets to track the progress of the most disadvantaged.
It also stresses the importance of ensuring that children are not only in school, but are actually learning the basics too, and that every teacher must have pre and in-service training as well.
The report is available from http://en.unesco.org/