REPORT: Poor Education For Kids Frustrates World's Parents

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To learn about the Right to Learn report view the executive summary or the full report
To learn more about the report, view the executive summary or the full report.

NEW YORK (Dec. 11, 2013) — Parents throughout developing countries are frustrated by the staggering 40 percent of primary-school-age children who are unable to read, write, or do basic math by fourth grade, according to a new report.

Save the Children released the report, "Right to Learn," this afternoon at the United Nations during a presentation co-sponsored by Women Thrive Worldwide, UNICEF, the UN's Global Education First Initiative, UNESCO, ASER Pakistan, and the Center for Universal Education at Brookings Institution. The report's insights come as the global community considers next steps to the UN's Millennium Development Goals – the world's largest anti-poverty effort ever – which expire in December 2015.

The current set of goals have led to record numbers of girls and boys attending school, but learning outcomes in many areas remain grossly inadequate for preparing students to reach their professional aspirations as adults.

Parents and advocates from India to Zimbabwe report high teacher absenteeism, overcrowded classrooms, poor facilities, lack of books and more.

"We are facing a real and global crisis in learning," said Meredy Talbot-Zorn, global development manager at Save the Children and co-author of the report. "Parents are frustrated. Right now, we are failing them, and failing children."

"This is a call to action for anyone who cares about the world's children," said Laura Henderson, director of education policy at Women Thrive Worldwide, and a reviewer of the report. "This report brings parents' concerns directly to the world leaders who will shape education priorities around the world."

The report shows that while parents expect their children to learn basic skills at school, they face many barriers for holding schools, service providers and government accountable. The report also cites several country examples of where parents and stakeholders are working together to improve accountability for children's progress in learning and getting positive results. The findings of the report are based on qualitative research in seven countries, including Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nepal, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

"When the current Millennium Development Goals were being created, parents and advocates from developing countries were largely left out from being able to provide input," continued Henderson. "That can't happen again. World leaders need to be accountable to parents for the quality of education that their children receive."

Save the Children has included six recommendations for UN institutions and member states to get education and learning for children right:

  • Ensure that voices from developing countries – especially civil society – inform the post-2015 framework and surrounding policy discussions.
  • Seize the opportunity during the post-2015 negotiations to advance an ambitious equitable learning goal for the next global framework.
  • Improve data collection that allows every country to reliably measure progress on learning outcomes and put systems in place to disaggregate data.
  • Commit to increased funding and target vital educational resources to the most marginalized groups in countries.
  • Improve accountability to local stakeholders by supporting both a global post-2015 equitable learning goal, and participatory, national level decision making to create national targets and indicators.
  • Empower all communities with information and transparency on school performance.

"There's just too much at stake for decision-makers not to listen to parents and advocates in developing countries about what needs to be done to improve education and learning for the world's children," said Talbot-Zorn.

To speak with an expert on global education, please contact Jillian Holzer or 202.999.4483.

Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.