Development Cooperation Handbook/Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

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MDG 2

Millions of children lack access to school education.

The second Millennium Development Goal is that all children obtain basic school education. The objective of the MDG 2 is that the right to learn is guaranteed to all children, boys and girls alike, rich and poor, in developed and developing nations alike.     

Right now, this is not so. In Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, only 2 out of 3 children receive primary schooling. And it is especially the girls who get left out. 

The current effort is to support African governments and civil society in following the example of the Asian and South American nations, that are successfully extending universal primary education to most of their children.

MDG 2 - Targets[edit]

Target: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of Primary education

  • Net enrolment ratio in primary education
  • Proportion of pupils starting grade 1 who reach grade 5
  • Literacy rate of 15-24 year olds


Hard Facts
  • In developing regions, 69 million school-age children are not yet in school; 31 million among these are in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 30% of primary school students drop out before reaching a final grade; 
  • Only 67 girls per 100 boys, in Sub-Saharan Africa, are enrolled in tertiary education
  • Almost three-quarters of children out of school are in sub- Saharan Africa (31 million) or Southern Asia (18 million);
  • In the poorest households, about twice as many girls of secondary school age are out of school as compared to their wealthier peers;
  • The number of children completing primary education has increased from 83% in 2000 to 89% in 2008;
  • School-age children who are not going to school has decreased from 106 million in 2000 to 69 million in 2008


According to UNICEF, ensuring primary education for girls has a “multiplier effect.” in that educated girls are likely to marry later, have fewer children, who in turn will be more likely to survive, be better nourished and educated. Educated girls are also more productive at home and better paid in the workplace, and more able to participate in social, economic and political decision-making.

Testimonials[edit]

Shiva Kumar[edit]

The economic and cultural rights - S.Kumar

The “right to education”. When the constitution was made in 1950, the argument was made that education is not a fundamental right. Because the government then said that we do not have the financial resources to ensure that. So they said, give us 10 years. 1960 came, 1970, 1980, 1990… the same argument “we do not have the financial resources. And at the same time you were seeing that India was becoming a top rate country for higher education (IITs, IIMs). But the neglect of basic education in schooling was unforgivable. An it took civil society years of pushing till it was made a fundamental right in 2003. Only starting in 2010 the government has made the financial allocation.

This is the fundamental question: where does India get the financial resources to ensure that all children get quality education, that every Indian has access to health? And what is the answer you give? There are two ways of looking at it. One is to ask the question “can India afford these high level investments in basic health and education?” But a more fundamental way of putting this question today is “can India afford not to invest in basic health, basic education, basic nutrition and these essentials in life. But fundamentally what is behind the question. It is not a question of money, it is a question of political priorities. Is the political commitment there to say that this is the priority for this country? That the sustenance of economic growth, that the desire of India to become a prominent player in the world tomorrow will depend on how well we address these basic deprivation in the lives of millions of Indians.

If ask students, what is the biggest problem, they will tell you population. And I’m amazed that people think that population is India’s biggest problem because there is such good news on the population side. That is absolutely wrong. Look at China, it has a population of 1.2 billion people and in terms of these basics in life, whether it is health, education, nutrition, water, sanitation, housing, they are much superior to us and they achieved it when their level of income was as low as India’s is. It is m It is not about growth rate, it is not with population size. It has to do with the fact that India has not recognized that its strength are its people and that unless you look after people you will continue to experience the problems that we are. Take care of people and population will take care of itself.


Edited Stories related to the MDG2[edit]











See also[edit]

Smiling Camera.png The Vrinda DocumentaryEpisode 2: Achieve universal primary education
Issues icon.jpg Issue 6 ⇒ Do cooperation for development action really benefits the target populations? How far they impact on the wider social settings?

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