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Goal 2: Educating all Children

Globally, the primary completion rate has increased from 63 percent in 1990 to an estimated 83 percent in 2005, and the pace of annual improvement has accelerated significantly since 2000 in the three regions furthest from the goal—North Africa, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa—a sign of the increasing priority given in these regions to universalizing primary education.

Latin America and the Caribbean, which started from a higher base, has also sustained an exceptionally strong rate of progress.

The number of countries that have achieved universal primary completion increased from 37 in 2000 to 52 in 2005, and this includes some low-income countries: Bolivia, Indonesia, and Kenya.

Notwithstanding these very positive trends, the goal of universal primary completion by 2015 will be difficult to reach: 57 of 152 developing countries (38 percent) are considered off track—meaning that they will not reach the goal on current trends. Most of the 33 countries that lack data are also likely off track. Among African countries, 65 percent are considered seriously off track, defined as unlikely to reach the goal before 2040.

Among fragile states, only 11 percent have achieved universal primary completion or are on track to doing so, and 50 percent are considered seriously off track.

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Despite faster progress since 2000, Sub-Saharan
Africa remains very far from the goal. In South
Asia, populous India’s strong progress boosts the regional picture, although some countries remainoff track.

East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and
Europe and Central Asia are all close to the goal.
Strong progress since 2000 in the Middle East
and North Africa has put that region on track to
achieve universal primary completion, although
the regional average hides some variance across countries.
TARGET 3: Ensure that by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
Education figure 2
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Education figure 3
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In many developing countries children are able to complete a full course of primary education, but in all regions at least a few countries remain off track and unlikely to reach the primary education target.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest-performing region, 65 percent of countries are seriously off track and only 8 percent are on track. We observe a huge lag for fragile states, of which 50 percent are seriously off track.

Data from household surveys indicate that the largest gaps in primary completion rates in virtually every developing country are between wealthy and poor populations (figure 3). But gaps between urban and rural populations can also be very large, especially in Africa.

Completion rates for girls, which are discussed in gender section, also lag behind those of boys in some countries, but in general—thanks to strong progress on gender equity in education over the past 15 years—these gaps are smaller than those linked to wealth or location.

However, while expansion of primary education coverage tends to be pro-poor, pro-rural, and pro-girls in terms of equalizing access and completion, country experience also shows that specific actions to lower direct and opportunity costs or eliminate discrimination are often needed to keep vulnerable children in school, be they orphan, poor, rural, or female.

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