The Global Monitoring Report projects that by 2015 up to 56 million children worldwide will still be out of primary education - a problem by no means restricted to conflict and fragile states. So what steps can be taken to increase participation in education? And as it does increase, how can quality be maintained?
Development in early childhood is essential for laying the foundations for physical and mental health, socio-emotional skills and intellectual well-being in later life. However, children can face a range of health, educational and other problems in their early years that jeopardise their chances of realising their full potential, from nutritional deﬁciencies and inadequate feeding practices, through to low levels of cognitive stimulation, and chronic diseases.
Economic factors are a major reason for children missing out on education even where provision is available. Demand-side incentives have become increasingly popular as a means to drive attendance. But for such incentives to be successful, they must address the real barriers that families face.
The rapid expansion of education systems in many countries poses new challenges in maintaining and improving the quality of service delivery. Globally more than 250 million primary school-age children are not able to read, write or count well enough to meet basic standards, including many who have spent several years in school. For governments, the question is how to improve quality and prevent disparity, whilst also allowing communities control to shape education around their needs.
Achieving higher access and better quality simultaneously poses difficult choices about how domestic and aid resources should be allocated. It is essential that decisions are based on evidence regarding effectiveness and efficiency. Institutions need to be organised in ways that facilitate the use of results-based approaches and promote accountability.