Africa & the Middle East

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Africa & the Middle East
General Overview of Sub-Saharan Africa
General Overview of Middle East and North Africa
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General Overview of Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa - Education Highlights

Millions of children in the Sub-Saharan African region are attending school for the first time, due to the good progress countries have made toward achieving universal primary education goals. However, access to education continues to be a priority concern in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, where progress is as varied as the region itself. At the pre-primary level, the average enrollment rate is 23%; this number reflects great variation between countries. Seychelles has universal enrollment at the pre-primary level, while other countries, such as Somalia and Chad, have enrollment rates close to zero. At the primary level, Eritrea has a net enrollment rate of only 35.7%, but Burundi has achieved a rate of 98%.

ACEI Country Liaisons is a growing network of volunteers from around the world whose purpose is to gather information about childhood education practices and policies in various nations, share this information with members and non-members, provide information to support the development of association programs, and promote international and intercultural understanding. Read reports from a variety of nations as contributed by ACEI Country Liaisons here.

With overall good progress at the primary level, there is great potential to expand access to secondary education in Africa. In general, however, access to secondary education is lower in Sub-Saharan Africa in comparison to other regions. Expansion of basic education into the secondary level will be important for youth participation in the global knowledge economy.

Gender disparities remain a concern in the African region, despite 15 countries reaching gender parity at the primary level as of 2006.  In some countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, the gender gap has actually increased over the last decade. Gender disparities intensify at the secondary level, as some cultural norms dictate that girls do not need education beyond the primary level.

African countries are also committed to improving the quality and relevance of education. Regional focus has been placed on boosting teacher management and development, monitoring learning achievement, and promoting education for peace. The Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) has been a useful initiative for cross-national comparisons of educational quality. Education for peace is an important priority, given the hot spots of intractable insecurity on the continent. Kenya is currently piloting a national education for peace curriculum designed for the primary level. Finally, initiatives and policy considerations for multilingual education are being pursued across the region, recognizing the learning benefits from honoring indigenous cultures and receiving instruction in the mother tongue.


All Africa


Shaw. (2008). Peace Education in Central and East Africa Conference Report.

UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report. (2011)

UNICEF. (2012). Humanitarian Action Update

World Bank. (2012). Africa Regional Brief,,menuPK:258652~pagePK:146732~piPK:146828~theSitePK:258644,00.html

World Health Organization. (2006).

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General Overview of Middle East and North Africa

Middle East and north Africa (MENA) - Education Highlights

The Middle East has fairly good access to education. Access to primary education is the most consistent, while access to pre-primary and secondary education varies by country. At the primary level, the regional average net enrollment rate is 88%. In Tunisia, it is as high as 98%. The pre-primary rate of enrollment ranges broadly, from less than 1% in Yemen to 94.3% in the United Arab Emirates, and the variance in secondary net enrollment rates ranges from 31.6% in Yemen to 89.2% in Bahrain.  

Completion of the primary level is fairly high in the Middle East. However, access and completion rates for girls are lingering concerns for some countries.  On the other hand, in countries such as Morocco and Egypt, where the gender gap favors girls, it has been shown that girls with access to school perform as well as their peers. Most of the primary-age, out-of-school children (about 561,154) are concentrated in Saudi Arabia and Palestine.

The notable educational challenge in the Middle East is the weak alignment between what children learn in school, job availability, and the skills sought by employers. Jobless education—the disconnect between education and the labor market—contributes to the social and economic exclusion of the burgeoning youth population. The lack of relevance between formal education and the world of work is a pressing concern for youth.

Education reform policy in the region over the last decade has focused on capacity building, quality, and linking education to poverty reduction and social cohesion. For Middle Eastern countries, as for all societies, education is a means to develop a globally competitive labor force, as well as a platform to teach children important societal values for learning to live together harmoniously in the increasingly complex world.


UNESCO. (2011). EFA GMR: Education and Armed Conflict. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Brookings Institution. (2009). Fact Sheet: Generation in Waiting. Dubai: Wolfensohn Center for Development. Retrieved 04 September 2012.

Yahia, Mohammed. Nature Middle East. Arab Education Lags Behind World, Says UNESCO. Retrieved 04 September 2012.

Brookings Institution. (2012). Migration, Displacement and the Arab Spring: Prospects for the Next Year. Retrieved 04 September 2012.

War Child. (2012). Syria: A War on Childhood. War Child UK.

World Bank. (1998). Education in the Middle East and North Africa: A Strategy Towards Learning for Development. Human Development Sector: Middle East & North Africa Region.

Stat Silk. Interactive Maps of Open Data. Retrieved 04 September 2012.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 04 September 2012.

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