Millennium Development Goal #2

The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is a global nonprofit organization representing and coordinating a membership of over 100 national United Nations Associations.


Main Targets

Progress Report: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

MDG2 in focus - 
Case Study: India





In the shadow of many of the more “urgent” MDGs like hunger and child mortality, education is often disregarded as it doesn't seem to have immediate outcomes for developing regions. This mentality isn’t unusual, especially in communities where the breadwinners, if there are any, cannot support their family due to unemployment and unfair pay wages. The economic downturn in 2008 saw food prices hit an all-time high, seeing more children dropping out of classes in order to start working. Likewise, in times of crisis, medical and food aid are at the forefront of almost every humanitarian mission, with only two percent of aid globally allocated to areas in crisis.

Currently in developing areas, it is estimate that 87 out of 100 children attend primary school, with the drop-out rate before completing a full primary cycle sitting at 1 out of 5 children. Fighting drop-out rates is one of the biggest obstacles in every region worldwide, with school fees and marriage being two of the largest reasons children will be “pulled” from their courses by their guardians. The elimination of school fees has been extremely beneficial in South Asia and Africa, but continued support is needed for teachers who are often understaffed in rural areas. In addition,  there is a need to teach guardians the long term benefits of keeping their children in school, including better employment and lowering chances of disease later in life.

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Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

Progress Report

  • The net enrollment in primary education has gone up by 7% since 1999 resulting in 89% overall in 2009, showing a slow but steady rate of improvement worldwide. Unfortunately, this slowed down to an increase of just 2 percentage points in the last 3 years.
  • ¾ of primary school aged children not in school worldwide are found in Sub-Saharan Africa (31 million) and South Asia (18 million). Yet, the biggest improvement comes from Sub-Saharan Africa at 18 percentage points between 1999-2009, followed by South Asia at 12 percentage points and North Africa at 8 percentage points.
  • Currently, it is projected that 87 out of 100 children in developing regions complete primary school, with the chance of children coming from the least developed regions dropping out before completion standing at 1 out of 5 children.
  • Some of the poorest countries have made the biggest strides since 1999: Rwanda, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe and Burundi are all nearing the 100% goal. 2/3 of developing countries have also reached gender parity within their primary education as of 2005.
  • Primary education chart - Read More

  • Despite the huge leaps made in multiple regions, it is unlikely that this target will be reached by 2015.


Dropout rates

  • Dropout rates are one of the biggest challenges that prevent most regions from approaching the 100% goal. Due to family commitments, financial responsibilities, early marriage, tradition and other factors, many children drop out of primary school before completing the final level. This is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where it is predicted that 30% of primary schoolers drop out before their final year.
  • UNICEF "survival rates" for completion of primary education - Read more 

Migration, Gender and Poverty

  • Statistically, being female, poor and/or living in a conflict area are the largest and most influential factors that keep children out of primary education.
  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ survey of 87 urban areas showed that 37% of refugee children had no access to schooling. If they do have the chance to go, they face stigma and discrimination. Often these children do not speak the language of instruction, and it is often the case that the home governments do not allow refugees to attend public schools.
  • 73% of adolescent girls did not attend school while in a refugee camp, with adolescent boys in refugee camps not attending school at a rate of 66%.

Staffing and funding

  • With States attempting to reach this goal, schools often become over crowded with not enough school supplies and textbooks. On a similar note, often times there are not enough teachers available. This is especially true in more rural areas or areas that may speak regional dialects and at refugee camps.


  • The most successful stepping stone to reaching this goal has been abolishing school fees in certain states, making it more accessible to children of every socio- economic level. This has been done in Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi and Nepal, where there has been surging school enrollment, doubling the number of child enrollment in primary education in some cases.
  • Investing in educational infrastructure has also brought huge successes to countries who have taken the challenge of meeting MDG2. Nepal, through direct investment, is ensuring that 90% of students live within 30 minutes of school. Mongolia has also ensured that rural children are being cared for through “tent schools”.
  • To overcome language barriers, states like Bolivia have introduced education in other languages for the indigenous populations.
  • UN Population Fund in Ethiopia supports a program called “Berhane Hewan” that gives girls a female sheep when she fully completes her primary education. 

Case Study: India

“Annual Status of Education Report 2011” completed by local organizations and citizens, has been done for 7 years and focuses on children in rural India.

  •  Key findings show that while student enrollment in rural India has risen to 96.7% in 2011, the level of education received has declined, including basic reading, arithmetic and academic levels.
  • There has been a sharp increase in enrollment in private schools from 18.7% to 25.6% in 2011 between children 6-14 years old.
  • The number of girls out of school has seen a sharp decrease. The region of Rajasthan, for example, shows an 18.9% to 8.9% decline of out of school girls.
  • Reading levels have gone down in northern states, but have remained about the same in their southern counterparts.
  • Basic arithmetic levels are also estimated to be down. Children at class 3 who were able to solve 2 digit subtraction with borrowing has dropped from 36.3% in 2010 to 29.9% in 2011. This same problem was found in class 5 children who dropped from 70% to 61%. Overall, only three regions showed improvements in 2011: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • The report concludes that textbooks need to be updated and that realistic outcomes in relation to MDG2 need to be created and taken up on a state by state basis within India. 
  • UNICEF India statistics - Read More




“Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011”, The Times of India, January 21st 2012. 

“Millennium Development Goal: Achieve Universal Primary Education by 2015”, The World Bank,

“The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011”, the United Nations, June 2011.

“We Can End Poverty 2015 – Fact Sheet”, UN Department of Public Information, September 2010.

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