The United Nations said on Tuesday in Geneva that the world is set to miss by more than half a century a deadline for ensuring all children receive secondary education.
The UNESCO report observed that 40 per cent of pupils are being taught in a language that is not their mother tongue.
It recalled that the World leaders agreed last year that by 2030 all girls and boys should be able to complete free quality primary and secondary education, but chronic under-funding is holding back such progress.
The report reiterated that aid to education needed to be increased by six-fold to achieve the goal of quality universal education by 2030.
Jeffrey Sachs, a Special UN Adviser on the SDGs, said in a foreword that the report should set off alarm bells around the world and lead to a historic scale-up of actions to achieve the goal.
He observed that the deadline on universal education was agreed as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – an ambitious plan to end poverty, hunger, advance equality and protect the environment.
“The gaps in educational attainment between rich and poor, within and between countries, are simply appalling,’’ he said.
Sachs, who is also an Economist, called for a Global Fund for Education modeled on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria which she said had helped drive dramatic improvements in health interventions and funding.
He said that the report indicated that around 263 million children are currently out of school globally, and almost 30 per cent of children from the poorest households in low income countries have never been to school.
Sachs said that critics of the educational goal believed that pushing for universal upper secondary completion distracts from ensuring at least nine years of basic education for all.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, on the current trends, analysed that universal primary education would be achieved in 2042, universal lower secondary education in 2059 and upper secondary in 2084.
She described education as key to every aspect of sustainable development including increased prosperity, better agriculture and health, less violence and greater gender equality.
“Achieving universal upper secondary education by 2030 in low income countries could lift 60 million people out of poverty by 2050.
“Educating mothers to lower secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 could also prevent 3.5 million child deaths between 2050,60,’’ she said.
Bokova said that the report attributed conflict as one of the greatest obstacles to progress in education, keeping over 36 million children out of school.
“It also pointed out that poverty and unemployment resulting from a lack of education could fuel conflict.
“The UNESCO report warned that the type of education children are receiving is not equipping them for the challenges ahead.
She said it called for more emphasis on teaching children about environmental concerns, climate change and how to think collectively so that they can become global citizens.
Bokova stressed that a fundamental change is needed in the way the society thinks about education’s role in global development.
The UNESCO Director-General, said this has become imperative because it has a catalytic impact on the well-being of individuals and the future of the planet.
“Now, more than ever, education has a responsibility to be in gear with 21st century challenges and aspirations.