Education Developing Countries - Compassion International

Education Facts
Get the facts about education in developing countries and how it affects children and adults.

education graphic

One of the biggest contributors to global poverty is lack of access to education. The following facts about education are a snapshot of the problem and indicate how difficult it is for children in poverty to overcome the obstacles they face and escape their circumstances.

In order to effectively fight poverty around the world, the lack of education for children in developing countries, especially for girls, must be addressed.

  • The global gender gap in education is concentrated among the poor. Poor women aged 15 to 30, on average, have a year less schooling than poor men of the same age group. 1
  • 757 million adults still lack basic reading and writing skills. Two-thirds (63 percent) are women 2
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 80 percent of young women have not completed their secondary education, and one in three young women cannot read. 3
Through our child sponsorship program we offer children in poverty the opportunity to go to school and/or stay in school. We give them the chance to change the facts about education and change their future. When asked which component of our program was most beneficial to them, more than one-third of formerly sponsored children said "educational support." 10

A Kenyan college student wearing a white shirt stands in front of a light blue wood door with crosses carved into it.

  • Nine percent of children of primary school age (typically 6 to 11 years) continue to be denied the right to education. 4
  • Of the 59 million children of primary school age who were out of school in 2013, 30 million lived in sub-Saharan Africa and 10 million in South and West Asia. 4
  • More than half (53 percent) of the primary school-age children out of school are girls. 5
  • For the school year ending in 2013, 124 million children and young adolescents, roughly between the ages of 6 and 15 years, have either never started school or have dropped out. 4
  • One in six children in low and middle income countries will not complete primary school in 2015. 6
  • A sample of 31 low- and lower-middle-income African and South Asian countries, showed that, on average, an urban child is almost five times more likely to complete secondary education than a rural child. And a boy is 1.55 times more likely than a girl to complete secondary school. 7
Independent research found that former Compassion sponsored children stay in school longer than their non-sponsored peers: 1 to 1.5 years longer, are 27 to 40 percent more likely to finish secondary education and are 50 to 80 percent more likely to graduate college than those who were not enrolled in the child sponsorship program.
  • Worldwide 780 million adults and 103 million young people (ages 15–24) are illiterate. 8
  • In 2012, the global adult literacy rate was 85 percent, compared to 91 percent for youth aged 15 to 24. 2
  • Sub-Saharan African and South and West Asia, youth literacy rates are 70 percent and 84 percent respectively. 2
  • South and West Asia is home to more than one-half of the global illiterate population (51 percent). 2
  • 25 percent of all illiterate adults live in sub-Saharan Africa. 2
  • A study using data from 219 countries from 1970 to 2009 found that, for every one additional year of education for women of reproductive age, child mortality decreased by 9.5 percent. 9
When you sponsor a child, your sponsorship provides school fees, uniforms, books and supplies — without which children can't attend school. Your money also provides basic necessities for the family so that child labor isn't forced upon the child.
How do the UN Sustainable Development Goals relate to Compassion?

several children look outside through a window

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) directly parallel what Compassion does. But when it comes to goals and implementation we sometimes take a different approach. This is a quick analysis of the SDGs and how they most closely match our work, along with ways they overlap and differ.