Around 263 million children around the world are out of school in both primary and secondary levels due to failure of governments to assure education and also because of poverty and armed conflicts and the disruption they cause to the proper functioning of society, the UNESCO organisation said on Wednesday.
The latest study carried out under UNESCO auspices indicates that 61 million children aged 6-11 are currently deprived of primary education, while another 60 million in the 12-14 age group do not receive lower-secondary tuition.
But for the first time, the study as focused also on higher-secondary education for the 15-17 age range and it was found that an alarming 142 million children in this category are out of school.
"Countries have promised to provide every child with a primary and secondary education by 2030. These new findings show the hard work ahead if we are to reach this goal," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova upon publication of the report.
"Our focus must be on inclusion from the earliest age and right through the learning cycle, on policies that address the barriers at every stage, with special attention to girls who still face the greatest disadvantage," she stated.
Of all global regions, sub-Saharan Africa currently has the highest rates for exclusion from education.
According to UNESCO data, more than 20 percent of sub-Saharan children between the ages of 6-11 are out of school, as are 33 percent of children aged 12-14.
More worrying, the data shows, almost 60 percent of 15-17 year-olds are out of school. "A key obstacle to achieving the agreed target is persistent disparities in education participation linked to sex, location and wealth," UNESCO warned.
Armed conflict was indicated as "another major barrier" to schooling, with 63 million children unable to attend school, globally, because they live in areas affected by conflict.
Gender disparities and social factors in some areas also disadvantage girls and even prevent some access to any form of basic education, the report affirmed.
"Girls are more likely than boys to never set foot in a classroom, despite efforts made and progress achieved over the past two decades," it said, noting "15 million girls of primary school age will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school compared to about 10 million boys." More than 50 percent of these girls, or around nine million, live in sub-Saharan Africa. And UNESCO also pointed to the poverty gap as creating an additional barrier for girls as socio-economic conditions in the poorest regions keep them at home.