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A Review of Education and ICT Indicators in Asia-Pacific

(by UNESCO Bangkok)

© Flickr/Alpstedt

Spanning across a vast geographical area, the Asia-Pacific region accounts for more than half of the global population (approximately 4.3 billion and forecasted to increase by about 1 billion by 2050), with six out of the world’s ten most populous economies as part of the region. The region is steeped in history and the 3500 languages spoken is reflective of its great cultural diversity. According to the United Nations’ World Youth Report 2013, the largest share of the world’s youth population (approximately 60%) hails from Asia-Pacific, therefore it is crucial to assess and review the progress the region has made with regards to the EFA goals in view of the fast-approaching 2015 deadline. The agenda has been acted upon by member states as we continue to see progress in education development in the region, and there has been a growing attention towards the concept of “lifelong learning” and improving access, equity and equality in education for all, regardless the level of education (from early childhood care and education to higher education and beyond) through formal, non-formal and informal methods (ADB, 2014; UNESCAP, 2014; UNESCO, 2014a).

Over the past decade, there has been reasonable improvement in the understanding of early childhood needs, which has consequently led to the region’s progress in expanding early childhood care and education as reflected in the pre-primary gross enrolment ratios (GERs) – 24.69% to 32.88% in Central Asia, 42.50% to 67.80% in East Asia and the Pacific, and 30.17% to 54.91% in South and West Asia (Table 1). Strategies to greater expansion include passing laws to mandate participation, abolishing of fees, financial incentives and public awareness campaigns to appeal to parents and children. However, rising enrolment has come at the cost of considerable inequality between urban and rural areas as well as wealth inequalities in attendance, while the quality of pre-primary education is yet to be addressed. The relatively low GER in Central Asia is also a cause for concern as it falls below the world’s average of approximately 50% (UNESCO, 2015).

It is also evident that there has been significant progress made towards achieving universal primary education and gender equality in the region – primary GERs have been increasing over time with values in all sub-regions either approximating or already at 100%, and many countries have also attained gender parity as measured by the gender parity index (GPI). The GPI is an indicator that is commonly used to assess gender differences through the computation of the ratio of female-to-male values, and gender parity is reached when GPI is between 0.97 and 1.03. However, despite the positive enrolment situation in the region, large numbers of children still remain out of school due to a variety of reasons from religious strife to political leadership. In most low income countries, primary completion remains a challenge with high dropout rates. For example, in the sub-region of South and West Asia, almost 40% of children do not complete the full cycle of primary education (UNESCO, 2014b, 2015).

The poor quality of education persists as a challenge in the region, denying children and youth of better opportunities. As highlighted above, the region has made significant gains in access to education, but progress in quality of education has been slow. More emphasis should be placed on quality and learning and this would likely reflect in the post-2015 framework. One of the indicators for quality of education is the pupil-teacher ratio, which has seen considerable improvement over the past decade, especially in primary education in the region – from 20 students to a teacher to 16.1 in Central Asia, from 22 students to 19.1 in East Asia and the Pacific, and from 39.8 students to 35.2 in South and West Asia (Table 3). However, increasing the number of teachers does not necessarily mean an increase in the quality of teaching. Teachers have to be well-trained and motivated, and many countries have expanded teacher numbers rapidly by hiring people without the appropriate qualifications. Due to the increase in enrolment rates, countries are also responding to the shortage of teachers through the use of contract teachers of which its effectiveness is debatable. Suggested steps to take from here include conceptualising of effective strategies to assess and monitor progress in learning outcomes, widening the use of appropriate teaching and learning materials, developing relevant curriculum and deploying technology to support learning (UNESCO, 2015).

High literacy rates (youth and adult) in all sub-regions except South and West Asia have been reported (Table 2). Despite this, the region is reported to have the highest number of illiterate adults (64%, only reduced by 4% in the past decade). In measuring youth literacy, it is important to consider the participation rate of secondary education, as children would acquire foundation skills in literacy and numeracy required for decent work with salaries that would allow them to meet daily needs. There has been an increase in secondary GERs in all sub-regions, but South and West Asia remains a concern as its GER (63.92%) is reportedly below the world’s average (approximately 82%). The legislation of free secondary education and abolition of school fees have contributed to the increased secondary enrolments. However, the proliferation of access to secondary education has not helped to remedy the problem of inequality, as secondary education is usually obtained first by advantaged groups and only later by the marginalised. Some of the contributing factors include youth having to combine work with schooling or prioritising work over education. Therefore, to improve both youth and adult literacy skills, countries in the region have been promoting education alternatives for those who are no longer in school, for example, non-formal programmes, vocational courses and life enrichment programmes (UNESCO, 2015).

 

Table 1: Gross enrolment ratios and gender parity index

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Gross enrolment ratio (%)

Pre-primary, Total

Central Asia

24.69

25.04

25.96

26.99

27.62

27.92

28.17

29.46

31.22

32.88

East Asia and the Pacific

42.50

44.81

47.32

49.38

51.97

53.53

55.35

57.55

61.53

67.80

South and West Asia

30.17

31.74

36.42

38.65

45.19

50.97

50.48

51.93

54.95

54.91

Primary, Total

Central Asia

98.72

99.00

98.40

98.19

98.01

98.48

98.53

98.98

99.13

99.40

East Asia and the Pacific

109.05

110.33

111.41

111.95

114.88

116.78

117.72

117.60

117.05

117.14

South and West Asia

100.65

103.11

105.10

106.88

109.07

109.76

109.69

110.26

110.25

110.44

Secondary, Total

Central Asia

92.17

93.08

94.54

95.11

95.90

95.36

96.45

96.95

97.96

98.57

East Asia and the Pacific

62.95

64.66

65.94

68.02

71.81

74.47

77.64

80.39

82.89

84.47

South and West Asia

48.65

49.80

51.59

53.04

55.07

57.55

57.56

60.53

63.27

63.92

Gross enrolment ratio/Gender parity index (GPI)

Pre-primary

Central Asia

0.97

1.00

0.99

0.99

0.99

1.02

1.01

1.01

1.00

1.00

East Asia and the Pacific

0.98

0.98

0.97

0.97

0.96

0.97

0.98

0.98

0.98

1.00

South and West Asia

1.02

1.01

1.03

1.03

1.02

1.02

1.01

1.03

1.02

1.02

Primary

Central Asia

0.98

0.98

0.98

0.98

0.98

0.99

0.99

0.99

0.98

0.99

East Asia and the Pacific

0.99

0.99

0.99

0.99

0.99

0.99

0.98

0.99

0.99

0.99

South and West Asia

0.94

0.93

0.95

0.95

0.96

0.98

0.99

0.99

1.00

1.00

Secondary

Central Asia

0.97

0.96

0.97

0.97

0.97

0.98

0.99

0.98

0.97

0.98

East Asia and the Pacific

0.97

0.98

0.99

1.00

1.01

1.01

1.02

1.00

1.01

1.01

South and West Asia

0.84

0.83

0.85

0.85

0.87

0.89

0.92

0.92

0.94

0.93

Source: UNESCO-UIS. Regional Profile: EFA Regions (Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific and South and West Asia). Retrieved from: data.uis.unesco.org

Table 2: Literacy rate

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Literacy rate (%)

Youth, Total

Central Asia

99.77

99.77

99.83

99.83

99.83

99.83

99.83

99.83

99.83

99.83

East Asia and the Pacific

98.01

98.01

98.87

98.87

98.87

98.87

98.87

98.87

98.87

98.87

South and West Asia

73.81

73.81

80.15

80.15

80.15

80.15

80.15

80.15

80.15

80.15

Adult, Total

Central Asia

99.00

99.00

99.56

99.56

99.56

99.56

99.56

99.56

99.56

99.56

East Asia and the Pacific

91.60

91.60

94.92

94.92

94.92

94.92

94.92

94.92

94.92

94.92

South and West Asia

58.95

58.95

62.57

62.57

62.57

62.57

62.57

62.57

62.57

62.57

Source: UNESCO-UIS. Regional Profile: EFA Regions (Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific and South and West Asia). Retrieved from: data.uis.unesco.org

Table 3: Pupil-teacher ratio

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Pupil-teacher ratio (headcount)

Pre-primary

Central Asia

10.9

10.6

10.6

10.8

10.9

10.8

10.6

10.5

10.8

10.8

East Asia and the Pacific

23.0

23.0

22.8

22.3

21.5

20.8

21.1

21.2

20.9

22.1

South and West Asia

35.7

36.0

37.2

35.9

36.0

-

-

-

-

-

Primary

Central Asia

20.0

19.1

18.7

18.1

17.2

16.8

16.7

16.9

16.1

16.1

East Asia and the Pacific

22.0

21.1

20.2

19.8

19.2

18.8

18.3

17.9

17.8

19.1

South and West Asia

39.8

39.8

39.6

39.5

39.3

38.3

37.3

36.3

35.1

35.2

Secondary

Central Asia

13.0

12.9

12.9

12.7

12.5

12.2

11.9

12.2

12.1

12.0

East Asia and the Pacific

18.4

18.3

17.9

17.3

16.6

16.2

16.0

15.8

15.9

15.7

South and West Asia

30.6

30.5

28.9

27.9

26.8

25.9

24.8

24.8

25.3

25.3

Source: UNESCO-UIS. Regional Profile: EFA Regions (Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific and South and West Asia). Retrieved from: data.uis.unesco.org

Given the high levels of investment in national technological infrastructure of the countries in Asia Pacific, some countries have already reached or outperformed international standards of ICT-assisted instruction while in other countries much progress remains to be made. The varying stages of ICT development throughout the region reflects the disparity in economic development of the countries. On the one hand, the top of the regional ranking (and also the top of the global ranking) is occupied by ICT champions like the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Japan, Australia and New Zealand with IDI[1] values that exceed that of the developed-country average of 7.20. On the other hand, there are several countries that fall below the developing-country average of 3.84 and are mostly countries that make up the region’s low-cost countries. This regional divide is more apparent when comparing ICT connectivity of households throughout the region – while less than 5% of households in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal and Solomon Islands have Internet access at home, virtually all households in the Republic of Korea (98%), Japan and in Singapore (86%) enjoy this facility (ITU, 2014; UNESCO-UIS, 2014).

 

Source: ITU. Measuring the Information Society Report 2014. Retrieved from:

www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/publications/mis2014/MIS2014_without_Annex_4.pdf

 

For information on ICT indicators in each of the sub-regions of the Asia-Pacific region, please visit our previous newsletter sub-regional corners: South Asia, East Asia, Pacific, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Overall, reflecting on the Education for All goals that have been set and vigorously attempted by many governments and organizations since 2000, as well as looking ahead to the Post-2015 Global agenda, education remains as “the” key drive for development and thus it will need to be further prioritized and better financed. The international community has learnt a great deal from this global collaboration, concluding that our targets need to be specific, relevant and measurable. We need to reach the marginalized and less advantaged groups, improve our data collection and its timeliness, and hold all of the stakeholders accountable to their promises and achievements. Even though much has been achieved, much more is yet to be done in the hope of providing quality education for all (UNESCO, 2015).

 

Contact info: Jollyn Peiling Cheong, jollyn_cheong@hotmail.com; Auken Tungatarova, a.tungatarova@unesco.org

 

References:

ADB. (2014). Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2014: 45th edition. Retrieved from www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/43030/ki2014_0.pdf

ITU. (2014). Measuring the Information Society Report 2014. Retrieved from www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/publications/mis2014/MIS2014_without_Annex_4.pdf

UNESCO. (2014a). Asia-Pacific Regional Educational Conference Final Report. “Envisioning Education Beyond 2015: Asia-Pacific Regional Perspectives.” Retrieved from www.unescobkk.org/fileadmin/user_upload/epr/Images/APREC_Final_Report_18DEC14_.pdf

UNESCO. (2014b). EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/14. “Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All.” Retrieved from unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002256/225660e.pdf

UNESCO. (2015). EFA Global Monitoring Report 2015. “Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges.” Retrieved from unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002322/232205e.pdf

UNESCO-UIS. (2014). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education in Asia: A Comparative Analysis of ICT Integration and e-Readiness in Schools Across Asia. Retrieved from www.uis.unesco.org/Communication/Documents/ICT-asia-en.pdf


 

[1] The measurement used here is the ICT Development Index (IDI), a composite index combining 11 indicators – categorised into ICT access, ICT use and ICT skills – into one benchmark measure, and used as a tool to monitor and compare developments in ICT across countries. Theoretically, IDI values range from 0 to 10 and the greater the value, the higher the level of ICT development – globally, the average IDI value is 4.77 with the lowest IDI value of 0.96 in the Central African Republic and highest of 8.86 in Denmark. Further details on the methodology used to compute IDI values can be found in: www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/publications/mis2014/MIS2014_without_Annex_4.pdf

 



26.06.2015