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Despite the enormous challenges of overcoming such widespread lack of educational opportunities, the international community remains committed to the goals of providing universal access to, and assuring completion of, a basic level of schooling of good quality. Originally set forth in the “World Declaration on Education for All,” signed by more than 150 countries and international organizations in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990, a target date for achieving universal access to primary schooling was set for 2000. Although this target date was ultimately not met, the international community reaffirmed the Education for All (EFA) framework at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000. Specifying six EFA goals, the Dakar conference set a new target date of 2015 for “all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances, and those belonging to ethnic minorities, to have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality” (Dakar Framework for Action, 2000). Currently, however, only 13 of the 24 sub-Saharan African countries evaluated in this chapter have constitutional guarantees of compulsory schooling and, of these, only 10 guarantee free schooling. The key features of educational systems for 24 sub-Saharan African countries are presented in Table 4-1.

Specific targets for education are also embedded within the Millennium Declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2001. The Millennium Declaration set forth eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) relating to poverty, health, the environment, economic development, and education. The two targets directly related to education state: “by the year 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling and that by 2005 gender disparities in primary and secondary education will be eliminated” (United Nations General Assembly, 2001). The EFA and MDG efforts reflect the fact that investments in basic schooling have received a heightened level of attention from donors, governments, and the media because they are seen as a means of alleviating poverty and jump starting development in many parts of the developing world.

The purposes of the chapter are three-fold: (1) to highlight the value of consistent and comparable population-based data on educational participation and attainment levels for program planning and target setting, (2) to deepen our knowledge of trends in educational participation and achievement among youth in sub-Saharan Africa, and (3) to identify current priorities based on a more in-depth exploration of schooling differentials by gender and household wealth. In the first part of the chapter we review two often-used indicators for monitoring educational progress, the net primary enrollment ratio (NPER) and the survival rate to grade five, and compare them with similar measures from the nationally representative household data generated from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). In the

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