Universal basic and secondary education

Universal basic and secondary education

Is universal primary and secondary education within the 21st century achievable?

This document assesses whether the goal of universal primary and secondary education can be achieved before the second half of the 21st century. It looks at the current situation in education and discusses ways forward towards achieving this goal.

The authors argue that achieving universal, high-quality primary and secondary education is achievable by the middle of the 21st century, but probably not at the current rate of progress. It is likely to require enhanced political will to apply tested approaches combined with new interventions, carefully evaluated and widely reported. No single magic bullet will bring high-quality education to all the world’s children.

Five complementary, interacting changes that can help achieve this goal are highlighted including: 

  • open discussions, nationally, regionally, and internationally, on what people want schools to achieve—that is, the goals of education
  • a commitment to improving the effectiveness and economic efficiency of education in achieving those goals, whether through formal schooling or other means; this would be driven by reliable data on what children learn 
  • a commitment to extending a complete, high-quality secondary education to all children 
  • more money and higher priority for education—especially an increase in funding from rich countries for education in poor countries 
  •  international recognition of the diverse character of educational systems in different countries, and adaptation of aid policies and educational assessment requirements to local contexts.