Formal education is only part of the learning process, but it is a crucial part. In particular, education plays a central part in the empowerment of women – a prerequisite for economic prosperity and effective family planning. Recognising this, one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Enrolment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91 per cent. More children than ever are attending primary school.

Literacy levels in developing countries have also increased over the past decade, and today’s young people are better educated than ever before in history. But 57 million children still miss out on school entirely. Adolescents are twice as likely to be out of school as their younger counterparts with one in five, globally, being excluded from the classroom.

Factors preventing access to education include prohibitive fees, conflict, gender discrimination and child labour. At the same time, millions of graduates in industrialised countries remain woefully uneducated about the world around them. Education is a global challenge.

See also Children and youth and Gender.