Progress on the millennium development goal of education.

The goal launched at the turn of the century called for every child in the world, boys and girls alike, to receive a full course of primary school education by 2015. Progress towards this lone target has been measured by looking at how many children enrol in primary education, how many complete the process, and how many 15- to 24-year-olds are able to read and write.

In 2012, the most recent year for which worldwide data is available, 58 million children aged between six and 11 were out of school. The problem was nowhere more acute than in sub-Saharan Africa, where roughly 30 million children were affected. So while more children are registering for primary school than ever before – in 2012 the global figure stood at 90%, up from 83% at the turn of the century – the ideal of universal enrolment remains elusive.

The new education goal established promises to be far more comprehensive than its predecessor. Goal four proposes that, by 2030, “all girls and boys [should] complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education”, a formula that – in succinctly covering many existing problem areas – suggests lessons have been learned. There is a clear anxiety to touch all the relevant bases, with targets devoted to preparing children adequately for primary school, university and professional life.