Education in Asia

Enrollment in educational institutions varies considerably across the continent of Asia, as evidenced by data maintained by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).[1] UNESCO's measurement categories for education are used in the context of international development work, and are adopted by the World Bank in its EdStats database.[2] The United Nations issues a Human Development Index for each nation, of which the Education Index is a component.

Participation in education

The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) is a component of the Education Index. It expresses the number of students enrolled in a given level of education as a percentage of the number of people within the official age for that level of education. GER can exceed 100% because some enrolled students may fall outside the official age range.[1]

The tables below show GER for each country in Asia, organized into five regions by population: South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia and Central Asia. Data are shown for four levels of education: pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary. (Tertiary education is also referred to as higher education).

The last year for which data are available is shown in parentheses following each number in the table. If the year is the same as for the column to the left, the year is omitted.

Gross Enrollment Ratio: South Asia[1]
Country Population (millions) 2013 Pre-primary Primary Secondary Tertiary
 Afghanistan 30.61% (‘03)106% (’13)54%4% (’11)
 Bangladesh 156.633% (‘13)114 (’11)54% (’12)13%
 Bhutan 0.814% (‘13)107%78%11%
 India 1,252.158% (‘11)114% (’12)71%25% (’13)
 Maldives 0.383% (‘07)105%72% (’04)13% (’08)
   Nepal 27.887% (‘14)133%67%17% (’13)
 Pakistan 182.182% (‘13)92%38%10%
 Sri Lanka 21.190% (‘13)98%99%19%
Gross Enrollment Ratio: East Asia
Country Population (millions) 2013 Pre-primary Primary Secondary Tertiary
 China 1,385.674% (‘13)126%92%30%
 Japan 127.188% (‘12)102%102%61%
 Mongolia 2.886% (‘12)109% (’13)92% (’10)62% (’13)
 North Korea 24.9NANANANA
 South Korea 49.393% (‘14)100%99%97%
Gross Enrollment Ratio: Southeast Asia
Country Population (millions) 2013 Pre-primary Primary Secondary Tertiary
 Brunei 0.464% (‘13)94%106%25%
 Cambodia 15.115% (‘13)125%45% (’08)16% (’11)
 East Timor 1.110% (‘05)NANANA
 Indonesia 249.951% (‘13)109% (’12)83% (’13)32% (’12)
 Laos 6.726% (‘13)NANANA
 Malaysia 29.784% (‘12)101% (’05)71% (’12)37%
 Myanmar 53.39% (‘10)114%50%13% (’12)
 Philippines 98.452% (‘09)107% (’13)85%34%
 Thailand 67.0119% (‘13)96%86%51%
Gross Enrollment Ratio: West Asia
Country Population (millions) 2013 Pre-primary Primary Secondary Tertiary
 Armenia 3.046% (‘13)102% (’09)97%46% (’13)
 Azerbaijan NA25% (‘12)98%100%20%
 Bahrain 1.353% (‘13)104% (’99)101% (’11)40% ('14)
 Cyprus 0.9 ('12)78% (‘12)100%95%46%
 Georgia 4.358% (‘08)NA101% (’13)33%
 Iran 77.438% (‘13)119%86% (’12)58% (’13)
 Iraq 33.87% (‘07)107%53%16% (’05)
 Israel 7.7112% (‘13)104%102%67%
 Jordan 7.334% (‘12)98%88%47%
 Kuwait 3.481% (‘07)106%100%28% (’13)
 Lebanon 4.8102% (‘13)113%75%48%
 Oman 3.652% (‘13)113%91%28% (’11)
 Palestine 4.378% (‘13)95%82%46%
 Qatar 2.258% (‘13)103% (’05)112% (’11)14% (’13)
 Saudi Arabia 28.317% (‘14)NA124%58% (’13)
 Syria 21.96% (‘13)74%48%31%
 Turkey 74.028% (‘13)109%102%79%
 UAE 9.379% (‘11)108% (’12)84% (’99)NA
 Yemen 24.41% (‘13)101%49%10% (’11)
Gross Enrollment Ratio: Central Asia
Country Population (millions) 2013 Pre-primary Primary Secondary Tertiary
 Kazakhstan 16.458% (‘13)106%101%55%
 Kyrgyzstan 5.525% (‘12)109% (’13)88%48%
 Tajikistan 8.29% (‘11)96% (’14)87% (’12)24% (’14)
 Turkmenistan 5.263% (‘14)89%85%8%
 Uzbekistan 28.925% (‘11)93%105%9%

Challenges and Opportunities


As Asian nations compete in the global economy and aspire to join the developed nations, there is concern that rates of education may not be keeping pace.[3][4] By comparison, Gross Enrollment Rates for North America and Western Europe in 2013 were 84.3% for pre-primary, 101.1% for primary, 105.1% for secondary, and 76.6% for tertiary education.[1]

Supply versus demand

Many Asian nations lack the capacity to scale up their enrollment to meet the escalating demand.[5]

Quality in education at scale

There is also concern about a quality gap, as nations seek to scale up their enrollment quickly.[6][7] A recent HSBC survey of 8400 parents in 15 Asia-Pacific countries revealed that parents from Hong Kong spend the most on their children's education to ensure a quality education that increases their competitiveness in the labor market.[8] On average, parents in Hong Kong spend an average of $132,100 per child, which is almost three times as much as the global amount of $44,200. Singapore and Taiwan followed with education expenditures of $70,939 and $56,400 respectively.[8]

Skills gap

There is concern about a gap between the education sought by the labor market and what is being taught in the educational institutions.[9]

Demographic dividend

Many Asian countries - mostly in East Asia and Southeast Asia - experienced a demographic dividend that boosted their economies during the past few decades. There is a widespread view that the South Asian countries are poised to benefit from a demographic dividend because their populations are young relative to the developed countries.[10] However, reaping this dividend is expected to require a work force that is well educated, which means, at a minimum, increasing enrollment rates and educational quality.


Even though many Asian nations still have low GER compared with their North American and Western European counterparts, there has been considerable progress in recent years. For example, consider the change in GER over ten years preceding the latest data reported, for the three most populous Asian countries: China, India and Indonesia. All three countries had achieved virtually universal primary education (close to 100%) before this ten-year period, so consider the other three levels. Over a ten-year period, China's GER increased from 40% to 74% for pre-primary, from 60% to 92% for secondary, and from 15% to 30% for tertiary education. India's GER increased from 25% to 58% for pre-primary, from 48% to 71% for secondary, and from 11% to 25% for tertiary education. Indonesia's GER increased from 26% to 51% for pre-primary, from 61% to 83% for secondary, and from 15% to 32% for tertiary education.[11]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "UNESCO Institute for Statistics".
  2. "World Bank EdStats".
  3. Mishra, B.K. (November 29, 2015). "Higher education enrollment rate dismal in Bihar". The Times of India.
  4. Bharucha, Jamshed (2013). "Education in South Asia: Time bomb or silver bullet?". In A. Najam & M. Yusuf (Eds.), South Asia 2060: Envisioning Regional Futures. NY: Anthem Press.
  5. Varma, Subodh (June 19, 2011). "90% surge but big demand-supply gap". The Times of India.
  6. Choudaha, Rahul (July 24, 2011). "INDIA: A crisis of confidence in higher education?". University World News.
  7. Pathak, Kalpana (June 17, 2011). "100% cut-off symptom of a disease, says Yash Pal". Business Standard.
  8. 1 2 "Asian parents among top spenders on education - Nikkei Asian Review". Nikkei Asian Review. Retrieved 2017-10-06.
  9. Arya, Nishant (January 5, 2015). "Can India harness its demographic dividend?". Financial Express.
  10. Abhishek, Hemant (September 29, 2014). "India blessed with democracy, democratic dividend and demand: PM Modi at Madison Square Garden". Zeenews.
  11. "University Analytics: Global Education".
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