Nearly 263 million children and youth, equivalent to about a quarter of the population of Europe, are out of school, reported UNESCO on Friday.
"The total includes 61 million children of primary school age (6-11 years), 60 million of lower secondary school age (12-14 years), and the first ever estimate of those of upper secondary school age (15-17 years) set at 142 million," stated a report from UNESCO.
These were presented in a new paper released jointly by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report.
This number poses a daunting challenge to the United Nations' aim to educate all children by 2030.
"Countries have promised to provide every child with a primary and secondary education by 2030. These new findings show the hard work ahead if we are to reach this goal,"said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of exclusion. Over a fifth of children between ages six and 11 are out of school, followed by a third of youth aged 12 and 14. Almost 60% of youth aged 15 to 17 are not in school, the UIS report added.
Some of the key obstacles faced have been linked to sex, location, wealth and poverty, army and conflict-areas.
"Globally, 35% or 22 million of all out-of-school children of primary education age, 25% of all adolescents of lower secondary age (15 million), and 18% or 26 million of all out-of-school youths of upper secondary age live in areas affected by conflict," stated the release.
It further states, "Poverty creates an additional barrier for girls. In Northern Africa and Western Asia, according to the GEM Report's analysis, among the poorest in the region, gaps are far wider: only 85 girls for every 100 boys of lower secondary school age attend school. Among those of upper secondary school age, only 77 of the poorest girls for every 100 of the poorest boys attend."
The report also stated how girls are more likely to never set foot in a classroom than boys. About 15 million girls of primary school age will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school compared to about 10 million boys. Over half of these girls - 9 million - live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Moreover, 15 to 17-year-olds are four times as likely to be out of school as are primary and secondary school aged children. "This is partly because primary and lower secondary education are compulsory in nearly every country, while upper secondary school is not. At the same time, these youth are often of legal working age. Many have no choice but to work while others try to combine going to school with employment," explained the report.