7b. Primary completion rate



Primary completion rate is the ratio of the total number of students successfully completing (or graduating from) the last year of primary school in a given year to the total number of children of official graduation age in the population.


Goal/target addressed

Goal 2. Achieve universal primary education.

Target 3. Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.



The indicator, which monitors education system coverage and student progression, is intended to measure human capital formation and school system quality and efficiency.


The indicator focuses on the share of children who ever complete the cycle; it is not a measure of “on-time” primary completion. Various factors may lead to poor performance on this indicator, including low quality of schooling, discouragement over poor performance and the direct and indirect costs of schooling. Students’ progress to higher grades may also be limited by the availability of teachers, classrooms and educational materials.


Method of computation

The numerator may include overage children who have repeated one or more grades of primary school but are now graduating successfully. For countries where the number of primary graduates is not reported, a proxy primary completion rate is calculated as the ratio of the total number of students in the final year of primary school, minus the number of students who repeat the grade in a typical year, to the total number of children of official graduation age in the population.


Data collection and source

The indicator is compiled by staff in the Education Group of the World Bank’s Human Development Network based on two basic data sources used to compute gross and net enrolment ratios: enrolment data from national ministries of education and population data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics. The World Bank and the Institute for Statistics are committed to monitoring this indicator annually in the future.



World Bank, www.developmentgoals.org/education.


Periodicity of measurement



Gender issues

More understanding is needed on the patterns of completion by gender.


Disaggregation issues

Rural and urban differences are particularly important in the analysis of education data because of significant differences in school facilities, available resources, demand on children’s time for work and drop-out patterns. It is also important to consider disaggregation by geographical area and social or ethnic groups. However, showing and analyzing data on specific ethnic groups may be a sensitive issue in the country. Gender differences may also be more pronounced in some social and ethnic groups.


International data comparisons

See “Comments and limitations”.


Comments and limitations

The indicator reflects the primary school cycle as nationally defined according to the International Standard Classification of Education, as is the case for gross and net enrolment ratios.


While the World Bank and UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics are committed to monitoring this indicator annually, systems for collecting and standardizing the data from 155 developing countries are not yet in place. As a result, the current database has many gaps, particularly for small countries, earlier years and gender breakdowns, and obvious anomalies and estimates that are suspect. The current database is a mixture of enrolment data and data based on different systems of graduation (exams, diplomas, automatic promotion), limiting international comparability.


The indicator captures the final output of the primary education system, and so responses to policy changes will register only with time.


The age-specific estimates are less reliable than overall population estimates, and this is particularly an issue in countries with relatively rapid changes in population and its age and gender distribution from such causes as internal and international migration, civil unrest and displacement. When age-specific population breakdowns are not available, the primary completion rate cannot be estimated.


Primary completion rates based on primary enrolment have an upward bias, since they do not capture drop-out during the final grade. This implies that once the data on actual graduates become available for a country, the completion rate of the country would appear to decline.



Ministries of education.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Institute for Statistics.

World Bank.