While much has been made about the rise of South Asia's economy and workforce in recent years, a new report by the World Bank notes that one of the biggest factors holding the region back is its lack of quality education.

South Asia-- which the report defines as consisting of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- currently has more school-aged children than anywhere else in the world. The report focuses on two glaring facts:

  • Nearly 13 million children between the ages of 8-14 are not currently attending school and
  • The majority of South Asian children in school are not receiving an education that will equip them for the global workforce.

The problem is particularly bad in rural areas. "Many students in rural schools are being taught by teachers who barely know more than their students," writes the World Bank. "And limited access to secondary education, which is often of poor quality, exacerbates the problem." The authors also note that up to a third of all students lack basic math and reading skills even after completing primary school.

Among the report’s recommendations are bigger investments in childhood nutrition programs, holding teachers to higher review standards and implementing better assessments of student achievement.

“Just spending time in school is not enough. There has to be a significant gain in skills that requires an improvement in the quality of education,” said Philippe Le Houérou, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region in a statement.