The race is on to connect every school in the world to the internet. But how many schools is that?
The quick answer: nobody really knows. Data about number and type of schools in many countries are limited.
We can make rough estimates, however, extrapolating from data we do have.
In the US, in 2016 there were 98,277 public schools and 34,576 private schools, totaling 132,853 schools K-12. US population in 2016 was 323 million, or approximately one school for every 2,431 citizens. Using this ratio with a current global population of 7.7 billion, this suggests total schools worldwide in the neighborhood of 3.2 million.
This global figure might be too high: rich countries can afford schools more easily than developing countries. On the other hand developing country schools tend to be smaller in size on average, and median age in developing countries is much lower, so the figure might be too low.
GIGA has compiled detailed data on a number of countries. For example, the GIGA database shows Colombia, a middle-income country, to have 50,175 schools, or approximately one school per 1000 citizens. This ratio would suggest global schools totaling 7.7 million.
India in 2012 reportedly had 1.3 million schools, for a ratio of about one school per 1000 citizens. This ratio suggests global schools totaling 7.7 million.
China in 2014 reportedly had 514,000 schools, for a ratio of about one school per 2,600 citizens, suggesting global schools totaling about 3 million.
Triangulating from these figures, total number of schools worldwide is likely between 4 and 7 million. It seems reasonable to say conservatively that there are at least 5 million schools worldwide.
What percentage of those schools have internet access? In developed countries the percentage is over 90%. In middle income countries such as Colombia it is about half. In the poorest countries it is minimal. In 2019 overall broadband penetration was approximately 51% globally, according to the UN Broadband Commission.
Assuming urban schools are both larger and more likely to have broadband connectivity than rural schools, we can conservatively estimate about 40% of schools still lack connectivity. That is about two million schools.
Let’s work to connect the next million schools!