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Girls’ Education

Progress in girls’ education

  • In 2011, only 60 per cent of countries had achieved gender parity in primary education and 38 per cent in secondary education.

  • Out of approximately 31 million girls of primary school age out of school, roughly 17 million are expected to never enroll in school. 

  • In the Arab States and sub-Saharan Africa, almost two in three out-of-school girls are expected never to go to school.

  • Of the world’s 650 million primary school-age children, at least 250 million are not learning the basics in reading and mathematics, many of whom are girls.

  • Despite recent advances in girls’ education, generations of women have been left behind: 493 million adult women are illiterate and account for almost two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults. 

  • Over 100 million young women living in low and lower middle income countries are unable to read a single sentence. 

  • By 2015, many countries will still not have reached gender parity. On current trends, 70 per cent of countries will have achieved parity in primary education, and 56 per cent of countries will have achieved parity in lower secondary education.

Girls’ education and equity – linkages between gender and other disparities

  • Thousands of girls are kept from school due to poverty; institutional and cultural barriers; pressure for early marriage; lack of safety in getting to school; lack of separate latrines for boys and girls; sexual harassment and gender-based violence in schools; and domestic work overload. 

  • In 44 of the 74 countries analysed in 2013/4 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, there is at least a 50 year gap between the richest boys and poorest girls in completing lower secondary school. In low income countries, the average gap is 63 years.

  • In Benin, around 60 per cent of rich boys stay in school and attain basic numeracy skills, compared with only 6 per cent of poor girls.

  • Even in the wealthier Punjab Province in Pakistan, only around half of poor girls in grade 5 could do simple subtraction, compared with more than 80 per cent of rich boys

The case for girls’ education

  • Educating girls delivers benefits for the individual, family and community as well as for society at large. 

  • Educated young women are less likely to die in childbirth, more likely to send their children to school, and better able to protect themselves and their children from malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, and sexual exploitation. 

  • Educating girls is one of the most effective strategies to combat child marriage, especially as they progress to secondary school. When a girl remains in secondary school, she is six times less likely to marry young. 

  • An educated mother is more likely to send her children to school.

  • Globally women are paid less than men for comparable work. But the higher the level of education, the lower the gap between men’s and women’s wages. 

  • A child born to a mother who can read is 50 per cent more likely to survive past age five. 

  • If all women in low and lower middle income countries completed secondary education, three million lives of children under five would be saved every year. 

  • If all women in sub-Saharan Africa completed their primary education, maternal mortality would fall by 70 per cent.

  • If all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, child marriage would fall by 64 per cent.

  • In Pakistan, working women with high levels of literacy skills earned 95 per cent more than women with weak or no literacy skills, whereas the differential was only 33 per cent among men. 

  • In middle income countries in Latin America, such as Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador and Mexico, the proportion of women in paid employment increases sharply as women’s education level rises.

Updated – March 2014





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