In the CEE/CIS region, there are concerns about a “hidden crisis” in girls’ education. While rates for girls’ enrolment and attendance remain high, there are reports of more girls dropping out of school. In the poorest parts of Turkey, for example, less than half of the girls aged 7-15 are in school and in Tajikistan, girls’ enrolment in secondary school is 20 per cent lower than that of boys.
Those girls who miss out are often the most disadvantaged and often live in extreme poverty or hard-to-reach communities. In Serbia and Montenegro, girls who suffer discrimination due to poverty or ethnic origin, such as Roma, have dropout rates that are 80 per cent higher than for boys in the same situation. Equality in enrolment does not, however, mean equal education. In Azerbaijan, a survey of children leaving primary school in 2002 found that only 52 per cent of girls passed the literacy and numeracy tests, compared to almost 100 per cent of boys. Some national preschool enrolment rates are as low as 7 per cent.
At the same time, there are also rising concerns about boys’ declining participation and achievement in school. While at the primary levels, boys and girls enrolment and completion of school is comparable, boys, in many countries are increasingly likely to drop out or fail out of school. Boys’ often-better prospects on the labour market create serious barriers of access to their education than for girls’, as do some cultural traditions that label boys as wage earners and family providers.
The 2009 study entitled Learning Achievement in the CEE/CIS Region: A comparative analysis of results from the Programme for International Assessment of Student Achievement 2006 found that boys perform worse than girls in reading in all 17 participating countries in the region, and that the age-old trend of boys outperforming girls in mathematics and science is reversing itself, with boys achieving lower than girls in almost half of the participating countries.