Millions of girls are still missing out on school

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As the world marks the 100th anniversary today of International Women’s Day, it’s worth having a look at what progress has been made towards improving education for women and girls since the global community adopted the Education for All goals in 2000.

The 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report – which UNESCO is launching at its Paris headquarters today to mark International Women’s Day – shows that gender gaps in primary and secondary school enrolments have narrowed since 1999, but too many governments are moving too slowly to eliminate them.

Sixty-nine countries have failed to achieve gender parity in primary school enrolment, and in 26 there are fewer than nine girls in school for every 10 boys. The global gender divide means that 3.6 million girls are missing out on primary school.

The 2011 GMR’s findings are backed up by the launch today of Fast-Tracking Girls’ Education, a new report by the Education For All Fast Track Initiative highlighting the fundamental importance of girls’ education for economic and social development of individuals, families and nations.

The Fast Track Initiative has also launched the Education for All Blog, with a post by the head of the FTI secretariat, Robert Prouty, and a post drawing attention to UNICEF’s latest State of the World’s Children report, which focuses on adolescents.

Education can help narrow gender gaps in the job market, but labour markets are still characterized by wide inequality in the type of employment and levels of remuneration men and women receive. The 2011 GMR points out that governments that tolerate large gender gaps in their school systems are not just depriving girls of a basic right, but also undermining the national economic interest.

Children born to more educated mothers are more likely to survive and less likely to experience malnutrition. Universal secondary education for girls in sub-Saharan Africa could save as many as 1.8 million lives annually.

Conflict-affected countries have some of the world’s worst education indicators, and girls are left furthest behind. Poverty, security fears over sexual violence, and attacks by groups opposed to female education all interact to keep girls out of school.

Rape and sexual violence has accompanied armed conflicts throughout history, yet insufficient attention has been paid to the devastating effects on education, as we noted in a previous post. Given the scale of the problem, the consistent pattern of neglect and the degree of current impunity, the 2011 Global Monitoring Report proposes the creation of an International Commission on Rape and Sexual Violence to document the problem, identify those responsible, report to the Security Council and, if need be, involve the International Criminal Court.



  1. Nice blog. Thank for sharing this discussion. Yes, girls’ education was always an issue. But today women are not behind men in any respect, they are challenging men. So both boys’ and girls’ education should be priority for parents.

  2. This post was very thorough offering insight and statistics gleaned from the UNESCO “Education For All” Global monitoring report about the percentage of countries actively making effort to make education as available from male students as it is for female ones. It is important to realize that the problem isn’t simply about making education available for these girls but also educating the various cultures on the necessity of education for women. This blog offers great reason for girls to be educated: more work opportunities, less likely to be victims of crime, better equipped to care for their families. Yet, the bigger issue of why these countries are playing a more active role in educating the female population is likely an issue of cultural stigma as work, even school work, outside of the family home isn’t considered a woman’s place. It would be vital to reach the population then, as well as the education systems, in order to argue the benefits of more fair educational opportunities in spite of gender.

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