Gender parity in education achieved in less than half the world’s countries – UNESCO

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Photo: UNICEF/Tapash Paul

12 October 2015 – A new gender report compiled by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), shows that fewer than half the countries have achieved the goal of ensuring gender parity in both primary and secondary education before 2005.

The new report Gender and Education for All (EFA) 2000-2015, compiled by UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report (GMR) and UN Girl’s Education Initiative also revealed that no country in sub-Saharan Africa has been able to meet the gender equality goal. “Educating a girl educates a nation. It unleashes a ripple effect that changes the world unmistakably for the better,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, in a news release on the report, which was released in time for the International Day of the Girl Child, which is marked 11 October every year.

She noted that the international community has recently agreed a new ambitious agenda to achieve a sustainable future. “Success in this endeavour is simply not possible without educated, empowered girls, young women and mothers,” she said.

According to the report, girls continue to face challenges in accessing primary school. Almost 15 million girls will never set foot in a classroom compared to over a third of boys who are out of school.

The report shows that although the divide in gender inequalities in secondary education is reducing, the gap still remains wide. The Arab States and sub-Saharan African regions record the highest numbers in gender disparity. In the Central African Republic and Chad in 2012, half as many girls as boys were in secondary school.

The report also indicated that boys were more likely to drop out of secondary education than girls. Since 2000, it has been recorded that only 95 boys for every 100 girls complete upper secondary level.

Additionally, the report states that gender disparity gaps in youth literacy are gradually narrowing. However, less than seven out of every 10 young women in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to be literate by 2015. The report also revealed that two thirds of adults who lack basic literacy skills are women. This astounding lack of progress in literacy has remained unchanged since 2000.

The report also added that gender based violence in schools is a factor in holding back education attainment. Also, child marriage is another terrible manifestation of gender discrimination which acts as a persistent barrier to girls’ education. As per the report, almost one in five women who got married in 2012, were aged 15 to 19.

“Lacking any other way of measuring gender equality, we have focused on getting equal numbers of boys and girls in school. But we will never achieve this unless we tackle the roots of imbalance: social barriers and entrenched discriminatory social norms,” said Aaron Benavot, Director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report.

“Unless we begin to understand equality as a much broader concept, girls and young women will never be able to reap the full benefits of education,” she added.

The report also produced an online interactive tool which shows that in sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest girls are almost nine times more likely to set foot in a classroom than the richest boys. In Arab States, one fifth of the poorest girls have never been to school, compared to one tenth of the poorest boys. However, in Latin America and the Caribbean, 55 per cent of boys as compared to 62 per cent of girls in rural areas complete lower secondary education.

However, the report, notes that even though the goal of gender parity has not been met by all, the progress achieved so far is one of the biggest education success stories. Since 2000, number of countries that have achieved the goal of gender equality in both primary and secondary education has risen from 36 to 62. The report also states that although 62 million girls are denied basic right to education, the number of out-of-school girls has declined by 52 million in the last 15 years.

Acknowledging the progress made, the report recommends that in order to achieve gender parity education must be ‘really free.’ It further urges that policies be designed to address issues faced by boys and girls in accessing and completing education. They also recommend providing secondary education options should be provided for out-of-school adolescents.

The report also urged to integrate gender issues into all aspects of policy and planning in order to achieve gender equality. For this, a mix of legislative change, advocacy and community mobilization must be initiated. The report also calls for the governments, international organizations and education providers to work together to tackle school-related gender based violence. Further, governments should recruit, train and support teachers effectively to address gender inequality.

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