In many ways, girls’ education is a success story in global development. Relatively simple changes in national policies – like making primary schooling free and compulsory – have led to dramatic increases in school enrollment around the world. In Uganda, for example, enrollment increased by over 60 percent following the elimination of primary school fees.
As more young people have enrolled in school, gaps in educational attainment between boys and girls have closed. According to UNESCO, by 2014, “gender parity (meaning an equal amount of men and women) was achieved globally, on average, in primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary education.”
Yet, more than 250 million children are not in school. Many more drop out before completing primary school. And many young people who attend school do not gain basic literacy skills. These challenges remain particularly acute for poor girls.
In a new paper, published in Population and Development Review, we explore recent progress in girls’ education in 43 low- and middle-income countries. To do so, we use Demographic and Health Survey data collected at two time points, the first between 1997 and 2007 (time 1), and the second between 2008 and 2016 (time 2).
When we speak of gender equity in education in developing countries, and particularly in the South Asian context, we immediately think of the disadvantages girls face in access to education. The case in Sri Lanka, however, will make you think twice.
While most of South Asia still faces the gender gap challenge in favor of boys, we think that Sri Lanka’s educational gender gap favors girls. Like their counterparts in most high-income countries, Sri Lankan girls are consistently outpacing boys both in terms of educational access and achievement.
I asked Martha, a Form Four (Grade 12) student at a secondary school in southern Malawi, if she considered herself a role model. Completing her education hasn’t been easy for Martha – being sent home for weeks at a time when her family struggled with school fees, trying to avoid the distractions of boys, and staying on top of challenging coursework are among the challenges she deals with.
A UNESCO report estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle. By some estimates, this equals as much as twenty percent of a given school year.
Many girls drop out of school altogether once they begin menstruating. Should young women miss twenty percent of school days in a given year due to a lack of facilities or a lack of information or a lack of sanitary products?
Malaka runs a tight ship. The principal of an all-girls primary school nestled deep in the heartland of Balkh – a mountainous province in Afghanistan – what sets Malaka apart isn’t her formidable management skills. It is the unwavering commitment to her students.
“My elder sisters could not get an education because at that time, there was no primary school in the village. For me it was difficult too, my school had no facilities, no water, toilet or rooms for 80 girls. Had this school not been built I would be out of school.” These are the words of Zarghony, the youngest child in a family of six and a beneficiary of the Promoting Girls’ Education in Balochistan Project (PGEB). Zarghony was once among the 62 million girls around the world who are out of school but now she benefits from a safe and secure learning environment.
On International Women’s Day, let’s remember the challenges girls face in education.
What would your life be like with only five years of schooling? For many girls around the world, this is the most education they can expect and they are the lucky ones. Across Africa, 28 million girls between the ages of about 6 and 15 are not in school and many will never even set foot in a classroom.
Wow. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in many impactful events during my years at the World Bank, but one of the most memorable will always be the conversation between 16 year-old girls’ education advocate Malala Yousafzai and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim during our Annual Meetings last Friday, in honor of the International Day of the Girl Child.
At a time of fundamental uncertainty on global financial markets, how should the World Bank help countries respond? Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of the global bond management giant PIMCO, took on this question during his recent talk at the World Bank, which was part of the PREM seminar series. One of his answers may come as a surprise: Invest in girls' education!
First, some background: El-Erian is one of the most influential figures in the world of finance. His firm manages $1.8 trillion in assets, an amount that comfortably exceeds Japan's foreign-exchange reserves, and he's on Foreign Policy magazine's list of Top 100 global thinkers. As a longtime former IMF official, El-Erian is also intimately familiar with international financial institutions.