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State of education of girls and women in the world

Some people like numbers, percentages, fractions etc. Personally I am not a big fan of maths and statistics, but I have to admit that it is the numbers that can give us a clearer picture of the problem. Having said that, I decided to compile some data for all our readers that would like to learn few more facts on the state of worldwide eucation of girls and women.

Let’s start with the basic figures on the state of girls’ education across the world and then move on to some pronounced benefits of educating females.

The State of Girls’ Education

  • 57 million children aged 6–11 are not in school each year—more than 30 million are girls.
  • Studies find that 150 million children currently enrolled in school will drop out before completing primary school—at least 100 million are girls (World Bank 2002a).
  • Only 36 of the 155 developing countries have achieved 100 percent primary school completion rates (World Bank 2002a).
  •  Across the developing world, the gender gap between boys and girls in primary school completion is greater than 10 percentage points. UNICEF emphasises that “this yawning gender gap means that millions more girls than boys are dropping out each year” (UNICEF 2003).
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of girls—54 percent—do not complete even a primary school education (Bruns et al. 2003).
  • In Chad, 90 percent of all 15- to 19-year-old girls had not completed even primary school, and in Burkina Faso, 80 percent had not done so, according to a 1999 study (Filmer 1999).
  • In South Asia, more than 40 percent of girls aged 15–19 from poor households never completed first grade; only one in four completed fifth grade (Filmer and Pritchett 1999).
  • After primary school, girls’ participation plummets further—only 17 percent of girls in Africa are enrolled in secondary school (UNESCO 2003a).
  • In Cambodia, only 12 percent of girls enroll in secondary school, and in Laos, fewer than one in four girls attend beyond the primary level (UNESCO 2003b).
  • The difference between urban and rural areas is striking, especially for girls. In Niger, 83 percent of girls in the capital of Niamey are enrolled in primary school, compared to 12 percent in rural areas (World Bank 1996b).
  • In Pakistan, the primary school completion rate for boys in rural areas is three times higher than for girls; in urban areas it is twice as high (World Bank 1996a).
  • At least one in three girls completing primary school in Africa and South Asia cannot effectively read, write, or do simple arithmetic. In Egypt, reading and writing scores on national exams are about half of mastery level. In Pakistan, pass rates on national exams at the end of primary school have been set at 30 percent because few children are expected to do better (Fredriksen 2002a, World Bank 1996a).

So what are the benefits of educating girls then?

The below data is far from being exclusive and it serves merely to help inititate important reflections on the necessity of actions that aim to improve the situation of women’ schooling.

The Benefits of Girls’ Education

 1. Education and Income Growth: Girls’ education leads to increased income, both for individuals and for nations as a whole. While educating both boys and girls increases productivity and supports the growth of national economies, the education of girls may lead to greater income gains.

Higher Wages

  • Providing girls one extra year of education beyond the average boosts eventual wages by 10–20 percent. Studies have found returns to primary education on the order of 5 to 15 percent for boys and slightly higher for girls. A recent study concludes, “Overall, women receive higher returns to their schooling investments” (Psacharopoulos and Patrinos 2002).
  • A leading development economist has found that returns to female secondary education are in the 15–25 percent range. Yale economist Paul Schultz has found that wage gains from additional education tend to be similar if not somewhat higher for women than for men, and that the returns to secondary education in particular are generally appreciably higher for women (Schultz 2002).

Faster Economic Growth

  • A 100-country study by the World Bank shows that increasing the share of women with a secondary education by 1 percent boosts annual per capita income growth by 0.3 percentage points. This is a substantial amount considering that per capita income gains in developing countries seldom exceed 3 percent a year (Dollar and Gatti 1999).
  • More equal education levels between men and women could have led to nearly 1 percent higher annual per capita growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa during 1960–92 (Klasen 1999).

2. Education and Smaller, Healthier, Better-Educated Families: A wealth of cross-country and individual country studies from Africa, Asia, and Latin America reveals pattern: women with more education have smaller, healthier, and better-educated families. As education expands women’s horizons, opens up better earning opportunities, and improves women’s position in the family and society, couples tend to have fewer children and to invest more in the Heath and education of each child.

Educating Girls Leads to Smaller, More Sustainable Families

  • When women gain four years more education, fertility per woman drops by roughly one birth, according to a 100-country World Bank study (Klasen 1999).
  • A 65-country analysis finds that doubling the proportion of women with a secondary education would reduce average fertility rates from 5.3 to 3.9 children per woman. The authors conclude, “The expansion of female secondary education may be the best single policy for achieving substantial reductions in fertility” (Subbarao and Raney 1995).
  • A study of Brazil finds that illiterate women have an average of 6 children each, while literate women have an average of 2.5 children each (UNESCO 2000).

Educating Women Saves Children’s Lives

  • An extra year of girls’ education can reduce infant mortality by 5–10 percent. This link “is especially striking in low income countries. The pattern has been widely replicated across comparative data bases . . . and through repeated censuses” (Schultz 1993).
  • In Africa, children of mothers who receive five years of primary education are 40 percent more likely to live beyond age five (Summers 1994).
  • Multicountry data show educated mothers are about 50 percent more likely to immunise their children than uneducated mothers are (Gage et al. 1997).

 Educating Women Promotes Educating Children

  • A recent cross-country study finds that women’s education generally has more impact than men’s education on children’s schooling (Filmer 2000).
  • An Indian study finds that children of educated women study two extra hours per day (Behrman et al. 1999).
  • Increased female education is one of the most powerful tools to empower women within the family and society. As that happens, women not only improve their own welfare but, through their “agency,” act to improve the well-being of their children and help transform society itself (A. Sen 2000).

 Education Can Reduce Domestic Violence

  • Research on India finds less violence against women where women are more educated. Women with no formal schooling are less likely to resist violence than women with some schooling (P. Sen 1999).

 3. Education Can Foster Democracy and Women’s Political Participation

  • A 100-country study finds educating girls and reducing the gender gap tends to promote democracy. The study argues that these findings confirm the hypothesis that “expanded educational opportunities for females goes along with a social structure that is generally more participatory and, hence, more receptive to democracy” (Barro 1999).
  • Educated Bangladeshi women are three times as likely as illiterate women to participate in political meetings (UNESCO 2000)

 Source: Data taken and adapted for the purpose of this blog from „What works in Girls’ Education. Evidence and Policie from the Developing World” by Barbara Herz and Gene B. Sperling.

Want to find out more – read the full report.

One comment on “State of education of girls and women in the world

  1. jacob
    August 11, 2013

    Useful info. Hope to notice more great posts in the foreseeable future.

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