Gender equality – it can’t yet be counted but it most certainly counts

By Aaron Benavot, Director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, and Nicole Bella, Senior Statistician and Policy Analyst at the EFA Global Monitoring Report.

This week, we launched the 2015 EFA GMR Gender Summary in time for International Day of the Girl Child. As we noted in a previous blog this week, it showed that despite significant progress made, fewer than half of countries have achieved gender parity in both primary and secondary education. What it couldn’t show in such an easy headline is where we are, or are not, in achieving gender equality in education – the other half of the EFA gender goal. This blog explains why, and what’s being done about it.


There is a limited understanding of the meaning of gender equality, and a dearth of data to measure it. A few weeks ago, a workshop on this issue, organized by UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) together with the MacArthur Foundation, was held at the London International Development Centre (LIDC).

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Don’t be gender blind. Take a moment to understand gender gaps in education.

It may surprise many that, in global terms, girls make up just 52% of out of primary school age children. At the secondary level there are actually fewer girls out of school than boys. When averaging out the gender parity index across all countries, you will find that gender parity has actually been achieved globally in both primary and secondary education.

Given the loud cries for girls to be prioritized in education policies these facts don’t add up. Why?

For a start, many countries with large populations – in particular, India, Brazil and China – have achieved gender parity in primary education and constitute a large slice of the global pie. Global figures cover up the entrenched disparities faced by girls in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and in parts of South and West Asia and the Arab States, where populations are relatively smaller. At the secondary level, many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have disparities at the expense of boys, not girls. This, together with more conventional disadvantages faced by girls in other regions, creates a seemingly balanced global portrait.


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Posted in Adult education, Africa, Arab States, Asia, Basic education, Equality, Equity, Gender, Latin America, Learning, Out-of-school children, parity, Post-2015 development framework, Primary school, Quality of education, Secondary school | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Girls continue to draw the short straw.

Gender coverToday we are celebrating International Day of the Girl Child and are launching the Gender Summary from the GMR 2015. It shows, yet again, the extent to which girls face the greatest challenges in accessing basic education. The theme of the Day is the ‘Power of the Adolescent Girl’. It is an occasion to remember that education is the linchpin for forging communities of empowered and enabled women. Our Report serves to remind us of the work still to be done to ensure that every girl gets a chance to reap education’s rewards.

Many may have forgotten that gender parity in education was actually due to be achieved in 2005. Ten years later, and the goal is far from being met. Results show that by 2015 fewer than half of countries will have achieved gender parity in both primary and secondary education. No country in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to achieve parity at both levels by 2015.

gender parity graphAlthough gender parity has not been met, our Report, co-produced with UNGEI, shows that progress towards it has been one of the biggest education success stories since 2000. There are 52 million fewer girls out of school now as compared to then. The number of countries that have achieved gender parity in both primary and secondary education has increased from 36 to 62. Governments among this group should be congratulated for their efforts.

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Posted in Adult education, Africa, Arab States, Asia, Basic education, Developing countries, Early childhood care and education, Equality, Equity, Gender, Learning, parity, Post-2015 development framework, sdg, sdgs, Sustainable development, Teachers, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are you a teacher? Join us and become an advocate for education

Posted in Learning, Literacy, pedagogy, Quality of education, sdg, sdgs, Sustainable development, Teachers, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Educating migrants will be the first SDG challenge for rich countries

Syrian refugee children in a Lebanese school classroom Picture: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

Syrian refugee children in a Lebanese school 
Picture: Russell Watkins/DFID

It is impossible to turn a blind eye to the arrival of so many hundreds of thousands of migrants* into Europe recently. According to Save the Children, this includes the highest number of child migrants seen since the end of World War II. Their arrival is testament to the challenges that some of these families have faced in their own countries for too long; it also presents a new conundrum to their host countries, which must now provide for their clear and ongoing needs.

The promise we have made

The outcome document from the UN General Assembly on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) last week stated that “All people, irrespective of sex, age, race, ethnicity, and persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous peoples, children and youth, especially those in vulnerable situations, should have access to life-long learning opportunities that help them acquire the knowledge and skills needed to exploit opportunities and to participate fully in society.”

This is no small task.

Indeed, the task is one that even better performing rich countries have not managed to live up to in the past. Immigrant students already in many of these countries face a higher risk of underachievement and low attainment in education.

In France, Germany and Sweden for instance, in 2012, over 80% of 15-year-old students achieved the minimum benchmark in reading on average in the PISA survey. But immigrants perform far worse: in France, the proportion of immigrants making it above the minimum benchmark is lower than the average in Mexico, while Germany’s immigrants are on a par with students in Thailand. Immigrants in Sweden face particular problems, with only just over half passing the minimum benchmark – equivalent to the average for students in Uruguay. Continue reading

Posted in Conflict, curriculum, immigration, Language, Learning, Literacy, Marginalization, pedagogy, refugees, sdg, sdgs, Teachers, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Will the growth of private schooling help achieve quality, universal and free education?

Last week, world leaders put their signature to 169 targets for the next 15 years. One of the education targets stands out in its scale of ambition: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”. Declaring that primary and secondary education should be ‘free’ is consistent with education as a right.

Yet this commitment is also a cause for reflection. If education is being provided, how much does it matter if it is not free? If parents want to pay for their children’s education, is that wrong?

economistThe spread of private education, especially low-fee private schools, has attracted much critical discussion recently. The debate was stirred by a recent lead article in the Economist that came out strongly in favour of private schools and the subsequent fiery responses written by those on the other side of the fence.

The Special Rapporteur on the right to education argued earlier this year that “privatization violates many of the norms of the right to education”. Yet, it is impractical to imagine disbanding all private schools tomorrow. Can we ever achieve our vision of leaving no-one behind if education is not always free, not even at the point of access?

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Posted in Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Finance, Post-2015 development framework, Primary school, private schools, private sector, sdg, sdgs, Sustainable development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Role of the Philanthropic Sector in Achieving the Education SDG

This blog is part of a series of last minute reflections before a new education goal is set in stone. It is written by Kim Kerr, Deputy Director, Education and Learning at The MasterCard Foundation

CaptureThe Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are putting forward an ambitious new agenda in education, one that is well aligned with The MasterCard Foundation’s goal to ensure access to quality, relevant education for youth, particularly in Africa. The Foundation applauds the expansion of the global goal in education to include universal secondary education as well as affordable, equitable access to technical, vocational and university education for youth. It is a welcome development that the international community is paying attention to a student’s full educational journey – from early childhood through to primary, secondary, vocational and higher education – as each level of the system has a role in supporting and enabling the previous level.

While The MasterCard Foundation contributes to achieving education goals in Sub-Saharan Africa, we know that resources are only a part of the solution. We often ask ourselves, where can the philanthropic sector best add value or play a catalytic role in the education sector? We focus on testing and piloting new approaches, scaling up approaches that work, disseminating learning and best practices, and convening stakeholders to encourage broader collaboration.

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Posted in Africa, Basic education, integrated development, Learning, Literacy, Post-2015 development framework, private schools, private sector, sdg, sdgs, Skills, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments