The Wrong Way to Educate Girls

By Manos Antoninis

Getting girls into classrooms remains hugely important in some of the world’s poorest countries, and it can be achieved with targeted measures, say, to make their daily commute safer. But balanced school enrollment numbers are only the beginning. There is also a need to address the underlying causes of unequal educational outcomes.


Credit: Credit: Save the Children / Hanna Adcock

Recent decades have brought significant progress toward a more just and equal world in areas such as poverty reduction, immunization, and life expectancy. But in some areas, change has been painfully slow. In one such area – gender equality in education – the problem is as straightforward as it is profound: we are focusing on the wrong metric.

Of course, there is good news. As the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) 2019 Gender Report notes, the number of adult illiterate women in upper-middle-income countries fell by 42 million from 2000 to 2016. And progress on enrollment in most countries means that richer countries increasingly face the opposite challenge, as more boys than girls do not complete secondary education.

These disparities expose the limitations of the current approach, which focuses on gender parity – that is, ensuring that equal numbers of boys and girls attend school. Of course, getting girls into classrooms remains hugely important in some of the world’s poorest countries, and it can be achieved with targeted measures, say, to make their daily commute safer. Among the 20 countries with the largest such disparities, Guinea, Niger, and Somalia stand out for their commitment to closing the gap. Continue reading

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Ethiopia is making the fastest progress in primary completion in sub-Saharan Africa. How?

This week, we released new projections to 2030 for the global education goal, SDG 4, along with the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). While not all projections can be drilled down to the country level, the completion rate projections can and shine a light on some countries that have been making faster progress relative to others. Ethiopia is one of these. What are the reasons for its success and how can others follow its example?

Ethiopia, like many countries in the region, has seen its education system expand quickly over recent years. It has gone from 10 million learners a decade ago to more than 25 million learners today. Despite this vast expansion, the completion rates at the primary school level projected to 2030 are the fastest in the region. It will have gone from only 3 in 10 children completing primary education in 2000 to 8 in 10 completing in 2030. Along with India, it will be topping the list of countries to have reduced their out of school numbers the most in relative terms.

Picture1Money is not always the answer to everything, but it has most definitely played a central role in this story. We learnt a lot about this from analyzing Ethiopia’s 2017 voluntary national review as part of our research for our new publication released this week: Beyond commitments: How countries are implementing SDG 4.

Ethiopia dedicates the second highest proportion of its entire budget to education of any country in the world – 27%. This is far more than the international suggested benchmark of 15-20% and the regional average of 16%. And a quarter of Ethiopia’s budget will not be insignificant given the economic boom we’ve seen in the country, which has witnessed the fastest growth of any in the region, growing by an average of 10% a year from 2006/7 to 2016/7, which is about double the average growth in the region. Continue reading

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Education has many links with other sectors

1The High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York has begun – the core moment in the global follow up and review mechanism of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Five goals are on the agenda this year, including SDG 4 for the first time. This week, along with UIS, we released new projections showing how off track we are from achieving out education goal. This, we will be emphasizing this week in New York, is not just bad news for education, but also for all those working on the sustainable development agenda. If we do not achieve the education goal, the other goals will not be achieved either. This is a now-or-never moment.

Why education is key to sustainable development

Today we are launching a new six-part cartoon that highlights the links and synergies between education and many of the other sustainable development goals and calls for sectors to work together to achieve their aims.

We look at the links with those working to protect the planet, with those looking at building prosperity for all, at fostering equality between people, fighting for peace and building stronger communities in cities. We examine the importance of education for building professional capacity in other sectors, and we illustrate the importance of working together, in a multi-sectoral approach, to achieve all our goals.

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The world is off track to deliver on its education commitments by 2030

By Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report, and Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Without a shift from ‘business as usual’, the world will miss its goal of a quality education for all by 2030, according to our first-ever projections on progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4).

We are almost one-third of the way to 2030 and the generation that should finish secondary education by the deadline is making its way into the world’s primary classrooms. Yet if current trends continue, in 2030, when all children should be in school, one in six aged 6-17 will still be excluded. Many children are still dropping out too: by 2030, only six in ten young people will be completing secondary education. There is a real risk that the world will fail to deliver on its education promises without a rapid acceleration of progress.


Leaders at this week’s 2019 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) – the apex mechanism for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – will review progress on education for the first time. The meeting could not be more timely. Education is an accelerator for all the other goals in the SDG Agenda. If we do not achieve the education goal, SDG 4, the other global goals will not be achieved either. It is time for political leaders to #Commit2Education and put an end to complacency. Continue reading

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Over half of G7 aid to education goes to achieving gender equality

Feeding into the theme on inequality of this year’s G7 Presidency, we have carried out a breakdown of G7 donors’ aid to education to show that 55% goes to achieving gender equality. France, which holds the G7 presidency, allocates the second highest share (76%) after Canada (92%).


This analysis was a follow on from a broader analysis of donor aid to gender equality in education from our new Gender GEM Report released today at the G7 France – UNESCO International Conference. The Report, as we showed on this morning’s blog, gives five key steps to stamping out gender inequality in education. Continue reading

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Five steps to stamp out gender inequality in education

genderThe new Gender GEM Report released today at the G7 France – UNESCO International Conference shows that equal numbers of boys and girls are still not enrolled in a third of countries in primary, half in lower secondary, and three out of four in upper secondary education. You can access our key messages here. Continue reading

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Parents and communities need to be engaged in migrant children’s education

by Anna d’Addio, Senior Policy Analyst at the GEM Report

“We were blind, now our eyes have been opened … the educated children help us see. (Zahra, mother)” (Changezi and Biseth, 2011)

refugees 2

Syrian Refugees in Beka’a Valley, Lebanon.
Credit: Justine Redman

Family and community involvement is key to overcome disadvantage in education – and all the more so for migrant and refugee students. The world is full with such examples, for instance in the United States for Latin American or Vietnamese diasporas, in the Netherlands for second-generation Turks and Moroccans, in Pakistan for Hazara girls or in Canada among African and Caribbean-born immigrants.

However, there are many reasons why parents of migrant or refugee children may be reluctant to become involved in their education. One of these reasons is because segregation by origin often overlaps with socio-economic segregation. They may feel marginalized and lack confidence because they don’t speak the language of instruction or because they have a lower level of education. This can prevent parents from becoming fully involved in their children’s schooling. In France, for example, only 5% of parents of immigrant students from Sahel, Latin America and the Caribbean have a university degree compared to 19% of French parents. Moreover, more than twice as many children with Turkish or Malian parents repeat as least one grade in high school in France compared to children with French parents.

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