Over 100 million young women in low and lower middle income countries are unable to read a single sentence. And 31 million girls are out of school, with half of them unlikely ever to set foot inside a classroom.
Those worrying findings of the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report are in the spotlight as we launch the Gender Summary of the report today, to mark International Women’s Day. The launch is taking place in New York in partnership with the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative. Keynote speakers include Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO; Pauline Rose, director of the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women; and Susan Hopgood, president of Education International.
As well as outlining the deficits in education for girls and young women, the Gender Summary focuses on four main recommendations to get girls’ education back on track:
1. Equity must be at the forefront of new education goals after 2015. Every girl should have an equal chance of going to school and learning while there. New goals need clear, measurable targets with indicators that will track the progress of the most disadvantaged, and girls in particular.
2. The best teachers must reach the learners who need them most. National education plans must include an explicit commitment to reach out to girls and the marginalized. Female teachers, in particular, should be recruited locally. Incentives must be provided to ensure the best teachers work in remote, under-served areas.
3. Teachers need gender-sensitive teacher education: Teachers, both female and male, need training to understand and recognize their own attitudes, perceptions and expectations regarding gender.
4. Curricula must be inclusive. Teachers can only break down learning barriers effectively if they are supported by appropriate and inclusive curricula that pay particular attention to the needs of girls at risk of not learning.
The Gender Summary also demonstrates the importance of investing in girls’ and women’s education, not just for individuals but for the whole of society. Education reduces women’s poverty and boosts their chances of getting jobs that pay as well as men’s. It has enormous benefits for women’s health, as well as their children’s, saving millions of lives through better knowledge of disease prevention and treatment. Education also empowers women to make better life choices, helping to avert early marriage and childbirth.