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Education and Gender

Of the children worldwide who are not enrolled in primary school, some 57-65% are girls.  The barriers for girls' access to their human right to education include poverty, domestic and child labor, lack of safety and sanitation, and cultural attitudes favoring boys over girls. The "Education for All" goals include the 2005 benchmark goal for gender parity in enrollment.  By the end of 2005, only 55 of 149 countries met this goal.  Extensive efforts are still needed to ensure gender equity in education.

Country Focus: Afghanistan

  • In 2006, the primary school enrollment rate for girls is just 40%; the remaining 60% of girls have no access to education.
  • Only 14% of women in Afghanistan are literate.
  • Recent news reflects a continuing extreme opposition to students and female teachers, including school closings and beheadings of women educators.
  • Education International continues to exert pressure on the Afghanistan government to ensure the education of girls. 

Gender and Out-of-School Children

  • A survey of 80 countries found that for every 100 boys of primary school age who are not in school, there are 117 girls out of school.  By country, the most extreme differences by gender of the children not in primary school include:

    Country Boys Girls Country Boys Girls
    Yemen 100  184 Nepal 100 135
    Iraq 100  176 Egypt 100 131
    Benin 100  136 Pakistan 100 129
    India 100   136 Togo 100 126

  • In contrast with the out of school ratio, girls in the Caribbean and Latin American region are more likely to be enrolled in primary school than boys.  For this region, for every 100 boys in the out-of-school category, there are 96 girls in the same category. The national exceptions of this trend in the Caribbean and Latin America are Bolivia, Guatemala, and Peru, where more girls are out of school than boys.

Mother's Education: The Generational Impact

  • Two-thirds of illiterate adults in the world are women.
  • Parents' level of education impacts the likelihood of children's attendance in school:
     - In Nigeria, while 57% of primary school age children have a mother without formal education, 86% of children out of school have a mother who did not receive formal education.
     - In India, mothers who are educated have a stronger positive influence on school attendance than educated fathers.
     - In Mali, 93% of children who are excluded from school have a mother with no formal education while still the vast majority of children (86%) have mothers who have never attended school.

Children Out of School: Measuring the Exclusion from Primary Education, UNESCO/UNICEF, 2005
"Afghanistan: UNICEF Official Calls for Special Focus on Girls Education," United Nations,, March 23, 2006

"Afghanistan: Girls' Schooling Under Threat," Education International,, January 31, 2006

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