Girls Still Wait for Equal Primary School Access in Some Regions
School doors have swung open for girls in nearly all regions as many countries have successfully promoted girls'education as part of their efforts to boost overall enrolment. Girls'primary enrolment increased more than boys'in all developing regions between 2000 and 2006. As a result, two out of three countries have achieved gender parity at the primary level.
Despite impressive gains, girls account for 55 percent of the out-of-school population. As part of its success in raising the total primary enrolment rate, Southern Asia has made the most progress in gender parity since 2000. Sub-Saharan Africa, Western Asia and Northern Africa have also made strides in reducing gender disparity. At the same time, Oceania has taken a step back with a slight deterioration in gender parity in primary school enrolment. Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia have the largest gender gaps in primary enrolment. In Western and Central Africa, where high repetition and low retention rates are common, girls in particular fail to enroll in and stay in school. Drought, food shortages, armed conflict, poverty, lack of birth registration, child labor, and HIV and AIDS contribute to low school enrolment and high dropout rates for both boys and girls in those sub-regions, but prove to be especially devastating for girls.
In developing countries, primary school attendance of girls and boys is nearly equal in the richest households and in urban areas. However, girls in rural areas and from the poorest households require targeted interventions to encourage them to enroll in and stay in school. Satellite schools in remote areas, eliminating school fees, providing school meals, constructing separate sanitation facilities, ensuring a safe school environment and promoting later marriage have boosted girls'attendance in school.
Where gender gaps in primary education have closed, girls generally continue on to secondary school, whereas some boys join the labor force. The secondary enrolment rate for girls surpasses that of boys in three regions. Boys' under-achievement is a particular concern in Latin America and the Caribbean. In contrast, where girls'primary education enrolment lags behind boys, the gender gap widens in secondary and tertiary education.