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Last update: Nov 2009

Millenium Development Goal
Promote gender equality and empower women. Target: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

Gender equality

Educating girls provides benefits through generations

UNICEF advocates quality basic education for all, with an emphasis on gender equality and eliminating disparities of all kinds. In particular, getting girls into school and ensuring that they stay and learn has what UNICEF calls a "multiplier effect."
Educated girls are likely to marry later and have fewer children, who in turn will be more likely to survive and be better nourished and educated. Educated girls are more productive at home and better paid in the workplace, and more able to participate in social, economic and political decision-making.

Only two thirds of countries met 2005 goals in girls' education

Girls' education has been expanding all over the world, but not fast enough to ensure a basic education for the millions of girls still out of school. About two thirds of countries and territories reached gender parity in primary education by the target year of 2005, but in many other countries – especially in sub-Saharan Africa – girls are still disadvantaged.
There are important regional differences. The largest gender gaps at the primary level are in West and Central Africa and South Asia.   


Gender gaps in primary school have closed in East Asia and the Pacific, industrialized countries, Latin America and the Caribbean, CEE/CIS and Eastern and Southern Africa
Primary school net enrolment rate or net attendance rate of boys and girls, by region (2003–2008)



At the secondary level of education, gender gaps are greatest in South Asia and West and Central Africa.  In Latin America and Caribbean and CEE/CIS, this gap is to the disadvantage of boys.


                            Gender gaps in secondary school are closing in industrialized countries
                         Secondary school net enrolment rate or net attendance rate of boys and girls, by region (2003–2008)


Source: UNICEF global databases, 2009, UNESCO Institute for Statistics Data Centre, March 2009.


About one third of countries achieved gender parity in secondary education by 2005. But in terms of equality and empowerment, gender parity is just a starting point. The MDG envisages education as a fulfilling experience for all girls and boys and as helping them reach their full potential in society. In that regard, development of indicators to measure progress is ongoing.


                     Many countries have reached gender parity in primary education…
                                                   Gender parity index (GPI) in primary education (2003–2008)


                                ... yet fewer countries are near parity in secondary education
                                                              Gender parity index (GPI) in secondary education (2003–2008)



Source: UNICEF global databases, 2009.