UN Produced Atlas shows Girls Still Falling behind Boys in Education

09/03/2012 - The atlas, produced by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), includes 120 maps, charts and tables which illustrate gender disparities around the world.

The results of the figures in the atlas show that access to secondary education is still a challenge for girls for much of the world, especially in parts of Africa and Asia. The analysis highlights the differences in education between girls and boys in terms of access, participation and progression.

The atlas also illustrates the extent to which gender disparities in education have changed since 1970 and how they are shaped by factors such as national wealth, geographic location, investment in education and fields of study.

Despite the continuing need for advancement, the atlas does show that girls in all parts of the world have benefitted from efforts to achieve universal primary education, especially since 1990.

With universal primary education, two-thirds of countries having achieved gender parity at the primary level. However, access to secondary education remains a challenge for girls in many regions, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia.

With the release of the atlas, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova stated that “This atlas is a call for action. The growth in girls’ enrolment in primary education is a clear demonstration of strong political will to achieve the education for all goals. But there are still great strides to be made in order to reach the large numbers of vulnerable girls and women who continue to be denied their right to education.”

“We must address the root causes of this discrimination and target our action towards those most in need,” she added.

The atlas reflects patterns in education by visualizing a series of data, including the school-life expectancy (SLE), which is the average number of years of education that a boy or a girl entering the system can expect to receive.

In addition to SLE, the atlas also shows how access to education may not always translate into better opportunities for women in terms of employment and income.

UNESCO added that “There may be equal numbers of boys and girls in the classroom but to what extent are both groups encouraged – or discouraged – to pursue their education and potential?

To better understand what girls and boys are learning in the classrooms, UNESCO is developing new ways to measure the quality of education and the learning outcomes of all students, with a specific focus on gender.”

Goal two of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.