An unfulfilled promise: 12 years of education for every girl

This week, as governments, international organizations, civil society, youth, the private sector and activists from around the world come together for the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, UNESCO and the Global Education Monitoring Report call on countries to ensure all girls complete 12 years of safe and quality education.

Just over 25 years ago in 1995, 189 governments adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action committing to improve education and training for women and girls. Under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on inclusive, equitable quality education and lifelong learning sets ambitious targets to ensure equality of opportunity.

This includes a target aiming to ensure that all girls and boys complete 12 years of education by 2030. Fulfilling this target can help reduce adolescent pregnancy and increase the future income of girls and women, among a range of other benefits. Fulfilling this target is a smart investment to make.

The paper explores whether the promise of completing 12 years of education for girls by 2030 is on track. It explores the changes in the evolution of girls’ and boys’ completion rates in primary and secondary education since 1995.

As the paper shows, girls are catching up in completion rates, but disadvantage remains acute in some countries. Overall, just as girls’ enrolment in education has improved dramatically over the past 25 years, with 180 million more girls enrolled in primary and secondary education, girls have also made impressive gains in closing the gap in primary and secondary education completion.

Girls’ average primary completion rates have increased by almost 20 percentage points over the past 25 years, to reach 87%. The fastest progress was in Central and South Asia, where just over half of all girls completed primary school in 1995, compared to 90% of the current generation. The gaps in education completion at upper secondary level are however particularly concerning as girls are still the most disadvantaged in many countries.

This paper aims to inform the Generation Equality Forum taking place from 30 June to 2 July which calls for concrete, ambitious and sustainable commitments towards achieving gender equality, with education as a transversal theme.

Over 11 million girls may not return to school following the COVID-19 pandemic and its school closures. Adolescent girls are at particular risk. In order to live up to the commitment of leaving no one behind, governments and partners need to make significant investments to ensure that all girls complete a full cycle of basic education by 2030.

The paper proposes six key areas of action which includes among others, the collection of sex-disaggregated data, female teachers, education-related costs, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene and prevention of school-related gender-based violence.

2021 is a critical year for investments in girls’ education. In July, the Global Education Summit: Financing the Global Partnership for Education 2021-25 will invite financial commitments to support quality education for girls and boys. Governments and partners need to act now to keep their promise of 12 years of education for every girl.

Photo: ©UNICEF/UN0389070/Panjwani

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