The challenges

Considerable progress has been made since 2000 in terms of enrolment. In eight years, the number of children attending primary school has risen by 30 million. However, 75 million children worldwide still do not have access to school, and serious shortco- mings remain:

  • the student dropout rate is still too high in many countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, nine out of ten children attend their first year of primary school, but only two out of three complete the cycle. (The primary school completion rate - the percentage of a genera- tion that completes the full primary cycle - is the true indicator of universal education in MDG 2.) This low proportion drops further in rural areas, among the poorest households, and affects girls more than boys.
  • the quality of teaching and language proficiency is generally insufficient, with a wide variety of situations in each country.
  • training programs are not in line with economic needs, making it necessary to review the relevance and content of such programs.
  • constant degradation of secondary and tertiary edu- cation caused by the pressure to improve access to pri- mary education under tight budgetary restrictions.
Illust: French high school, 81.3 kb, 300x200
French high school in Pondicherry ©MAEE/F. de La Mure

Educating girls

Worldwide, 55 per cent of the 75 million children deprived of access to school are girls, and 75 per cent of illiterate persons are women.

The under-enrolment of girls can be explained by reduced access to school and by a higher dropout rate. Girls must face specific obstacles throughout their schooling such as tuition fees, early marriage, safety conditions (particularly in public transportation) and sexual violence. More generally speaking, the enrolment of girls still comes up against biases and inequalities caused by differing social roles, which deny them access to the same opportunities as boys.

Girls’ access to education is a key component of their emancipation and of their country’s development. Studies have shown the posi- tive impact of female enrolment on access to health services, especially for mothers, on the decline in early marriage and on economic growth.

Updated on : April 2010