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SDG 4 has a strong gender perspective, grounded in evidence on the close links between girls’ education and social and economic development, including poverty reduction: one additional school year can increase a woman’s earnings by 10% to 20%; each year of secondary education reduces the likelihood of marrying as a child by five percentage points or more; and a child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past the age of five.
To date, only two thirds of the world’s countries have achieved gender parity in primary school enrolment, and just over one third have achieved parity in lower secondary enrolment.
Girls living in rural poverty still face the greatest barriers to education, and families that cannot afford to send all children to school may choose to send only their sons. Such educational gaps can undermine a girl’s earnings in later life, and her chances of genuine participation in society.
However, SDG 4 goes far beyond enrolment. It also recognizes the challenges presented by a lack of the necessary increases in resources, infrastructure and teachers to cope with the growing number of students in schools, often resulting in poor learning outcomes.
UNESCO estimates from 2012 suggested that, globally, approximately 250 million children of primary school age had not acquired basic literacy or numeracy skills, some even after four years of schooling
SDG 4 emphasizes learning outcomes driven by curricula reform, teacher training and the reduction of violence against girls in school, and covers all types of learning (formal, informal, technical and vocational).
Among the focus countries, Indonesia and Colombia have the highest Index scores for literacy—critical to women’s full participation in society—with 94% of women (15+) demonstrating basic literacy skills. In comparison, only 34% of women in Senegal are literate.
Over half of young women in Colombia, El Salvador and Indonesia who are 3 – 5 years above upper secondary school graduation age complete secondary education. A wide gap exists between Colombia, the top scoring country (77%) and Senegal (6.1%), which lags behind the other focus countries.
Here we highlight the ‘missing’ critical gender equality issues that we weren’t able to include in the Index due to insufficient globally comparable data. These ‘missing’ issues can help form part of an advocacy agenda calling for more and better gender data, contributing to existing calls for gaps in gender data to be filled.
A major driver in drop-out rates for girls in school is linked to child marriage, especially at secondary level. Diarra and her teacher collect data at school to tackle the issue in their community.Go to the Story
Together with her mother, Laura pushes for progress on gender equality in El Salvador. She uses radio and video to share her opinions about child rights in her community.Go to the Story
I am the only girl in my community to go to high school, amongst a school of 300 students. It was hard at first, especially as everyone would say to me, ‘she’s going to get pregnant and eventually drop out’.Go to the Story
“In some families, children are born leaders. I think I was born this way. Education is key to stopping female genital mutilation. We must talk about the issue at school. We need the support of the Ministry to keep girls in school, so they can fight the issue in their community.”
Aminata Dalou, Dakar, Senegal