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Girl's education: A policy check

Sep 11, 2009

UNGEI’s Overcoming Barriers to Girls’ Education in South Asia critically analyses the steps taken by South Asian countries in overcoming obstacles to girls’ education. The report offers feasible policy options and tools for advocacy to governments and other stakeholders to improve women’s access to learning.

Overcoming Barriers To Girls’ Education In South Asia - Deepening the Analysis

Author: Roshan Chitrakar

Publisher: United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), 2009

UNGEI South Asia.jpg

A pervasive cycle of disparities faces girls in South Asia and threatens their access to quality education. According to a UNICEF 2005 study, South Asia leads the world in the number of early marriages. Fifty-eight per cent of girls marry before the age of 18 (and are considered ‘women’ from the age of 10 in some countries), compared with 42% in Africa and 29% in Latin America and the Caribbean. Education is a huge determinant in preventing early marriages.

The study brings together the results of the available literature showing the status of girls’ education in South Asia, emphasising that girls frequently suffer from multiple disparities – the barrier to education for girls is often compounded by other issues including caste, ethnicity, religion, poverty and remoteness.

The purpose is to contribute to the achievement of education and gender-related goals of EFA and MDG in the South Asian countries by adhering to the framework of a rights-based approach.

Following three issues of girls’ education surfaced prominently in this study:

  • There are countries in the region (Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan) where enrolment of girls has remained problematic, indicating a clear disparity between girls and boys in terms of access to basic education.
  • Inequality in educational access of girls and boys is also a function of whether they come from a rural or urban context and also which social class or linguistic groups they represent. Cultural tradition and gender role stereotypes are mainly responsible for the continuation of such inequalities.
  • In countries where gender parity in enrolment has been largely achieved (Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka), another form of exclusion of girls exists – which also applies to the other countries of the region. Girls’ improved access to basic education has not meaningfully contributed to their social and political empowerment. Girls are discouraged from pursuing an education that leads to a better-paying career in future, e.g. in technical, vocational and information technology fields.
  • The study finds that while gender inequality exists both in key access-related indicators, across different geographic regions and socio-linguistic groups, and in the quality of educational services that boys and girls receive, the task of measuring inequality has remained heavily influenced by quantitative methods. 
  • Moreover, the educational management information systems in place do not take into account ground realities related to various barriers that continue to exist and adversely affect the issues of access, quality and equity in basic/primary education, especially for girls.


  • States in the region need to set up district-based, community-based and school-based management information systems for local data collection and analyses.
  • Alternative forms of education, for example setting up satellite campuses and feeder schools, and recruitment of local female teachers
  • Issues of barriers to girls’ education must be tackled at many levels. While issues as fundamental as gender-insensitive curricula need reforms, issues related to women’s empowerment in social, economic and political spheres and their participation in the labour market, politics, policy and decision making, planning and management cannot be ignored.
Source : UNGEI
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