Cover Image
close this bookIntegrating Girl Child Issues into Population Education - Volume 1 (PROAP - UNFPA, 1997, 44 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentData Card
View the documentPreface
View the documentCHAPTER ONE: Background
View the documentCHAPTER TWO: Present Status of Girl Child
View the documentCHAPTER THREE: Strategies to Promote Female Education
View the documentCHAPTER FOUR: Benefits of Educating Girls
View the documentReferences

CHAPTER THREE: Strategies to Promote Female Education



Barriers to Girls Education

Wide gender gaps persist at all levels of education, including the most basic one viz. primary school enrolment. To understand why fewer girls than boys enrol in schools and more girls than boys drop out of school, one has to consider a complex web of cultural, social and economic factors that affect the education of boys and girls differently.

1. Cultures and traditions that perpetuate gender differences in education

· Sons look after their parents in their old age, while daughters marry out of their own families at a young age and join their husbands families.

· Sons are valued for their anticipated financial contribution to the household whereas the daughters economic contribution, if at all, and her fertility would benefit her husbands family.

· Prevalence of son preference, and certain traditional beliefs and practices results in neglect of girls in terms of health care and nutrition.

· When a society practices seclusion of women, girls may only attend sex-segregated schools which means that girls' access to education depends on the availability of Single Sex schools.

2. Direct costs and opportunity costs of educating girls

· Poverty has an enormous impact on a girls chances of schooling. Such households allocate their limited resources to the education of sons because it is believed that is likely to bring larger benefit to the household in terms of future income.

· In rural households in particular, child labour is essential for the maintenance of the household. Like adult women they perform economic activities, plus they also perform household work like cooking, cleaning, fetching water and fuel and taking care of younger siblings. Thus, they are more likely to be taken out of school.

3. The distance of schools places girls' safety at risk and therefore it is a factor constraining girls enrolment

· “In Egypt, for example, 94 per cent of boys and 72 per cent of girls were enrolled when a school was located on kilometer form their homes. When schools were two kilometers away, enrollment among boys dropped marginally to 90 per cent, but much more dramatically for girls to 64 per cent.”39

4. Availability of female teachers can also determine enrolment. Many parents in traditional societies are more willing to send their daughters to school if there are women teachers

· “In low income countries, only one-third of primary, less than one-fourth of secondary and less then one-tenth if tertiary education teachers are women.”40 A study in Yemen found that girls' enrolment dropped to almost zero after grade three because female teachers were not available.

5. Rigid school timing makes it extremely difficult for girls to perform their housework and attend school, especially in rural areas

6. The curricula is not really relevant to the life style of rural women and the potential role of girls as wives and mothers in rural household

· Curricula that help girls fulfill their traditional roles better, yet not keep them out of wider opportunities and curricula which are relevant and gender sensitive can make a significant difference.

7. Parental educational levels are linked to girls' enrolment and educational attainment

· Uneducated parents are usually unaware of the benefits of educating girls and women in terms of current health and welfare of the family and in terms of its intergenerational effects. Improved educational levels among parents has a positive impact on girls' education. There is some evidence to suggest that mother's educational level is more strongly linked to educational levels of daughters.

8. Public investment in education, especially in educating women, has been inadequate

· “In developing countries as a whole, expenditures on education averaged 15 per cent, of total budgetary outlays.”41 Within the restricted financing, expenditure on girls education has been even more restricted. In large parts of the world, socio-cultural beliefs require sex-segregated schools. Yet, fewer schools are available for girls, and girls have to travel longer distances to school. Girls' schools experience financial difficulties, shortage of teachers and textbooks and have inadequate physical facilities such as toilets, play fields, classrooms etc.

Chart 12: Effects of distance on enrolment

Strategies to Promote Female Education

In any country, participation of girls in the educational system depends on demand on the part of parents for girls schooling and the supply of educational services on the part of the public and the private sector.

To improve the literacy and educational level of girls, the educational system must be able to:

Ö Increase the availability or supply of education by increasing the number of school places for girls.

Ö Improve the accessibility of education by increasing the benefits and lowering the cost of educating girls.

The goals for an effective programme would be to:

· Increase primary school enrollment of girls.

· Increase primary school completion of girls.

· Reduce drop out rates of girls.

· Increase the proportion of women teachers, administrators and supervisors.

· Increase demand for girls' education.

Chart 13: The supply/demand paradigm


A. Greater support of single-sex schools

In countries and communities where segregation of the sexes and seclusion of women is the norm, the only way a girl can attain some education is by attending a girls' school.

Parents may be willing to send their daughters to a co-educational primary school, but once the girls reach puberty they are withdrawn from such schools and sent to girls' schools, if available.

“In India, 20 per cent of the girls leave school at puberty, in large part because of the lack of separate facilities. In Yemen, retention of girls to the sixth grade was positively correlated with the availability of local, female-only schools.”42

Adequate financial support must be provided for girls schools in sex-segregated systems. This would improve access, efficiency and quality of education.

B. Locate schools closer to communities

Reducing the distance that girls travel to go to school will encourage their enrollment. Parents are less worried about the safety of their daughters when schools are located near the communities.

Bhutan and Bangladesh have successfully experimented with low cost ways of bringing schools within walking distance from home. The feeder schools systems in Bhutan (supported by UNICEF) and in Bangladesh (initialed by UNICEF and supported by the World Bank), have been highly successful. Feeder or satellite schools offer the first two years of primary education and located near the communities, but often at a distance from the primary schools. By avoiding the need for transportation for young girls, this strategy has increased girls' enrolment.43

C. Promote hiring of women teachers

Women teachers improve enrolment and retention of girls in schools because:

I) In many societies, the presence of women teachers reduces the parents' worries about the safety and morality of their daughters and encourages girls' participation.

II) Women teachers provide girls with positive role models, especially in the context of mothers being uneducated.

International cross-sectional data suggest positive correlation between the proportion of women teachers and enrollment parity.44

In Africa, the Middle-East and Asia, only 20 to 45 per cent of the teachers at the primary level and less than 40 per cent of the teachers or the secondary level are women. The reasons are many: few women with the required educational background; constraints on mobility of women; lack of training programmers; lack of living accommodation for women teachers in villages; unwillingness of educated city women to work in rural areas. To counteract these difficulties, intervention is needed in the form of well planned strategies.

Qualified women should be given incentives to overcome certain cultural, social and economic constraints that prevent them from taking up teaching positions. Incentives may be monetary, such as lower tuition or scholarships to attend training programmes; non-monetary incentives may include hostel facilities for women teachers, housing arrangements, flexible schedules and creches for children of teacher trainees etc.

Teacher training programmes should be brought nearer the communities. In Yemen, an UNICEF assisted programme involves primary school teacher training in existing secondary schools in rural areas. Transport and a monthly stipend is provided. The drop-out rate is less then 1.5 per cent.45

D. Lower the costs to parents

In large parts of the developing world, little value is placed on girls education. This, along with the fact that educating children involves financial costs in terms of children's household and market related work forgone, explain why parents consider schooling girls less affordable. Therefore, costs must be reduced so that private returns on girls education in higher.

I) Scholarships

In areas where primary and secondary schooling are not free, scholarships covering tuition, textbook, and other facilities would encourage enrolment and retention.

A successful example is the Female Education Scholarship Programme in Bangladesh. Started in 1982, the project was designed to encourage girls to enroll and persist in junior secondary school, to delay marriage and increase contraceptives use. The programme gives monthly stipend to attend school on a regular basis. By 1988, the programme had reached 20,000 girls.46

II) Provide textbooks and uniforms

Even when school education is provided free, there are costs of textbooks and uniforms, which have to be funded by the parents. In resource scarce households, these expenditures are allocated for boys schooling. When textbooks, uniforms and other supplies are provided, parents do not have to make a choice and are more willing to send their daughters to school.

III) Reduce the opportunity costs of girls labour

In developing countries, girls contribute more to household productivity than do boys. Girls spend much of their time in housework, collecting and carrying fuel and water, food processing and child care. They also help in planting, harvesting and marketing products. Therefore, programmes must be designed to reduce the opportunity costs of girls schooling by reducing the need for their labour.

One way is to provide pre-school or day care facilities for younger siblings. This would not only free girls for schooling but also prepare the younger children for schooling later. China has a comprehensive programme of day-care facilities at work sites and at schools.

Another form of intervention is to introduce simple labour - saving technologies such as mechanical mills and water wells, which will give girls and women more free time to participate in educational programmes.

E. Modify curricula to suit practical needs

School curricula must be made more relevant to the girls' lives. It should link education with agriculture, animal raising, health and nutrition issues, and use the local language. At the same time it should avoid gender stereotyping. Expanding the formal curricula to include practical knowledge and skills that help girls to perform their daily tasks better would increase their chances of being enrolled and retained in schools.

School curricula must increase girls' future employment possibilities. Parents and girls must feel that completion of schooling will improve their future. School curricula must offer better vocational options for girls. Vocational and job related guidance programmes in schools will familiarize girls with skills that they need and how to obtain them. Curricula can be designed to provide technical skills such as accounting, machinery operation, food preservation etc.

Girls' access to science curricula, computer training and management training should be improved.

Population education is one example of a practically-oriented approach to curriculum development. It addresses topics designed to meet the needs of students. Topics include population and environment linkages, family life and human sexuality, demographic and development interrelationships. It is also an effective way of challenging conventional thinking that perpetuates gender inequity.

Advocacy and social mobilization are needed to raise awareness among policy makers, leaders and the entire society.

F. Promote advocacy and social mobilization

Advocacy and social mobilization are specially needed in cultures where girls are not allowed to participate in activities outside the home, where attitude about female education is very traditional, where poverty forces parents to make choices between sending boys and girls to school and where parents are illiterate and unfamiliar with the benefits of educating girls.

Communication strategies should be based on a careful assessment of target audience. Activities that involve parents (open house for example), help to breakdown communications barrier and generate community support for school programmes.

Reaching an audience of literate and influential leaders requires different methods and materials than reaching parents whose children do not attend school. Messages can encourage parents enroll and retain their daughters in school and to encourage parental participation.

Policy makers, NGOs, educators, parents and community leaders must work together to develop an action plan. Involvement of all levels of the community would help to ensure that the plan is appropriate for the targeted community. The ultimate goal should be to convince the villager, especially the fathers, that it is worthwhile to educate girls.

A variety of information and communication technologies, such as television, radio and films as well as more traditional modes like folk theater, traditional festivals etc. can be used for social mobilization.

Chart 14: Summary of strategies that work










1. Locate schools closer to communities

· Bring schools closer to communities

· Create culturally appropriate facilities, including provision for separate toilet and water supply






· Establish single-sex schools

2. Promote hiring of female teachers

· Increase the supply of female teachers

· Provide incentives






· Provide training locally

3. Lower the costs of parents

· Provide scholarships

· Provide textbooks and uniforms






· Address the opportunity costs of girls’ labour

4. Develop relevant curricula

· Render the curriculum more relevant

· Eliminate math and science gaps






· Account for the future, now

5. Increase community participation

· Support communities that show interest

· Solicit support of community leaders

· Involve parents in planning, management,





decision-making and advocacy

· Recruit teachers from the local community

6. Promote localization/decentralization

· Empower communities with responsibility, through local management mechanisms





· Formulate indicators to monitor progress

· Establish greater links among levels of administration

7. Promote advocacy and social mobilization

· Develop comprehensive strategy

· Prepare Action Plan





· Use “third channel” technologies

· Allocate sufficient resources for information dissemination

8. Design systems that accommodate the needs of female students

· Prepare diagnostic studies

· Design flexible schedules





· Provide instruction in discrete units

9. Support multiple delivery systems

· Encourage experimental “schools”

· Establish regional education resource centres

· Establish stronger links between the different systems






· Provide incentives to encourage participation in non-formal or non-traditional alternatives