The 2003/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report:
A Frank Assessment
For people around the world concerned about education, the latest gospel has arrived with the release
of UNESCO's EFA Global Monitoring Report. Now in its third edition, the Monitoring Report has grown
dramatically from its modest beginnings into the single most important publication on education
produced each year.
The report was conceived during the World Education Forum in Dakar when delegates felt a pressing
need for up-to-date and reliable information to guide the process of EFA and help the international
community achieve its goals. The report is now being coordinated at UNESCO by a first-rate team
determined to meet this mandate. The report brings together an enormous wealth of information and
ideas based on data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) and the latest research from around
the world. Linked with the published report is an online collection of over 70 commissioned papers on
key aspects of EFA.
A vital strength of the report is its firm commitment to objective and unbiased analysis. The report's
team takes pride in their independence and tries to fairly and accurately describe both positive and
negative aspects of the current situation. Unlike the infomercial style of this year's State of the World's
Children Report on girls' education, the EFA Global Monitoring Report presents an unvarnished view of
where we stand now. It clearly acknowledges the gaps or uncertainties in data and does not shy away
from being self-critical. Despite being a UNESCO publication, the report openly states that UNESCO
has not done enough to lead efforts after Dakar, and even questions whether UNESCO has the
international influence needed to meet the challenge of achieving EFA.
The special focus of this year's report is on gender equality in education. The report takes as its point of
reference the fifth Dakar goal, which calls for:
"Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and
achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls' full and
equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality."
The report examines a variety of education issues through a gender lens, including the other five Dakar
goals for early childhood care and education, universal primary education, the learning needs of young
people, adult literacy, and quality education. For the 2015 gender equality goal, the report considers the
full achievement of equality to imply equality of educational opportunities, equality in the learning
process, equality in learning outcomes, and even equality in the labour market returns of education.
The report looks deeply at the social and economic issues underlying gender inequities in education
and reviews many of the different approaches countries have taken to address these problems.
In terms of where we stand now for gender parity and gender equality, the report paints a complex
picture with striking differences between regions. At the centre, the core issue is significant gender
disparities in primary and secondary enrolment. For primary schooling this imbalance is particularly
acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States, and South Asia, while in other regions of the world
gender parity has been achieved. For secondary education there is still a large gap in Sub-Saharan
Africa, South Asia, and China, but we also see a process of transition through which countries
approaching gender parity in primary education in fact achieve it for secondary education, and countries
that have achieved gender parity at the primary level often have large disparities in favour of girls at the
The best news is that once girls are in school, they usually do as well or better than boys. In the vast
majority of countries, girls have a lower repetition rate than boys (although in some cases this may
mean they are more likely to be dropped from school if they fail). The survival rates of girls and boys
until Grade 5 are generally comparable, although the rates for girls are lower in several African
countries, and higher in several Latin American countries. In terms of learning achievements, several
international studies indicate that on the whole girls do better than boys, achieving much better results
than boys in reading, slightly worse results than boys in math, and fairly similar results in sciences.
Studies in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, have generally found small or insignificant gender differences
A good sign for the future is that at the pre-primary level, there is usually equal participation of girls and
boys. Only about a third of countries report any significant gender imbalance at this level and even
those countries are almost equally divided between ones with disparities favouring boys and ones with
disparities favouring girls. Presently early childhood care and education programmes only cover a
small portion of the population, but if these programmes can be expanded while maintaining a gender
balance, it would help close the gap in girls' primary school enrolment.
Girls still do, however, face serious problems for their schooling. Many are withdrawn from school near
or after puberty, and many drop out due to an early marriage or pregnancy. Girls of all ages often carry
a heavy load of domestic duties which hampers their studies and leads many to leave school. The risk
of sexual abuse at school can also be a very real concern for girls. A study in Ghana, Malawi and
Zimbabwe found sexual aggression against girls going largely unpunished, and a study in Ecuador
found that 22% of adolescent girls had been victims of sexual abuse in an educational setting. The
South African Medical Research Council reported that half of the schoolgirls it surveyed had been
forced to have sex against their will, one-third of them by teachers.
At the tertiary level of education, there is a great difference between countries in the level of female
participation. In 50 countries males are the majority of tertiary students, while females take the lead in
72 countries. On the whole, the global numbers were coming close to a balance in 1997 at the time of
the last survey, with females representing 46.8% of all students, but this varies from countries with only
12% female students and ones with over 65% females. The situation also varies significantly between
different fields of study, with women usually being underrepresented in engineering and agricultural
programmes. At the very highest level of study, women are the majority of students for advanced
research degrees in most developed countries and countries in transition, but they are typically only a
third of students at this level in developing countries.
An essential part of achieving gender equality in education is ensuring the equal representation of
women in the teaching profession. During the 90's the number of female teachers increased in almost
all countries, although in a few with already low percentages of female teachers, there was a further
decrease. The portion of female teachers varies widely from region to region. The percentage of
female primary school teachers is typically 90% in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 80% in
Western Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, 70% in East Asia and the Pacific,
50% in the Arab States, and 40% in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. These numbers are very
significant for trying to close the gender enrolment gap, as research cited in the report shows that
countries with the lowest number of women teachers at the primary level are those with the highest
gender disparities in enrolment. A study of African countries found that where the proportion of female
teachers is around 20%, only 7 or 8 girls were taken into school for every 10 boys. The ratio of female
teachers diminishes steadily when moving from lower to higher levels in the education system. In most
countries, women are over 98% of pre-primary teachers, 70% of primary school teachers, and 50% of
secondary school teachers.
Among adult women, the rates of illiteracy reflect many decades of excluding girls from school. Of
approximately 862 million illiterate adults in 2000, 64% were women. In all regions except Latin
America and the Caribbean, women had a rate of illiteracy at least 50% higher than men. Among young
people the level of illiteracy is much less and the rates are more balanced in some regions, but globally
young women are still almost 60% more likely to be illiterate than young men.
In addition to its review of gender issues in education, the report also contains significant new research
on overall progress towards EFA. The report's team has developed a new indicator, the Education For
All Development Index, or EDI, to provide a composite measure of progress towards EFA. The index is
based on the performance of countries in 4 key areas: universal primary enrolment, survival of students
to Grade 5, adult literacy rates, and the average of the gender parity index for primary education,
secondary education and adult literacy. Using the new index, the report examines possible
relationships between different dimensions of EFA. One of the report's most interesting findings is that
achieving gender parity is the best predictor of overall progress towards EFA.
This year's report also summarises substantial new research on school fees. It is shocking to find that
despite the fundamental obligation of countries to provide free education, at least 101 countries are
charging fees for primary schooling. Considering the terrible human consequences of these fees, they
should be seen as crimes as serious as the stock market scams and business frauds that have been
grabbing newspaper headlines. Indeed, in many countries fees are being charged by schools in direct
violation of explicit domestic legislation banning them. The importance of this problem cannot be
overstated as tens of millions of children are out of school solely because of their family's inability to pay
their school fees. Girls in particular are especially hurt by the barrier of fees, with families often
preferring to invest in boys when they are forced to make choices. Until now school fees have been
particularly prevalent in Africa, with fees being charged in 81% of the countries surveyed. The report
documents the dramatic effect ending school fees has had recently in several countries of East and
Southern Africa, and it argues that in many countries the removal of school fees would probably be the
single most effective means of raising primary enrolments and reducing gender disparity.
But despite the great amount of such vital information in the report, there are a number of critical
problems with its data and analysis that undercut the value of the report. Several of these problems are
of special importance for girls' education and are described in further detail below.
The single most serious problem with the report is that most of its data is out-of-date. Almost all the data
and analysis on enrolment, retention, gender parity, etc. is based on trends from the 90's leading up to
the figures for 2000. The EFA Global Monitoring Report was commissioned in 2000 at Dakar so that the
international community would know how much progress was being made towards the agreed goals,
and thus could take corrective steps whenever needed. How can informed decisions be made now
without the latest information?
This matter is especially crucial for the most urgent goal, the 2005 gender parity target. The decision in
Dakar was a clear message that progress during the 90's had not been enough to close the gender gap
and more urgent measures must be taken. As we come closer to the 2005 deadline, it is vital that we
know what has happened since Dakar and what work still remains. Unfortunately the 2003/4 EFA
Global Monitoring Report only tells us what the situation was back in 2000.
This problem is fundamentally, though, a reflection of a wholly inadequate system for gathering and
analysing data and information related to EFA. While the UNESCO Institute for Statistics has improved
significantly with its new leadership and location, it still has not managed to evolve beyond its original
basic model to meet the needs of the day. Achieving EFA is no easy task; it will require an enormous
commitment from both developed and developing countries if we hope to succeed in the coming years.
Up-to-date and reliable information can play a key role in motivating, guiding and accelerating the
process. But for this to happen, the UIS must go beyond just waiting for education ministries to mail in
their survey forms and tap into a whole range of sources to get the latest information on education.
When analysts sitting in Wall Street are monitoring minute-by-minute the political and economic
decisions of distant countries, just in case they may have an effect on the returns of 10-year bonds, why
should we be satisfied with having no clue about the future of most countries' education system?
Education is certainly no less important.
Realistically, much more resources would be required to establish a comprehensive and up-to-date
system of monitoring education, but such investments would be a very sensible use of development
funds. The international community has been called upon to contribute almost 60 billion dollars over the
next decade to meet the Millennium Development Goal of UPE. If just a small fraction of this amount
were invested into better research and monitoring, the results could be astounding. Bilaterals,
multilaterals, and private donors should all consider this a priority area for increased support. A good
first step, though, would be for UNESCO to allocate more than 0.1% of its general budget to its line for
"Monitoring EFA and Evaluating Strategies".
Even with the data available, its presentation in the report does not expose the full extent of the crisis
today in education. The most widely cited statistic to show the gap in education is the figure of 104
million children out-of-school. UNICEF provides an alternative estimate of 121 million children, but the
main problem with both estimates is that they are restricted just to children out of lower primary school.
Thus, since Myanmar's military dictatorship has decided that the official age for primary schooling is 5 to
9, a 10 year-old Burmese child sent to work in the fields is not counted as a child out-of-school. In fact,
UNESCO's overall estimate of children out-of-school dropped from 115 million for 1999 to 104 million
for 2000 mainly because India, China and Russia reduced by a year the official period they counted for
primary schooling. A normal expectation surely would be that if a country requires all children between
say 6-14 to be in school, any child of that age group not in school would be counted as a "child
out-of-school". An estimate prepared for the Global Campaign for Education after the release of this
year's report suggested that in addition to children out of lower primary school, between 100 to 150
million children between the ages of 12-14 are currently out-of-school. If we consider as well the
children from both age groups who are formally enrolled in school but are attending less than half their
classes, there could be another 50 to 100 million children who are effectively "out-of-school". And if we
counted the children who are sitting in school but learning less than a quarter of what is expected for
their grade, there could easily be another 50 to 150 million children who are not really receiving an
education. All told, we are facing anywhere from 300 million to 500 million children below the age of 15
who are right now missing the education they desperately need. Given the sheer size of this problem, it
is arguably the single most serious development issue today.
Missing the Money
One of the crucial gaps in this year's report is in its data on funding for education. Recognising the
central problem of under-financing of basic education, the Dakar Framework for Action committed
countries to "establishing budget priorities that reflect a commitment to achieving EFA goals and targets
at the earliest possible date, and no later than 2015." Taken at face value, this is a promise from
countries to pump in as much as they can to achieve EFA as quickly as possible. So what has actually
happened? We simply don't know. For a third of the countries there is no data on the percentage of
GNP spent on education, and for only a third is there data on the percentage spent on primary
education. And that is just the data for 2000; there is no information whatsoever on education budgets
after Dakar. The commitment of governments to increase their domestic education budgets is just as
important as the famous commitment from donor countries that no country would be thwarted in
achieving EFA for lack of resources. But how is it possible to hold countries to account when such
essential data is missing?
The report does look in greater depth at the issue of international financing for EFA, but the analysis is
limited. Buried in the discussion on trends in overall development aid and general allocations to all
levels of education, is the sad truth that promoting basic education is still not seen as a driving force for
development by both donors and recipients of international aid. In 2000 a mere 3% of development
assistance was going for basic education. The recent commitments from the Netherlands, Japan and
Canada are welcomed news, but even with these additions, basic education would still only receive 5%
of international aid. Why is this? For many years there has been a consensus that basic education, and
in particular girls' education, is the most effective investment that can be made for development--so why
hasn't this been reflecting in actual commitments? Why couldn't even UNICEF manage to give 10% of
its funds for girls' education? Or why hasn't Oxfam, despite its strong advocacy for education,
committed at least 10% of its resources for the same?
The report's analysis of international assistance for education does not look into the details of how much
aid is going for which of the different Dakar goals. While the lion's share is likely being given to UPE, we
don't know how much aid, if any, is going for pre-primary education, skills training for young people,
adult literacy, or continuing education. Or even more to the point of this year's report, how much is
being spent to close the gender gap? Unfortunately, the report did not review the available data on
international projects for girls' education. While many donor-funded projects for education mention the
importance of girls' education, the difference on the ground still needs to be checked. Despite the rising
volume of rhetoric for girls' education, the real commitments may be much less. UNESCO, for example,
has allocated less than half of one percent of its total education budget for the next two years to its line
for "Ensuring Gender Equality in EFA". Ironically, the official justification for this piddling sum is that
"faster progress towards the 2005 target is necessary", and "budgetary provisions must follow policy
The importance of monitoring EFA is that by observing trends we are able to tell if the world is off track
for achieving one or more of the Dakar goals. If, however, we are not even monitoring a goal, it can be
taken as a strong sign that the world has pretty much written it off. For the Dakar goals of meeting the
learning needs of all young people and providing basic and continuing education for adults, the report
points out that the issue is complicated and monitoring outcomes is more complex than monitoring
enrolment. But then it doesn't even provide data on enrolment. Basically, we are in the complete dark
about what is or is not being done to provide education to young people and adults. This is unfortunate
because well-managed and efficient training programmes can potentially be a driving force for
economic development. It is also particularly unjust for women, as meeting these Dakar goals is the
only way to redress the loss they suffered when as young girls they were denied their right to an
Reading through this year's report, it is all too easy to forget that one of the most important promises
made in Dakar was that governments would prepare nation action plans for EFA by the end of last year
at the very latest. These plans were to give substance and form to the goals and strategies of the Dakar
Framework of Action, to address the chronic under-financing of basic education, and to set out clear
strategies for overcoming the special problems facing those excluded from education, based on a clear
commitment to girls' education and gender equity. They were also to be integrated in a wider poverty
reduction and development framework and to be developed in direct and systematic consultation with
national civil society. There was a brief review of the progress towards these plans in last year's report,
but in this year's report there is only the occasional whisper. It seems almost as if this promise and the
plans have been completely forgotten.
For adult literacy, the report contains an important technical explanation of the intended meaning of the
Dakar goal. Contrary to common understanding, and even contrary to the explanation in last year's
report, this goal does not imply just halving the literacy gap that existed in 2000. The Dakar goal of
"achieving a 50% improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015" requires that countries in which over
two thirds of the adult population were literate in 2000 achieve full literacy by 2015. Thus, over three
quarters of all countries should be striving for 100% literacy by this date. For a country like Malawi, with
60% adult literacy in 2000, the target for 2015 will be 90% literacy. These are challenging targets, but
the impact of achieving them would be nothing short of revolutionary in the lives of marginalised people
in both developed and developing countries.
The report, however, offers little such hope for illiterate people. It takes a very passive, if not fatalistic,
approach of waiting for older illiterates to die off--the report explains that the gender disparities in
illiteracy will continue to stay high as women live longer. What is missing in the report is a coherent and
credible strategy for promoting adult literacy, beyond just watching the effect of universalising primary
education run its course. It even slips in the brutal advice that governments should make "difficult
decisions about investment in adult literacy in systems where resources are severely constrained."
Such comments in the report are irresponsible. This is not to say that it is wrong to recognise real
constraints and making tough choices, but the report seems to call for such decisions without giving any
basis to make them. Unlike for UPE, there is no estimate given for the cost of providing literacy training
to the 862 million adults who were illiterate in 2000. Some literacy programmes can be an expensive
waste of money, but there are others which can offer adults literacy at a very low cost. These
programmes can also be linked with other important development goals, such as improving basic
health, preventing HIV/AIDS, protecting the environment, empowering women, ending social exclusion,
etc., to further increase their value. The report provides no costing information on adult literacy to help
governments and international donors make rational economic decisions. The lack of strong efforts to
promote adult literacy is, in fact, a major setback for other Dakar goals such as universal primary
education. Many programmes have shown that helping mothers become literate is one of the best ways
of ensuring they send their children to school. A well-run literacy programme for women could be much
more cost effective and longer lasting than the school incentive programmes the report recommends.
The report's own analysis finds that adult literacy is a close second to gender parity as a predictor of
progress towards the other Dakar goals, showing that in addition to its own inherent value, adult literacy
plays a strong supporting role for the overall achievement of EFA.
The coverage of compulsory education in the report provides an extraordinary example of humanity's
ability to make a problem more difficult by ignoring solutions that work. Historically, the implementation
of compulsory education has played a crucial role in the universalisation of education in European
countries and Japan. More recently, as the August edition of Equals reports, compulsory education has
played a major role in ensuring gender parity and a very high rate of enrolment in Palestine; research
commissioned for the Monitoring Report found as well that countries such as Algeria, Tunisia and
Uzbekistan view compulsory education as a means to increase girls' education. Compulsory education
has long been advocated as a good strategy to prevent child labour, including especially when parents
are the employers. It is also one of the few effective ways to limit the excessive household duties which
can otherwise cause girls to drop out of school. Compulsory education has also been promoted in
several countries as a way to prevent child marriages. On a legal level, all governments in the world,
except Somalia, have endorsed the principle of compulsory education through either international treaty
obligations or domestic legislation. On a political level, the Dakar Framework of Action explicitly
requires governments to ensure compulsory education for all children by 2015. In this situation, one
would naturally expect a report on gender equality in education to highlight the implementation of
compulsory education as an essential element of any strategy to achieve both UPE and gender parity.
Instead, the report offers no guidelines, models, or encouragement for the implementation of
compulsory education. UNICEF's State of the World's Children report is no better as it conspicuously
ignores the implementation of compulsory education as a strategy to ensure girls' education. This is not
to say that it doesn't pay lip service to the concept when repeating the phrase "free and compulsory", but
it includes no substantive recommendation for its enforcement. Underlying most of the recommended
strategies for achieving gender parity is instead the principle that parents have the right to choose if their
daughters go to school or stay at home. The Monitoring Report is not afraid of challenging customs and
social norms and it does recommend legal measures to increase the chances of girls going to school,
but the issues it stresses are women's property rights, marriage rights, custody laws and inheritance.
One wonders why not the more direct approach of requiring that all children go to school?
This year's Monitoring Report includes a frank and fair assessment of UNESCO's leadership of EFA
since Dakar, included detailed critiques of both the High-Level Group and the EFA Working Group.
What is noticeably absent, however, is a review of the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative
(UNGEI). Launched at the Dakar Conference with UNICEF leading the efforts of 13 UN agencies,
UNGEI represents the full force of the UN system directed to addressing the urgent need for girls'
education. So, now, three and a half years later, what has happened? Beyond showcase projects, if
UNGEI has achieved substantial results, how? If not, why? And its plans for "25 by 2005", what are
their chances? Can we depend on UNGEI to help end gender disparities in education? This is the kind
of direct analysis we need from a monitoring report timed for the 2005 gender parity goal.
Unfortunately, the report contains no such analysis.
Similarly, little more than an introduction is given to the other 8 UN Flagships for different aspects of
education. Which ones are sailing, which ones are floundering? We don't know. This lack of review
only adds to the problem of accountability for these ventures, whose autonomy seems to effectively
mean they are accountable to no one. Some of the flagships, such as "Education for Rural People" and
"Teachers and the Quality of Education" could be strategically important for achieving gender equality in
Hope not Disparity
A final major problem with the report is its implicit answer to the question of what happens if the 2005
gender parity goal is not met. Since the very urgency of this goal brought its deadline well in advance of
all the others, a natural expectation would be that governments should be trying to achieve it or come as
close as possible by 2005. Any residual gap found after 2005 should then be closed posthaste.
Unfortunately, the report gives the impression that the next target would be 2015, i.e. if you haven't
achieved gender parity in these 5 years, take another 10. This may not have been the report's intended
message, but already this framework has been picked up by the High-Level Group in their most recent
While it may be commonplace to talk about the 2005 goal not being met, a close look at the data from
the report suggests that even still it is by no means impossible. It is certainly not likely that all countries
will meet the gender parity targets for primary and secondary education by then, but it may well be
possible for the world and almost all regions to meet the goal on aggregate.
The centrepiece for the report's analysis of this issue is a table showing the projected timeframe for
achieving primary and secondary education gender parity in 128 countries. There are, however,
several significant problems with the data and analysis used for this table. As mentioned before, there
is no data for after 2000. Furthermore, the projections to 2005 and beyond are based simply on the
average rate of change during the 90's. These predictions are based exclusively on enrolment data and
were not cross-checked with attendance rates, which often have significantly different gender ratios.
No review was made of developments after Dakar and no consideration was given to the potential
impact of accelerated efforts over the next two years. Beyond basic enrolment data, no in-depth
country-level analyses were made, and some 70 countries without the standard data were just left out.
For the secondary education projections, no attention was paid to the results of increased primary
enrolment of girls and their transition to secondary school. More broadly, though, the table is essentially
a map of the statistical distance between a country's situation in 2000 and the gender parity goal,
whereas what is just as important, is a map of the policy distance to achieving gender parity. From this
viewpoint, many countries can be seen as being much closer to the goal, with just a few strategic policy
changes often being enough for them to reach it.
For primary schooling, data from the report shows that in 2000 there was a global net enrolment gap of
16 million girls compared to boys, down from a gap of 30 million girls in 1990 (both numbers adjusted for
male/female population differences). For girls, the current gap is almost entirely the result of
under-enrolment in Arab States, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. In 2000 there was a gap of about
1.6 million girls in Arab countries and 2.7 million girls in Sub-Saharan Africa. Within the Arab region, the
Egyptian government's strong commitment to girls' education should close the country's gap by 2005
and also provide a good model for others to follow. The biggest single source of the gender gap,
however, is Yemen, which alone accounts for over a third of the Arab total. If UNGEI's "25 by 2005"
activities are reasonably successful in Yemen, it would go a long way towards closing the region's
gender gap. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the gap for girls is largest in West and Central Africa, although
Ethiopia is responsible for almost a quarter of the gap. If concrete actions follow the enthusiasm for
gender parity that UNICEF reports from a recent meeting of West African Ministers of Education, there
could yet be some hope for change in the region. For Ethiopia, approval of their Fast-Track proposal
coupled with intensive efforts by the government has the potential to help significantly reduce the
country's and the region's gender gap. The main source, however, for the global primary schooling
gender gap is South Asia. In 2000, South Asia had a net gap of almost 11 million girls, although this is
down from over 20 million in 1990. The sources for this gap are principally India, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
and, on a smaller scale, Nepal. Nepal is predicted to achieve both primary and secondary school
gender parity in 2005, although the current civil war may throw that into doubt. In Afghanistan, if the
international community makes good on its promises of support, there is a reasonable chance that
intensive and innovative efforts could result in figures much closer to parity. In Pakistan, the situation
may have improved significantly over the last couple years, but further data would be needed to confirm
this. In India, recent advances towards gender parity have been remarkable. The Monitoring Report
features data from India's National Family Health Surveys and if the progress achieved between 1992/3
to 1998/9 has continued at the same pace, most major Indian states would achieve gender parity in
primary education by 2004/5. This assessment is no assurance that the world can or will achieve
gender parity in primary education by 2005, but it is certainly still a target worth striving for.
For secondary schooling the picture is clouded by the lack of enrolment data. Almost a quarter of
countries have no data for secondary school enrolment in 2000, and this year's report does not contain
regional averages. Based on gross enrolment data from last year's report, in 1999 there was a global
enrolment gap of almost 15 million girls in secondary school. Of this gap, about 1 million was from Arab
States, 1.7 million from Sub-Saharan Africa, 4 million from East Asia, and almost 11 million from South
Asia. On the other hand, there was a gender gap of almost 1 million boys in North America and Western
Europe, and 2 million boys in Latin America and the Caribbean. The bulk of the secondary gap for girls
is in India and China. India's gender parity index at the secondary school level did not improve much
during the 90's, but if the massive increases in girls' primary school enrolment has been transmitted to
the secondary level, India may be much closer to parity than most people think. Understanding the
situation in China would need another look at the statistics: projections based on last year's report
would predict secondary school gender parity in 2005, projections based on this year's report would
predict parity in 3011. Aside from these two giants, there are still many other countries with smaller
numbers, but still significant gaps in girls' secondary school enrolment. Viewed strictly from a statistical
perspective, they may seem many years away from gender parity, but how far are they really? In most
countries with a gap in girls' secondary school enrolment, simply making secondary education
completely free for girls could be enough to close the gap within a year or two.
The criticisms above highlight the weaknesses in this year's EFA Global Monitoring Report, but in
fairness, the report should be fully acknowledged as a major advance in our understanding of EFA and
the challenges it poses. There is no other publication which so aptly addresses the complicated issues
involved in ensuring quality education for people of all ages in all countries of the world. It is highly
recommended reading for anyone involved in or concerned about education. Nevertheless, it leaves
many key questions unanswered about our progress towards gender parity. We still don't know what
has actually happened since Dakar in the countries furthest from gender parity. We don't know if aid is
really being targeted for girls' education. We don't know what is planned for the next two years and we
don't know what is likely to be achieved. In the end, we still desperately need a monitoring report for the
goal of gender parity in 2005.