Women’s Studies: Why Female Education Matters
With more women than men enrolled in U.S. colleges, Americans might assume the education of girls and women isn’t an issue. But that’s not the case around the world, as more than half the young children out of school around the world are girls. Where are females denied education, why and what are the effects?
Going to School (or Not)
American girls tend to be overrepresented in education, including up to the collegiate level, where the public university male-to-female gender ratio is 43.6%–56.4%. (1)
For much of the world, particularly developing countries, the picture is much different.
Primary-age students out of school (2)
Girls: 35 million
Boys: 31 million
Nearly 1 in 2 of the world’s out-of-school girls are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 1 in 4 are in South Asia. (2)
But things are looking up:
Out-of-school girls (2)
1999: 23 million
2008: 9.5 million
1999: 25 million
2008: 17 million
Youth literacy rates by year (2)
Year range: Boys, Girls
1985-1994: 87.7, 78.6
1995-2004: 90.3, 83.8
2005-2010: 91.9, 86.8
Countries with lowest female literacy rates (women 15-24) (2)
Central African Republic: 27%
Burkina Faso: 33%
Cote d’Ivoire: 39%
Why Aren’t Girls in School?
Some of the common reasons girls either don’t start school or drop out of school include: (3, 4)
- Child marriage and young motherhood
- Sexual violence
- Lack of sanitary facilities
Youngest mean age at first birth (5)
Gaza Strip: 19
Sierra Leone: 19
Every year, nearly 1 in 5 girls younger than 18 in developing countries gives birth. (2)
South Asia accounts for about half of teen pregnancies in emerging countries. (2)
In developing countries, pregnancy-related deaths kill 70,000 women ages 15-19 each year, the biggest cause of death for that age group. (2)
Why It Matters
Beyond the morality issues, educating women can help boost the economic future of struggling countries.
As female education goes up, a host of societal indicators improve: (6)
- Population growth
- Infant mortality
- Family health
Educated women will participate more in the labor force and, in turn, contribute to the GDP.
Children of educated mothers (especially daughters) are more likely to go to school and have higher levels of educational attainment.
“The persistent constraints and deprivations that prevent many of the world’s women from achieving their potential have huge consequences for individuals, families, communities and nations. Expanding women’s ability to make decisions and take advantage of opportunities is critical to improving their lives as well as the world we all share.”
— World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim (2)