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Outcome of formal education

Modified on 2013/05/23 17:02 by Haoyi Chen Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Education
From gender issues to gender statistics on outcome of formal education: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Are young women more likely than young men to be illiterate? Literacy by sex and age Population censuses Household surveys such as DHS (Demographic and Health Survey), MICS (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey), CWIQ (Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire), LSMS (Living Standard Measurement Study) Literacy surveys
Are women less likely than men to have attained secondary or higher education? Educational attainment by sex Population censuses Household surveys such as LFS (Labour Force Surveys), living standard surveys or other multi-purpose surveys

  • + Gender issues
    • Great gender disparities in adult literacy continue to exist, while disparities in youth literacy have narrowed (United Nations, 2010; UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011). Traditionally, women have had less educational opportunities than men, due to differences in gender roles and expectations, or due to educational policies that did not take into account gender-specific barriers in access to schooling. These differences are reflected in current gender disparities in literacy and educational attainment. Progress in reducing gender disparities in adult literacy has been extremely slow and women are still the majority of world’s illiterates. The slow pace of reducing gender disparity is due to the preponderance of older generations in the illiterate population and the fact that women are the majority of those old age groups. However, youth literacy levels for women remain lower than for men only in some countries, reflecting great progress in reducing gender inequality in school achievement.

      Gender disparities in educational attainment persist in the less developed regions, where substantial proportions of the population are concentrated at the primary level of educational attainment (United Nations, 2010; UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011). In these regions, women have lower educational attainment, and thus more limited opportunities to employment, certain occupations, earnings, career and positions of power and decision-making.

      Furthermore, women’s lack of education has significant impact on their family well-being. Women’s education is an important factor in marriage and fertility patterns. Low level of education for women is often associated with early marriage and high fertility. It may also be associated with poor health status for the women and other members of their household, particularly the health of their children. Immunization, child nutrition and child survival may be significantly improved when the mother has a higher level of education.

  • + Data needed
    • Literacy by sex and age

      Educational attainment (highest level of education attained) by sex and age

      Additional breakdowns commonly used are urban/rural areas, geographic areas and ethnicity. Variations in educational characteristics among the corresponding population subgroups are important input in defining specific educational policy measures at a more decentralized level. It is also important that literacy is disaggregated by other variables such as school attainment or the type of learning programme in order to identify strategies for improving literacy.

      Educational attainment itself is one of the most important breakdown variables for other statistics. Work, health or other statistics may be disaggregated by educational attainment in order to show the impact of education in various areas of concern. For example, the disaggregation of occupation by sex and level of education is crucial for understanding whether gender segregation in occupation is due to differences in education or other factors. Disaggregation by educational attainment of women’s age at first marriage, women’s age at first child, fertility and child mortality are crucial for understanding the implication of women’s low education on marriage and fertility patterns as well as on child health and survival.


  • + Sources of data
    • Population censuses collect data on literacy and educational attainment, along with other demographic and economic characteristics of the individuals and their living conditions. Censuses are providing benchmark statistics on education, including at the level of small areas and small population groups, which are essential for the development of educational policies.

      Household surveys can collect data on literacy and educational attainment. Some surveys are specialized. For example, there are dedicated literacy surveys that can measure in-depth basic reading and writing skills, or, in some contexts, functional literacy. In European countries, the European Union Labour Force Survey is an important source of data for educational attainment. In addition, the ad hoc module on transition from school to work (conducted in 2000 and 2009) provides a framework for analysing how graduates of different education levels perform on the labour market.


  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • Literacy statistics based on self-reporting or proxy reporting may overestimate literacy rates for children, women or other persons considered dependant (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2008). A literate person is one who can, with understanding, both read and write a short simple statement on his or her everyday life. The definition of literacy sometimes extends to basic arithmetic and other life skills. Literacy data are only in some cases based on tests of literacy skills. When literacy data are collected for all the household members, for example, one person may respond on behalf of everyone in the household or individuals may declare their literacy abilities without any testing of the skills (see, for example, functional literacy). These types of self-reporting or proxy reporting tend to give higher rates of literacy than when literacy is measured by direct assessment.

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