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Educational participation

Modified on 2015/05/01 09:29 by Sean Zheng Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Education
Table II.1

From gender issues to gender statistics on educational participation: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Do the same proportions of girls and boys enter the first grade of school? Do girls start school later than boys? New entrants in primary school by sex and age and population by sex and age. School administrative records combined with population censuses, household surveys or population registers.
Are the same proportions of girls and boys participating in education? Enrolment by sex, age, grade and level of education and population by sex and age.


School attendance by sex, age and level of education.
School administrative records combined with population censuses, household surveys or population registers.

Household surveys, such as the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), the Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire (CWIQ) and the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS).

Population censuses
Is the progression and transition to secondary education the same for girls and boys? Enrolled students by sex, age, grade and level of education. Repeaters by sex, grade and level of education. School administrative records.
Are the reasons for not attending school different for girls than for boys? Reasons for dropping out of school by sex, age and last level of education attended.

Reasons for absenteeism by sex, age and level of education.

School attendance by sex, age and level of education, further disaggregated by urban/rural areas, wealth status of the household, and number of hours in employment or doing household chores.
Household surveys such as DHS, MICS, CWIQ and LSMS. Child labour surveys.
Do families invest less in the education of girls than in the education of boys? Household expenditure on education for each child by sex of the child. Household expenditure surveys and household living standards surveys.
Do girls and boys enrol in or graduate from the same types of programmes and fields of study? Enrolment in secondary education by sex and type of programme.

Enrolment in and graduation from tertiary education by sex and field of study.
School administrative records.

  • + Gender issues
    • In many countries, girls and boys do not have equal access to basic education. There has been a significant shift towards greater gender parity in participation in primary education. Progress occurred in all regions, but was more pronounced in those with the greatest gender disparities. Still, in low-income countries with low enrolment levels, girls are less likely than boys to enter primary schooling (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics, 2011; UNICEF, Division of Policy and Practice, 2011).

      Nevertheless, once enrolled, girls tend to progress as well as or even better than boys. In most countries, boys repeat more than girls in primary education (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011). Also, boys usually drop out at much higher rates than girls. The number of countries with higher male dropout rates is almost twice the number of countries with higher female dropout rates (UNESCO, 2012). As a result, in many countries the gap faced by girls when entering the first grade of primary education is greatly reduced by the time that they reach the last grade of primary school. However, primary education completion rates remain higher for boys than for girls in most regions. While there are countries where girls are more likely than boys to complete primary education in most countries with a gender imbalance, it is against girls (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011).

      In many countries, significantly fewer girls than boys are enrolled in secondary education. In most countries, girls who have completed primary education have the same chances as boys of making the transition to secondary education (UNESCO, 2011). Once in secondary school, however, girls are more likely to drop out (UNESCO, 2011). The extent to which girls are disproportionately excluded from education is higher at the secondary than at the primary level and increases further from the lower to the upper secondary levels (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011; UNESCO, 2012). Remaining in school and completing the secondary level of education becomes more difficult, especially for girls in low-income countries. In those countries, although the rates of out-of-school children and the share of girls among out-of-school children have declined, the number of girls out of school still greatly exceeds the number of boys out of school (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011; UNESCO, 2012). Poverty, longer hours of work, distance to school, schooling environment and factors related to puberty, early marriage or pregnancy tend to affect disproportionately school participation and completion of secondary school for girls.

      Poverty may keep more girls than boys out of school. Children from poor households are more likely than their peers to be out of school (UNESCO Institute for Statistics and UNICEF, 2005; UNESCO, 2010). When the burden of schooling rests with the family, not with the Government, and when girls’ education is perceived as being of less value and as generating lower returns than boys’ education, poor families may consider that their limited resources are better invested in their sons’ education than in their daughters’. Therefore, in many countries in the less developed regions, poor girls are less likely than poor boys to be in school (UNESCO, 2010; UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011). Secondary schooling, in particular, is more costly than primary schooling and few low-income countries provide that level of education for free (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011); therefore, significant gender gaps may be observed in secondary school enrolment for children from the poorest households. As more employment opportunities for women become available in a country and as the education of girls yields greater returns, it is expected that parents will invest more in the education of their daughters. Long hours of work affect children’s school attendance, especially girls’. Both girls and boys may be engaged in work activities, but boys are more likely to be employed, while girls are more likely to do unpaid housework (Huebler, 2008; United Nations, 2010). The total burden of work is generally higher for girls, especially older girls. Older girls are often asked to care for their younger brothers and sisters or to take over some of the household responsibilities, such as fetching water or firewood. In some countries, boys may take wage work only when their contribution to the household income is needed because of poverty, while girls may take work even when the household could survive (UNESCO, 2003). Many children combine working with attending school; however, irregular attendance generally results in lower achievements for both girls and boys.

      For a number of countries, that the school participation rate is lower for boys than for girls is the new challenge. More developed countries with higher levels of educational participation have recorded gender gaps that favour females in education, but similar patterns are evident in some developing countries as well, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean and East Asia and the Pacific (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011; UNESCO, 2012).

      At the tertiary level, more women than men may pursue higher education. The number of female students in tertiary institutions has been growing and, in many regions, female enrolment rates in tertiary education have surpassed male enrolment rates (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2010a). This progress has occurred mostly in countries in the more developed regions, although lately it has been observed in countries in the less developed regions, too. In absolute terms, women in developing countries registered the highest gains in terms of number of students. Still, in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where overall enrolment is low, women continue to be poorly represented at the tertiary level (United Nations, 2010).

      Overall, the participation of women in higher education tends to diminish at the more advanced university levels. In programmes preparing for advanced research qualifications, such as PhDs, women are much more often in the minority, even in countries in the more developed regions (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2010a).

      Young women do not follow the same programmes, fields of study or subjects as young men. Beginning with secondary education, girls’ participation in science, mathematics and technological subjects is disproportionately low compared to boys’. In many countries, young women are less likely than young men to enrol in vocational education and are therefore less likely to acquire the practical skills, know-how and understanding necessary for employment in particular occupations or trades (United Nations, 2010; UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011). Young women continue to be overrepresented in programmes traditionally considered “female”, such as health programmes, but underrepresented in programmes related to industrial production and engineering. Female students in tertiary education are still more likely to be trained in such fields as education, health and welfare and humanities and arts and less likely to be trained in such fields as science, engineering and manufacturing, although there has been an increase in the participation of women in these male-dominated fields (United Nations, 2010). Gender-stereotypical subject choice is a common phenomenon in tertiary education, even in countries where women have started outnumbering men at that level.


    • ______________

      1Primary education completion rate is the total number of new entrants in the last grade of primary education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the total population of the theoretical entrance age to the last grade of primary school.

  • + Data needed
    • Based on school administrative records, several types of data can be used. They are:

      (a) New entrants in primary education by sex and age;

      (b) Pupils enrolled in primary education by sex, age and grade;

      (c) New entrants in secondary education by sex and age;

      (d) Students enrolled in secondary education by sex, age, grade, International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level and type of programme;

      (e) Repeaters by sex, grade and level of education;

      (f) Students enrolled in tertiary education by sex, ISCED level and field of study;

      (g) Tertiary education graduates by sex and field of study.

      In order to calculate various indicators of educational participation, additional data on population, disaggregated by sex and age, are needed from other sources, such as population censuses, population registers or a combination of population censuses and household surveys or civil registration systems.

      Other data related to educational participation can be collected through household surveys and population censuses. They are:

      (a) School attendance by sex, age and level of education:

      (i)Additional breakdowns are usually available for statistics on school attendance, since such data are collected in household surveys along with data on individual and household characteristics. Examples of additional breakdown characteristics that can be used include urban/rural areas, geographical areas, ethnicity, wealth status of the child’s household and parent’s education. While the gender gap at the national level may be modest, considerable gender inequalities in education may be found at the level of some population subgroups, such as the rural population, the poor population and certain regions or ethnic groups with traditional attitudes towards women’s status;

      (ii) In surveys focused on children – such as DHS, MICS and child labour force surveys – other data of interest may be collected and used for cross-tabulations. For example, one of the factors associated with low school attendance is the burden of work for children, either as employment or as housework. Therefore, children’s economic activity status and the number of hours they work either as employment or as housework can be used as a breakdown variable in addition to sex, age and level of education;

      (b) Qualitative information on reasons for not attending school or dropping out by sex and level of education: Reasons for not attending school or dropping out may refer to (a) household-related factors such as insufficient economic resources to cover the expenses necessary to attend school, work to supplement the household income or work needed for household chores; or (b) factors related to the schooling environment, such as distance to school and non-availability of transportation, lack of separate toilets for girls and boys or abuse by other students or teachers;

      (c) Education expenditure of households for each child by sex: The education expenditure of households for each child is of particular interest in countries with considerable gender inequality in education.

  • + List II.1 Examples of indicators derived from gender statistics on educational participation:
    • Adjusted net intake ratio in the first grade of primary education by sex

      Adjusted net enrolment rate in primary education by sex

      Share of girls among out-of-school children of primary school age and lower secondary school age

      Gross enrolment ratio in primary, secondary and tertiary education by sex

      Gender parity index in enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels

      Primary education completion rate by sex

      Effective transition rate from primary education to secondary education by sex

      Gross entry ratio in lower secondary education by sex

      Graduation from lower secondary education by sex

      Adjusted net attendance rate in primary education by sex and wealth status of the household

      Gross attendance rate in primary and secondary education by sex and total number of hours worked

      Share of women among tertiary education graduates

      Share of women in science, engineering, manufacturing and construction graduates at the tertiary level



      Note: See www.uis.unesco.org/Pages/Glossary.aspx and www.childinfo.org/education_methodology.html for a list of indicators related to educational participation, their definition and their method of calculation.

  • + Sources of data
    • School administrative records are the source of data for gender statistics on school enrolment, new entrants, repeaters and graduates. These data are usually compiled by the Ministry of Education. In order to calculate various indicators of educational participation, additional data on population, disaggregated by sex and age, are needed from other sources such as population censuses, population registers or a combination of population censuses and household surveys or civil registration systems.

      Household surveys can be used to collect data on school attendance along with data on individual and household characteristics that can be used to explain gender differences in education. Indeed, such surveys are regularly used to collect background information on urban/rural residence, geographical areas, ethnicity, wealth status of the child’s household and parents’ education. Moreover, they can accommodate questions on the reasons for not attending school or dropping out, including involvement in paid work and unpaid household work. The international surveys collecting such data include the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), the Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire (CWIQ) and the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS).

      Child labour surveys can be used to collect data on the involvement of girls and boys in employment or household chores along with data on school attendance and other individual and household characteristics.

      Population censuses can be used to collect data on school attendance along with data on other demographic and economic characteristics of the individuals and their living conditions.

  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • Enrolment statistics may overstate, to different degrees, the educational participation of girls and boys. Enrolment refers to the number of pupils or students officially enrolled or registered in a given grade or at a given level of education. Children who are enrolled but not attending school are included in enrolment statistics. In that regard, enrolment captures the intent to participate in education rather than the participation itself (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2010b).

      Some population groups with distinct gender differences in educational participation may not be covered in statistics on enrolment or school attendance, resulting in biased overall estimates of these statistics. Statistics collected from administrative records, such as data on enrolled students or repeaters, focus on the regular education system; in some cases, they cover only the public school system (United Nations, 2006). Similarly, statistics on school attendance collected through household surveys may not cover certain populations, such as the homeless population, people living in remote areas and children living in institutions (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2010b).

      Gender differences in the educational participation of the excluded groups will not be reflected in the overall statistics and, as a result, gender disparity may be underestimated or overestimated. For example, in some countries, there is a tendency to send boys more often than girls to schools that are not in the public system. If those schools are not adequately covered in the official enrolment statistics, the rates for boys are going to be more severely underestimated than the rates for girls. For example, the gender gap in education will be underestimated if the official rates are higher for boys than for girls but overestimated if the official rates are higher for girls than for boys. Moreover, students studying abroad are usually excluded from official counts. As young men pursue foreign study more frequently than young women, male enrolment in tertiary education in the country of origin is going to be more severely underestimated than female enrolment. In some of the countries where women appear to be gaining an advantage over men in tertiary education, the gender gap may actually be smaller than estimated.

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