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Outcome of formal education

Modified on 2015/05/21 15:29 by Sean Zheng Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Education
Table II.3

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, MICS, CWIQ and LSMS.

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 labour force surveys, living standards surveys and other multipurpose 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 fewer educational opportunities than men, owing to differences in gender roles and expectations or 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 still make up the majority of the 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 make up the majority of these old age groups. However, youth literacy levels remain lower for women 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, therefore, more limited opportunities in terms of employment, certain occupations, earnings, career and positions of power and decision-making.

      Furthermore, women’s lack of education has a significant impact on their family well-being. Women’s education is an important factor in marriage and fertility patterns. A 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 both women and members of their household, particularly their children. Immunization, child nutrition and child survival may be significantly improved when the mother has a higher level of education.

  • + Data needed
    • Two types of data are usually needed to analyse outcome of formal education. They are:

      (a) Literacy by sex and age;

      (b) Educational attainment (highest level of education attained) by sex.

      Additional breakdowns commonly used for both types of data are urban/rural areas, geographical 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 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 data on 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 data on women’s age at first marriage, women’s age at first child, fertility and child mortality is crucial for understanding the implication of women’s low education level on marriage and fertility patterns and on child health and survival.


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

      Household surveys can be used to collect data on literacy and educational attainment. Some are specialized. For example, dedicated literacy surveys can be used to measure indepth 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 on educational attainment. In addition, the Survey’s ad hoc module on transition from school to working life (conducted in 2000 and 2009) provides a framework for analysing how graduates of different education levels perform in 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 dependants (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 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 their skills (see, for example, functional literacy). These types of self-reporting or proxy reporting tend to give higher rates of literacy than direct assessment.

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