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Modified on 2013/05/23 14:28 by Haoyi Chen Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Education
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 sources, combined with population censuses, household surveys or population registers.
Are the same proportions of girls and boys participating in education?

Enrolled pupils / students 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 sources, combined with population censuses, household surveys or population registers.
Household surveys such as DHS (Demographic and Health Survey), MICS (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey), CWIQ (Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire), LSMS (Living Standard Measurement Study) Population censuses
Is the progression and transition to secondary education the same for girls and boys? Enrolment by sex, age, grade and level of education. Repeaters by sex, grade and level of education School administrative sources
Are reasons for not attending school different for girls than for boys? - Information on reasons for dropping out of school by sex, age and last level of education attended.
- Information on reasons for absenteeism by sex, age and level of education.
- School attendance by sex, age, level of education, further disaggregated by: urban/rural areas; wealth status of the household; number of working hours in employment or doing household chores.
Household surveys such as DHS, MICS, CWIQ, 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, household living standard surveys
Do girls and boys enrol or graduate in same types of programmes and field of studies? Students enrolled in secondary education by sex and type of programme Students enrolled and graduates of tertiary education by sex and field of study School administrative sources

  • + 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. The progress took place in all regions, and was more pronounced in those regions with greatest gender disparities. Still, in low income countries with low enrolment levels, girls are less likely than boys to enter primary schooling (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011; UNICEF, 2011).

      Nevertheless, once enrolled, girls tend to progress as well 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 drop-out rates is almost twice as large as those with higher female rates (UNESCO, 2012). As a result, in many countries the gap faced by girls at entering the first grade of primary education is greatly reduced by the time girls reach the last grade of primary school. However, completion rates of primary level of education1 remain higher for boys than for girls in most regions. While there are countries where girls are more likely to complete primary education than boys, the majority of cases with gender imbalance are 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 level than in primary education 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 as well as the share of girls among the 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 the school participation and the completion of secondary school for girls.

      Poverty may keep more girls than boys out of school. Children from poor households are more likely to be out of school than their peers in the rest of the population (UNESCO Institute for Statistics and UNICEF, 2009; UNESCO, 2010). When the burden of schooling rests with the family and not the government, and girls’ education is perceived as less valued and as generating lower returns, poor families may consider that their limited resources are better invested in sons’ education than daughters’ education. Thus, in many countries from the less developed regions, poor girls are less likely to be in school than poor boys (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 are becoming available in a country and the education of girls yields greater returns, it is expected that parents invest more in the education of 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 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 households 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, lower school participation rate 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 of the developing countries as well, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean and East Asia and the Pacific (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011; UNESCO, 2012).

      At 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 of the world female enrolment rates in tertiary education have surpassed male enrolment rates (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2010a). This progress has happened mostly in countries from the developed regions, although lately it has been observed in countries from the less developed regions as well. In absolute terms, women in developing countries registered the highest gains in number of students. Still, in countries from sub-Saharan Africa, where the overall enrolment is low, women continue to be poorly represented at the tertiary levels (United Nations, 2010).

      Overall, the participation of women in higher education tends to diminish for 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 from the more developed regions (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2010a).

      Young women do not follow the same programmes, field of studies and 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 thus they are 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” types, such as health programmes, while being underrepresented in programmes related to industrial production and engineering. Female students in tertiary education are still more likely to be trained in the fields of education, health and welfare, or humanities and arts, and less likely in the fields of science, engineering or manufacturing, although there has been increased participation of women in those 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.


    • ______________

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

  • + Data needed
    • New entrants in primary education by sex and age

      Pupils enrolled in primary education by sex, age, and grade

      New entrants in secondary education by sex and age

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

      Repeaters by sex, level of education and grade

      Students enrolled in tertiary education by sex, ISCED level and field of study

      Tertiary education graduates by sex and field of study
      In order to calculate various indicators of educational participation based on enrolment data, additional data on population disaggregated by sex and age are needed from other sources of data such as population censuses or population registers, or estimated based on integration of data from population censuses and household surveys or civil registration systems.

      School attendance by sex, age and level of education
      Additional breakdowns are usually available for statistics on school attendance, because they are collected in household surveys at the same time with other individual and household characteristics. Example of additional breakdown characteristics that can be used are: urban/rural areas, geographic areas, ethnicity, wealth status of child’s household. While gender gap at national level may be modest, great gender inequalities in education may be found at the level of some population subgroups such as rural population, poor population, certain regions or ethnic groups with traditional attitudes toward women’s status.
      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 housework. Therefore children’s economic activity status and the number of hours they work either as employed or doing housework can be used as a breakdown variable in addition to sex, age and level of education.

      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 not enough economic resources to cover necessary expenses to attend school, work to supplement the household income, or work needed for household chores; or (b) factors related to 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.

      Education expenditure of households for each child by sex of the child
      The education expenditure of households for each child is particularly of interest in those countries with great gender inequality in education.


  • + 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 primary, secondary and tertiary levels

      Primary education completion rate, by sex

      Effective transition rate from primary to secondary by sex

      Gross entry ratio to 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 amongst tertiary education graduates

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



      Note: See UNESCO Institute for Statistics; and UNICEF; for a list of indicators related to educational participation, their definition and 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. Additional sources of data on population by sex and age are needed to calculate various indicators of educational participation, such as population censuses, population registers, or a combination of population censuses with household surveys or civil registration.

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

      Child labour surveys collect data on involvement of girls and boys in employment or household chores at the same time with data on school attendance and other individual and household characteristics.

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


  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • Enrolment statistics may overstate in different degrees the educational participation of girls or boys. Enrolment refers to the number of pupils or students officially enrolled or registered in a given grade or level of education. Children who are enrolled but who are 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 groups of population 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 sources, such as enrolment or repeaters, are focused 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 homeless population, those living in remote areas, or children living in institutions (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2010b).

      Any gender differences in 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 more often boys 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 and overestimated if the official rates are higher for girls than for boys. Also, students studying abroad are usually excluded from official counts. As young men pursue foreign study more frequently than young women, the 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 as gaining advantage over men in tertiary education, the gender gap may be actually smaller than estimated.

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