Progress on girls’ access to education: What the new UNESCO data reveals

New UNESCO data reveals that 50 million more girls have been enrolled in school globally since 2015.

The latest calculations by the Global Education Monitoring Report ( show that there are also 5 million more girls completing each level of education from primary to upper secondary education. This progress calls on efforts to double down in the remaining years to 2030 as there are 122 million girls still out-of-school around the world today.

Ahead of 11 October’s International Day of the Girl, here is what you need to know about UNESCO’s new data on girls’ access to education.

New data drawing from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics shows that there are 22.5 million more girls in primary school, 14.6 million more in lower secondary and 13 million in upper secondary education now than in 2015. Completion rates of girls increased from 86% to 89% in primary education, from 74% to 79% in lower secondary and 54% to 61% in upper secondary education. That means that 5 million more girls are completing each level of education from primary to upper secondary education now than there were in 2015.

As a global average, girls are now outperforming boys in reading across all education levels and country income groups. They are also performing the same as boys in mathematics.

Where are most of the out-of-school girls?

In sub-Saharan Africa, girls remain far less likely to go to school at any education level. Over half of all children out of primary and secondary school are in Africa.

While the situation of girls and young women has improved dramatically overall, some remain trapped in pockets of disadvantage due to location and poverty but also due to other social and cultural characteristics. In Afghanistan, the mass exclusion of girls from education means that 60% of girls are not in primary (compared to 46% of boys) and 74% of girls are not in lower-secondary school (compared to 50% of boys).

What does UNESCO call for to advance girls’ access to education?

UNESCO calls on governments and partners to urgently invest in the following critical areas to ensure that all girls complete a full cycle of basic education by 2030:

  • Support marginalized girls’ access to 12 years of safe, free, and quality education.
  • Strengthen country capacity to collect, analyze, and use sex-disaggregated data as well as data on intersections between gender and other characteristics as a solid basis for policy-making.
  • Institutionalize gender-responsive legal frameworks, education sector planning, policies, analysis, budgets and implementation for education systems that promote gender equality.
  • Ensure equal representation of women and girls in curriculum and textbooks with material free of biases and challenging stereotypes and gender norms.
  • Ensure that there are sufficient, well-trained female teachers in the right locations, at all levels of education, especially in leadership positions.
  • Reduce direct and indirect costs for families through cash and in-kind transfers, scholarships and stipends.
  • Provide school meals and water and sanitation facilities in schools, especially single-sex toilets and menstrual hygiene management. Adopt a holistic approach addressing the drivers and root causes of violence both at school and community levels.
  • Implement such programmes, teaching girls and boys how to be safe and healthy, how to protect themselves and how to respect each other.

Use the post-COVID-19 period as a unique opportunity to build gender-transformative education systems, adopting a system-wide approach to school reopening, prioritizing action to bring all girls back to school, prioritizing the leadership of girls and women and promoting an integrated and coordinated approach that addresses girls’ holistic education, health and protection needs.

What is happening for girls’ education since the 2022 Transforming Education Summit?

Post-Transforming Education Summit, the Global Platform for Gender Equality and Girls’ and Women’s Empowerment in and through Education was set up. The Global Platform aims to drive transformative leadership, accountability, innovation, data and financing to advance gender equality and girls’ and women’s empowerment in and through education. The Platform is a multi-stakeholder forum that includes and is open to all government representatives, leaders, partners, champions, and activists.

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