antoninis2_FAROOQ NAEEMAFP via Getty Images_girls school Farooq Naeem/AFP via Getty Images

Why Aren’t All Girls in School?

In 1995, the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action promised equal access to education for girls around the world. A quarter-century later, a new report shows that, despite considerable progress toward this goal, much remains to be done.

PARIS – At the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, participants promised to advance the rights of women and girls everywhere. Part of that promise, set out in the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, was to ensure education for all girls. A recent study by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report examines whether the promise has been kept.

A quarter-century after the conference and coming just after the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, the good news is that 180 million more girls are enrolled in primary and secondary school than in 1995, and that more girls than ever are staying in school and graduating. There is good news in tertiary education as well: three times more women are studying at university in this generation than the last. In Morocco, for example, just 30 women were enrolled for every 100 men in the early 1990s; today there is parity.

Outcomes matter as much as access. Here, there has been significant progress. In more than 50% of middle- and high-income countries, girls perform just as well as boys in mathematics, and outperform them in 25% of these countries.