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How to Get Girls into School

Despite important progress in expanding access to education, top-line data obscure important disparities and failures. Only a targeted policy approach, which recognizes and dismantles the highest barriers to education, can close the remaining gaps.

FREETOWN – Earlier this month, my older sister graduated from law school. Completing her education at age 44, she is an inspiration not only to her young children, who watched her accept her diploma, but also to me, as the education minister of Sierra Leone. Far too many women and girls have been shut out of education. Every single one of them – no matter their age or background – deserves a chance to learn.

There is good news on this front. A recent publication from the Global Education Monitoring Report, whose advisory board I chair, found that, globally, gender parity in access to education has been achieved. And new data show that even in the poorest countries, girls are outperforming boys in reading, and while boys initially outperform girls in math, girls are catching up by the end of primary school.

But, as the GEM Report notes, we must “deepen the debate,” by recognizing the important disparities and failures that top-line data obscure. For starters, though girls are performing as well as boys in mathematics on average, they remain underrepresented among the top performers in almost every country.

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