Ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary school

The gaps between girls' and boys enrollments have narrowed. East Asia should be close to achieving the goal by 2005. Progress has also been good in the Middle East and North Africa and in South Asia. But in Sub-Saharan Africa, where barriers to girls' schooling have traditionally been lower than in many other places, progress has been disappointing.

The status of women has improved considerably in most developing countries in the past quarter century. Yet in no region do women enjoy equal legal, social, and economic rights. Women have fewer resources than men, and more limited economic opportunities and political participation. Women and girls bear the most direct cost of these inequalities—but the harm ultimately extends to everyone. Because gender gaps are often largest and most costly among the poor, gender equality is a core development issue.

Gender inequalities persist because they are supported by social norms and legal institutions, by the choices and behaviors of households, and by regulations and incentives that affect the way economies function. Achieving gender equality in education will make a difference.

A mixed pattern of progress.
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In some countries, girls' enrollments now exceed boys. But too often this reflects a tendency for boys to leave secondary school early. Within countries there are large differences between the enrollment rates of girls from rich and poor families.

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