Girls and education

One of the best ways for a nation to develop is to provide equal opportunities for education for its girls, followed closely by easy availability to clean water and sanitation, the latter two being important factors in improving health and life expectancy. Although education for girls may seem to be an unmitigated good, there are many factors that work against it.

There are of course religious bigots, found especially but not exclusively in some Muslim societies, that oppose it for religious reasons. But there are secular factors working against it too. One is that girls offer free labor in the home, helping in the cooking and cleaning and child-rearing, and often spending hours each days carrying water from distant places. Another is that young girls are often given in marriage at an early age and the dowry the family receives can be an important source of income for the family.

Sesame Street has a global campaign to encourage the expansion of education for girls and has produced one if its well-designed clips.


  1. tecolata says

    I admit to being an avid Dear Abby reader. And I recall a very sad letter from a 12 year old Catholic girl. She had always dreamed of winning a scholarship and going to college, but now her mother was pregnant with baby #9 and she was told she would have primary responsibility for the baby. She was already so overloaded with family chores that her grades were slipping. The two children after her are boys so they were not expected to do any household chores. When she told her mother (sensibly) that she already had enough children her parents blew up at her. The nun who was principal of her Catholic school came to visit to talk to her parents about her falling grades. The girl was at first glad, because she thought the nun would help her when she explained she had too many family responsibilities to study or do homework; instead the nun explained it was her duty to help her family instead of go to college. I wonder if that poor girl ever escaped.

  2. anat says

    A majority of female students at the university level is very common. In the US the exceptions tend to be military schools and engineering schools (ie schools where a large fraction of the students are engineering majors). From what I understand the reason for the female majority is that while very high achieving high school graduates go to college roughly equally, among the not-so-high achieving high school graduates the men are less likely to apply to college than the women. This has to do with there being non-college career pathways that are more attractive to men than to women (various trades), and with women trying to overcome the pay gap by acquiring degrees.

    I wouldn’t know what is skewing the ratio at a secondary school without knowing how students enter the school. Is it open to any child of the relevant age or are there any requirements that need to be met? Does it offer programs that are more attractive to one gender (in the context of the local culture)? Do the competing schools (if any) offer programs more attractive to another gender? Is the gender ratio skewed the same way in all schools in the area? Is is skewed differently for different schools?

  3. Seeker2 says

    When was that Dear Abby you read? 1960? Today in the USA, the Christian “homeschoolers” like the Duggars and many other sects don’t care if a girl can read or write, because her only worth is in keeping house and raising her siblings until her father finds her a husband, at which point she pumps out babies until the oldest girl is big enough to do all the housework, child-raising, and homeschooling of the younger ones.

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