The number of girls out of school fell below that of boys in 2007. New data released by the UIS and GEM Report, accompanied by a policy paper, show that there are now 119 million girls out of school versus 126 million boys

This difference is still small enough. Which means that, globally, there is almost no gender gap in out-of-school rates for each of the three main age groups – primary, lower secondary and upper secondary. However, this fact masks bigger differences by region, especially among youth of upper secondary school age. While in sub-Saharan Africa, the female out-of-school rate is 4.2 percentage points higher than the male rate, it is 3.1 percentage points lower in Eastern and South-eastern Asia.

It is important to mention that these estimates have been made for the first time based on a statistical model, with the intention to bridge the gap between administrative and survey data, but also to improve the internal consistency of long-term trends. As these results are based on a statistical model, rather than an administrative count, they are reported as a range of values. In addition, the methodology estimates male and female out-of-school rates independently and does not force them to be consistent with the average out-of-school rate. While this is usually not an issue, in some countries, where data are limited and estimates rely on a few survey data points, male and female results may not be fully consistent with their respective national average.

In 2021, as part of a commitment made in the Education 2030 Framework for Action, countries set benchmarks for the education progress they intend to achieve by 2025 and 2030 on six SDG 4 indicators. A seventh benchmark indicator, the gender gap in upper secondary completion rates, was added in 2022 to reflect the 2030 Agenda’s focus on equity, which can also monitor progress on the global initiative on gender equality presented at the Transforming Education Summit.

It remains the benchmark indicator with the lowest rate of countries submitting a benchmark value. The low coverage can be explained partly because the indicator was added later. But it was also observed that many countries had experience of setting completion rate targets but not of setting sex-specific completion rate targets. This is an issue that needs to be urgently addressed.

The latest report compiling the findings on the national SDG 4 benchmarking process also drew out a dozen countries’ experiences, including some with concrete plans in place to reduce gender gaps between now and the deadline.

In Guyana, for instance, the upper secondary completion rate in Guyana has increased substantially for both females and males in the last 20 years, reflecting the country’s commitment and efforts. Nevertheless, the gender gap in secondary completion appears to have increased substantially between 2000 and 2020, from 6 to 14 percentage points, with many more females than males completing upper secondary school. Guyana is now working on a system transformation process with technical support from the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning and financial support from the Global partnership for Education that aims at addressing the gender and geographical gaps.

In Samoa, boys are also at a significant disadvantage in upper secondary education. According to UIS data, the gender gap in upper secondary completion has increased from 5.5 to 20 percentage points between 2000 and 2020. In terms of the SDG 4 global indicator 4.5.1, the gender parity index went up from 1.13 in 2000 to 1.30 in 2020. These values are much higher than the regional average in Oceania, which stands at 1.06. The government of Samoa is a signatory to the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration and recognizes that gender disparities at the expense of boys critically require attention. The Samoa Education Sector Plan 2019–2024 includes activities to identify and address gender disparity in participation and achievement. In addition, to support and monitor these activities, the sector plan emphasizes the importance of disaggregating all data by gender.

Visit the VIEW website to see the out of school rates disaggregated by gender for your country.

Download the policy paper

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