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Millennium Development Goals: Variables in Education Gender Parity 2007 [Charts]


The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals related to poverty, education, gender equality, health, environmental sustainability and development set in the year 2000 at the UN Millennium Summit, and adopted by 189 nations. The eight MDGs are associated with 21 quantifiable targets, tracked by 60 statistical indicators in annual reports issued by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The goals target attainment in the year 2015. Country-by-country data is also available.

The charts illustrate the aggregate data on gender parity in the world at three levels of education—primary, secondary, and higher, or tertiary education. Sixty-four percent of countries have achieved or exceeded gender parity in primary education, and less than a third of countries lagging behind in basic schooling. Sixty-five percent of countries have achieved or exceeded gender parity at the secondary education level, with more than a third still unable to offer secondary schooling to all girls. Only 6 per cent of countries have achieved parity in tertiary education for girls, but the disparity in favor of young women in higher education reflects the situation in developed countries. The 32 percent of countries that have not achieved gender parity in higher education include poorer countries where opportunities for higher education are relatively scarce, and girls remain at a disadvantage.

To further reveal the disparity among population groups, the second chart focuses on differences in residence and wealth related to gender parity in education, based on available data for 108 developing countries. In rural communities, only 39 percent of girls attend secondary education, in comparison with 45 percent of boys. By contrast, 59 percent of girls in urban areas attend secondary school—near parity with 60 percent of boys attending. Correlating household wealth with secondary school education, a tremendous gap between the wealthiest and the poorest in education opportunities becomes apparent. While 74 percent of boys and 72 percent of girls in the richest one fifth of families attend secondary school, only 31 percent of boys and 24 percent of girls in the poorest quintile of families attend secondary school.

To bridge these gaps, both cultural attitudes and public investment and policy need to be more favorable toward education. School fees, whether for tuition, transportation, uniforms or books are prohibitive barriers among poor families. There might not be sufficient daylight for rural students who have to travel long distances to attend secondary school to also study and complete household chores. Unsafe roads and concerns for the security of girls attending distant schools may also serve as cultural or practical barriers. However, the practice of secluding unmarried girls might be overcome through local recruitment of teachers or other creative means of achieving gender parity in education.


United Nations, Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, "MDG Report 2009 ENG.pdf (application/pdf Object)." <a class="external" href=""></a> (accessed July 7, 2009).

How to Cite This Source

"Millennium Development Goals: Variables in Education Gender Parity 2007 [Charts]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #286, (accessed August 10, 2021). Annotated by Susan Douglass