By: Lykke E. Andersen*
According to The World Bank’s World Development Indicators, there are now more or less an equal number of boys and girls enrolled in primary and secondary school around the World. The worldwide Gender Parity Index has been going up steadily over the last several decades, reaching 99 girls for every 100 boys in 2014, and at this rate of change we would have reached parity last year. This is due to dramatic improvements in girls’ enrolment in Africa and Asia. In Latin America and the Caribbean, in contrast, there have been more girls enrolled than boys already since the early 1980s (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: School enrolment, primary and secondary (gross), Gender Parity Index (GPI)
Source: Author’s elaboration based on the World Bank’s World Development Indicator: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ENR.PRSC.FM.ZS
However, while there are about the same number of girls and boys in school, girls tend to do significantly better in school than boys almost everywhere (1), and are therefore more likely to continue to tertiary level studies. This means that there are now more women than men enrolled at universities worldwide. The line of gender equality was passed in 2001, and globally, there are now 111 women enrolled in higher education for every 100 men. In Latin America, the gender equality line was passed already in 1992, and there are now about 130 female university students for each 100 male students (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Tertiary enrolment (gross), Gender Parity Index (GPI)
Source: Author’s elaboration based on the World Bank’s World Development Indicator: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ENR.TERT.FM.ZS
In the United States, women have outnumbered men in the universities since 1979, and the gender gap reached a record of 145 women for each 100 men in university in 2006 (2).
It is no wonder that white men in the US feel threatened by recent demographic changes, because on average, after graduating from high school, Hispanic women in the US are now about 22% more likely to go to college than white men (3).
Most people, even gender experts, are unaware of these dramatic reversals in educational gender gaps. This is a problem, because most development institutions still equate gender equality with the empowerment of women. For example, the 5th Sustainable Development Goal, signed by almost all countries in the World, is to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”
If we really want gender equality, we also have to address the areas where boys and men have problems, and they have serious problems in the World’s education systems. And I would argue that there is probably no bigger threat to women than uneducated men.
* Senior Researcher at INESAD. The viewpoints expressed in this blog are the responsibility of the author and probably do not reflect the viewpoints of Fundación INESAD.
(1) OECD (2015) The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence, PISA, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264229945-en.
(2) World Bank’s World Development Indicator: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ENR.TERT.FM.ZS.
(3) According to http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/03/06/womens-college-enrollment-gains-leave-men-behind/ 76% of recently graduated Hispanic Women continue to university while this is only the case for 62% of recently graduated White Men).