This is a rapid review of the evidence around girls and secondary education in developing contexts and summarise the key issues arising from this evidence.
- The cost of secondary education, including fees, other direct costs
and opportunity costs constitute the primary barrier to secondary
education in most contexts. The costs are often higher for girls than
boys. Strategies that address the cost barriers, such as fee
elimination and cash transfers are generally effective at increasing
girls’ participation in secondary education. The most direct and
fastest way for governments to boost girls’ enrolment is to ban
schools from collecting fees.
- Distance to school is another significant barrier to secondary
education for many girls. Interventions that provide additional girls’
school places in underserved areas are generally successful.
- Gender based violence in and around school, child marriage and early
pregnancy are all significant barriers to secondary education for
girls. Gender inequalities in expectations, roles, allocation of
chores and learning experience also act as barriers to girls’
participation in secondary education in many contexts.
- Over-age school attendance is very prevalent in low income countries.
Girls who are over age are more likely to drop out and less likely to
progress to secondary school.
- There are at least 20 countries where girls, on average, receive less
than 9 years education. In almost all of these countries, girls
receive fewer years of education than boys.
- In many countries where DFID works, education is not compulsory beyond
13 years of age. But in many countries where compulsory education
extends beyond this age, girls’ secondary enrolment rates are very
- There is inconsistent evidence as to whether private schools are
equally accessed by boys and girls. There is stronger evidence that
philanthropic and religious schools allow equal access to boys and
girls. Public Private Partnerships, where the state funds places in
private schools, appear to be beneficial to girls in contexts where
there is a good supply of quality private secondary school places for
- There is extensive evidence that disadvantage is compounded by being a
girl. Whilst the gender gaps in enrolment at the global and, in most
cases, at the national level are small, gender gaps to the detriment
of girls tend to be wider within the most marginalised populations.
However, few programmes target combinations of gender with other forms
of social exclusion.
- Social safety net programmes have been found to be effective at
helping poor rural girls to access secondary education but there is
evidence that the poorest of the poor sometimes miss out on receiving
the benefits they are entitled to.
- Non-formal accelerated learning programmes can help girls who have
missed out on education to catch up on their basic education. But very
little research or evaluation of the transition of girls from such
programmes into other forms of education has been published.
Naylor, R.; Mobey, H. Helpdesk Report: Evidence on girls secondary education. Health and Education Advice and Resource Team (HEART), Oxford, UK (2015) 29 pp.