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Closing the Gender Gap in Education
May 31, 2002

"A child develops individuality long before he develops taste." —Erma Bombeck


UNICEF is committed to redressing the inequity in educational opportunities for girls. The UNICEF publication, Quality Education for All: From a Girls Point of View, outlines UNICEF's position:

"Girls and boys have the same right to quality education. But the gender gap quickly demonstrates that more girls than boys are kept out of school. In 1990, 20 percent of the world's primary school-aged-children were out of school, two thirds of them girls. By 2000, the number of children out of school had been brought down to about 120 million world-wide; most of these were girls....

"Learning begins at birth, but already not everything is equal. Children born into affluent homes are more likely than those born into poverty to receive care and benefits that will enhance early development and learning. Girls are more likely to be discriminated against from the beginning. They may receive less care, both in terms of nurturing and in terms of food. Their schooling is often sacrificed for their labour at home and beyond: girls are a large proportion of 'invisible' child workers. Often, parents simply do not think it is important to send girls to school...

"Girls are often invisible in the curriculum content and images. This means that girls may not find many illustrations or stories of girls and women in textbooks and other learning materials -- especially not of notable, empowered girls and women. It also means that girls are often told to take certain courses and not to take others....

"Within the same classroom, girls and boys often have very different and unequal learning experiences. Teachers may call on boys more than on girls or assign science and computer studies to boys and domestic subjects to girls. Girls are often pushed into non-professional courses...

"Ensuring quality for all learners, especially those who have been excluded in the past, is labour-intensive, time-consuming and costly, but for the good of humanity, we can and we must achieve it.

"When quality basic education is available, more girls and boys will participate and participate enthusiastically, and parents will see returns on their investments in their children's education."

For more information on UNICEF's position on girls' education, go to www.unicef.org.


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