Education International
Education International

Locked out: Privatised education leaves girls and women behind

published 7 July 2014 updated 8 July 2014

A new global report shows that girls and women are suffering the consequences of rising privatised education around the world, leaving them on the outside of the classroom looking in.

Today, 13 organisations around the world, including Education International (EI), delivered a report, ‘ Privatization and its Impact on the Right to Education of Women and Girls,’ to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), throwing the spotlight on the harmful and discriminatory effects inflicted on girls and women by privatised education. The CEDAW received the report for its General Discussion on girls’/women’s right to education, taking place in Geneva.

Structural discrimination

“For poor families, even low-fees charged by private schools are a massive disincentive to educating girls,” said Lucy McKernan, UN Liaison with the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in her reference to the report that once people are made to pay for school, many are excluded altogether from the education system, the majority of them girls and women.

The introduction of school fees means that more boys than girls are enrolled in school, with parents in many parts of world deciding to only send their sons, rather than their daughters to be educated. In the case of Uttar Pradesh, India, even so-called low-fee schools force families to dedicate nearly half of the household income to send all children to school.

Education for ALL

The organisations have provided the CEDAW with recommendations on the wording of the General Recommendation on girls’/women’s right to education, in particular that States must provide quality, accessible, free public schooling, making the choice of parents to send their daughters to school an easy one.

Also, citing one UN figure, the report reveals that of the 123 million youth between the ages of 15 – 24 who lack basic reading and writing skills, 61 percent are girls. The disturbing figure is made worse by the evidence proving that girls’ education can be linked to better family health, reduced fertility rates, and healthier children of educated women.

Breaking gender stereotypes

The report argues that standing in the way of free education are governments, whom for many education remains a low budget priority. Through influencing the language of the General Recommendation on girls’/women’s right to education, the 13 organisations hope to set clear guidelines for States to follow regarding gender inequality in order to reverse the privatisation trend.

Photographer: Petterik Wiggers for UNESCO