A recent study by the American Psychological Association found that girls have consistently achieved better grades in school than boys for decades. Despite this revolutionary finding, there is still a disproportionate amount of girls around the world who are not granted equal access to education.

What was thought to be a recent “boy crisis” of boys falling behind girls in school has proven to be false. Girls have consistently done better in school for decades without any significant change.

Data collected between 1914 and 2011 in over 30 countries has shown that girls have persistently achieved better grades in every subject across the board. The regions included range from North America, to Europe, to the Middle East and Africa, with the grades of 538,710 boys and 595,322 girls from 308 studies.

Grades given by teachers and official grade point averages were used from elementary, middle and high school, as well as undergraduate and graduate levels. The largest gap was found to be in languages and the smallest gap in math and science. Although boys tended to score higher in math and science in standardized tests, this is only the test of aptitude for a given moment, whereas school grades require hard work over longer periods of time.

Co-Author of the study, Susan Voyer, notes that this phenomenon of girls out-performing boys appears to be a well-kept secret considering how little global attention it has received.

In 2011, UNICEF found that there were 31 million primary-school-aged girls and 34 million lower-secondary-school-aged girls who were not enrolled in school. That the study took place in countries across the globe, and not exclusively in one country or even one region, proves that there is a great deal of untapped potential. Imagine how much more could be achieved globally if every girl had access to education.

The benefits of allowing girls equal access to education are endless. When girls attend school, they delay marriage and in turn delay the age of child bearing. This saves the lives of both women and their children, because there are fewer risks when girls wait until after adolescence to bear children. UNESCO found that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, maternal deaths could be reduced by 70 percent, and child deaths reduced by 15 percent if all girls completed primary school.

The benefits continue to the next generation, as girls that attended school are far more likely to send their children to school. Girls can also earn higher wages and therefore gain economic independence as a result of receiving an education. When girls complete one year of secondary education, their wages later in life increase by 25 percent.

According to UNESCO, women make up two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate people. This is unfair given the existing research that shows that if given the opportunity, girls will continuously perform better in school than boys. Although girls should not have to prove themselves in order to receive equal access to education, this study is a testament to the mass amount of potential being lost by denying girls this human right.

– Kim Tierney 

Sources: UNICEF, PsyBlog, APA, UNESCO
Photo: She Knows

Education in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is the size of Western Europe with a wide variety of natural resources available within it. Although the economy is thriving due to the vast availability of these resources, the people of Kazakhstan have to live with the health effects of many of the Soviet-era decisions.

The people of Kazakhstan have to deal with the after-effects of nuclear testing and toxic waste dumping in addition to a higher incidence of HIV/Aids and increased addiction to drugs. In addition, due to poor irrigation plans during the Soviet Union, the Aral Sea is heavily polluted and shrinking quickly.

Kazakhstan has one of the fastest growing economies out of Central or Eastern Europe. This growth in the economy has led to the creation of a strong education system.


Here are 3 facts about education in Kazakhstan:


1. Education Reform.

In recent years, the Kazakhstan education system has been undergoing reform. There has been increased expenditures on education as well as an increase in requirement for the minimum years of education.

2. Increasing Attendance.

Around 9,000 children in Kazakhstan are not in school. This is the lowest rate of no school attendance for countries in eastern and central Europe. The rate of primary attendance is 91 percent while the rate of secondary attendance is 92 percent.

3. Quality of Education.

A survey that monitors the amount of learning reports that around 75 percent of students are proficient in literacy and mathematics. However, the performance of students in urban areas is much higher than for those in rural areas. In addition, teachers are underpaid, which is significantly harming the education system.

Although Kazakhstan has vast resources and funds available to them, there are still parts of the education system that are lacking. However, the government has worked on changing the education system in recent years, and will continue to reform the system until the students have a better quality and greater access to education.

– Lily Tyson

Sources: BBC, UNICEF
Photo: Telegraph

Education is one of the very few opportunities for poor people living in impoverished, underdeveloped countries. Basic education programs provide children with the skills necessary to acquire employment, as well as basic knowledge pertaining to health, hygiene and disease prevention. And yet, according to the U.N., 250 million children — even those who have spent at least four years in school — are not able to adequately read, write or count.

While many factors play into this staggering statistic, hunger is a key culprit when it comes to the millions of uneducated children worldwide. Here’s how hunger hurts learning:

1. Children who are malnourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year, which means 160 missed school days.

2. Vitamin A deficiency, which is directly linked to malnutrition, is the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness in developing countries; The World Health Organization estimates that each year, 500,000 children go blind as a result of vitamin A deficiency. Blindness makes it increasingly difficult for children to learn alongside their peers.

3. Malnutrition intensifies the symptoms and effects of diseases, such as malaria and measles. Children who are unable to combat these diseases lack the physical capacity to attend school and learn.

4. Malnutrition stunts not only physical, but also mental development, in young children, preventing them from reaching their full human and socio-economic potential as well as their potential to learn.

5. One out of five children born from an under-nourished mother is born with low birth weight. Low birth weight in children is linked to mental retardation, learning disabilities and blindness, all of which may prevent a child from receiving an education.

Hungry children suffer not only from malnourishment—and the litany of other harms it causes—but also from the incredible disadvantage of not being physically well enough to learn. Global education and global hunger are not mutually exclusive issues. A brand-new school with ample resources in Tanzania, for example, is useless without a classroom full of healthy children who are ready to learn.

Expecting Malaria-infected children to attend school and absorb information from excellent basic education programs is also impractical. We have a global responsibility not only to support education programs in third-world countries, but also to ensure that children are able to take advantage of the incredible opportunities education holds for them.

Due to the difficulty of learning while hungry and ill, in order to provide effective education, it is crucial that aid programs also address the global health and hunger crises in impoverished countries.

Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: World Hunger, UN.org, UN.org, Hellen Keller International
Photo: Your Mind Your Body

From May 12 to May 14 the Global Education for All summit will be held in Oman, at the Al Bustan Palace. The secretary-general of UNESCO’s Oman National Commission for Education, Culture, and Science stated that Oman was chosen because it “has been quite successful in achieving the EFA goals.” Between 52 and 70 countries are expected to attend and participate in discussions regarding the Education for All (EFA) goals and the 2013/2014 EFA Global Monitoring Report. In addition to these UNESCO member countries, many EFA agencies, UN organizations, and research organizations will participate.

UNESCO established the six EFA goals “to meet the learning needs of all children, youth, and adults,” with a set completion date of 2015. Released last month, the 11th Global Monitoring Report is titled Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All, and evaluates progress towards the completion of the EFA goals. Though progress has been made, the report makes it clear that it has not been enough to meet the 2015 deadline. The following is a summary of reported progress that has been made on each of the EFA goals since 1999.

Goal 1: To expand and improve comprehensive childhood care and education.

  • The global pre-primary education gross enrollment ratio was 50 percent in 2011, up from 33 percent in 1999, though in sub-Saharan Africa it reached only 18 percent in 2011.
  • Over this period, enrollment in pre-primary schools grew by 60 million children, but 57 million still have no access to primary education.
  • It is estimated that 48 percent of the 141 countries with data will reach the goal of pre-primary education gross enrollment ratio of 80 percent by 2015.

Goal 2: To achieve universal primary education

  • It is estimated that 14 countries have a population of 1 million or more children out of school.
  • Between 1999 and 2011, the number of children out of school decreased by half.
  • Between 1999 and 2011, the net intake rate for the first year of primary school increased from 81 percent to 86 percent.

Goal 3: To provide access to necessary learning and life-skills programs for youth and adults

  • The gross enrollment rate for lower secondary school increased from 72 percent in 1999 to 82 percent in 2011.
  • Since 1999, the number of out of school adolescents has fallen to 69 million, a decrease of 31 percent.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of out of school adolescents remained at 22 million between 1999 and 2011, due to population growth that counteracted increased enrollment.

Goal 4: To increase global adult literacy by 50 percent

  • It is estimated there are currently 774 million illiterate adults.
  • It is projected that by 2015, this number will fall to 743 million.
  • Nearly two-thirds of illiterate adults are women.

Goal 5: To eradicate gender disparities and achieve gender equality in education

  • It is estimated that by 2015, roughly 70 percent of countries will achieve equal enrollment of boys and girls in schools.
  • In 1999, 43 percent of 150 countries surveyed had achieved gender parity.
  • By 2015, it is expected that 56 percent of countries will achieve gender parity.

Goal 6: To improve the quality of all aspects of education

  • In 2011, 26 countries of the 162 surveyed had a primary education student/teacher ratio that exceeded 40:1.
  • Between 1999 and 2011, the student/teacher ratio in primary education rose by 20% in nine countries, but decreased by that much in 60 countries.
  • In one-third of countries with data, roughly 75 percent of teachers were not trained according to national standards.

At this rate, it is unlikely that the global community will achieve the EFA goals by 2015. However, both UNESCO and the UN are developing agendas to continue current growth and increase progress towards a new set of goals after 2015.

— Kristen Bezner

Sources: EFA Global Monitoring Report, Muscat Daily, UNESCO
Photo: Blackberg TV


In recent days, U.S. Senator Ed Royce (CA-R) announced that on April 3 the Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Women’s education in violence prone countries and how it can promote the creation of economic opportunities and counter radicalism. The hearing will count with the presence of three experts on women’s education. In the words of Royce, the aim of the hearing is to assess “how a failure to appreciate its importance can result in missed opportunities for development and counter-radicalism.”

In the last three decades education opportunities have been greatly expanded, yet women are still at a disadvantage. The difference in countries like Pakistan can be as much as 30 points. While 70 percent of men over 15 years of age are considered literate, for women this only reaches 40 percent. In Afghanistan, this difference is even more astonishing where only 13 percent of women can read and write.

According to Royce, the hearing will reinforce the correlation between women and girl’s education and the promotion of economic growth, childhood development and an increase in life expectancy overall. There is strong evidence that connects women’s education and an increase in a country’s GDP. As women enter the labor force they increase the earning potential of their family. Moreover, as women tend to spend their income on children more than men, this helps increase a child’s survival more than twenty times than families supported only by men.

Pakistan is of special interest, which is why, after the hearing, the committee will move on to considering the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act (H.R. 3583). In honor of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Malala Yousafzai, this bill would require that 50 percent of the scholarships awarded under it be given to Pakistani women.

This comes at the same time when private donors have pledged to donate 1 billion to Pakistan for the support of educational programs over the next three years. According the former prime minister and now UN special envoy for education Gordon Brown, the goal is to provide education to 55 million Pakistanis over the age of ten who are considered illiterate. Pakistan’s government also wants to dedicate more resources to education in order to eventually achieve universal education. This is good news for women and girls in Pakistan, since one of the major goals of the pledge is to get a step closer to the eradication of child marriage, child labor, and gender discrimination.

– Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Brown, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Photo: Glamour

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco, has long been a champion of increased literacy around the world. Since 1946, the specialized agency of the United Nations has fostered educational programs that “further universal respect for justice and the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion.”

Unfortunately for UNESCO and its benefactors, namely impoverished citizens of third world nations, developing countries’ “legacy of illiteracy” has made their mandate harder to achieve. Educational institutions remain highly inaccessible and a poor quality of education has left an estimated 175 million young black people without basic literacy skills.

Disproportionately, illiteracy affects women at a much higher rate than men. Women constitute 2/3 of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults, a fact contributable to underwhelming rates of female school enrollment.

The organization’s annual report titled, “Education for All Global Monitoring Report,” indicated an alarmingly high global illiteracy rate, with one in four youths in developing countries unable to read a sentence.

In the report’s foreword, Unesco director-general Irina Bokova asks for greater assistance in fighting illiteracy, including increased funding and an overhaul of problematic teaching practices.

“As this Report shows, equality in access and learning must stand at the heart of future education goals,” said Bokova. “We must ensure that all children and young people are learning the basics and that they have the opportunity to acquire the transferable skills needed to become global citizens.”

According to the report, an estimated 57 million children do not have access to schools, while 250 million of the children that are enrolled do not learn basic skills, despite half of them already having four years of experience at school. These 250 million children represent $126 billion in wasted educational funds, states the report.

Part of this problem originates in poor standards of teaching. Of 162 countries evaluated, 26 had a pupil/teacher ratio in primary education in excess of 40:1, 23 of which were located in sub-Saharan Africa. However, simply increasing the number of teachers is not a solution unto itself. Hiring qualified teachers is essential to promoting literacy and remains one of Unesco’s main objectives.

In view of these results, Unesco stresses the importance literacy and education has on the rest of the UN’s developmental goals.

“Educate mothers, and you empower women and save children’s lives. Educate communities, and you transform societies and grow economies,” said Bokova.

Emily Bajet

Sources: The Guardian, unicef, UNESCO, UNESCO, UNESCO
Photo: Kibae Park

Technology has, over the years, come to run our lives.  We rely upon it for anything ranging from healthcare innovation to entertainment.  Even now, you are reading this article that was composed on a computer for you to read on the Internet.  No paper newsletter for you.

It is precisely because technology is so all-encompassing for us that the following statistic is so shocking: 1 billion adults worldwide are illiterate.  Equaling 26% of the world’s total adult population, there are 1 billion people who cannot partake in the reading of this article, which you may be taking for granted.

Technology may have made reading and writing even more accessible in our sphere but in lesser-developed areas, such advancements are not seen.  According to UNESCO, the entire continent of Africa has a literacy rate of less than 60%.  Compare that to the 99% literacy rate in the United States.

However, there is hope.

Numerous organizations are dedicated to eradicating illiteracy. Here are five of the top literacy initiatives worldwide.

1. ProLiteracy

The mission statement of ProLiteracy is a perfect articulation of why literacy should be on the forefront of global advocacy: “…when individuals the world over learn to read, write, do basic math and use computers, the more likely they are to lift themselves out of poverty.”  The organization makes literacy for women in developing nations as a top action addressed by their donations and programs.

2. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning

UNESCO hosts a “LitBase” website, which chronicles programs worldwide that have been successful in combating illiteracy.  In doing so, UNESCO hopes to have a go-to source for advocates interested in starting or joining the cause.

3. World Literacy Foundation

The World Literacy Foundation was founded in 2003 to promote awareness of illiteracy by bringing together various government organizations and NGOs.  Some of the programs championed by the Foundation include the Write On English writing competition in Azerbaijan, founding the Centre of Hope computer center in Uganda and the USAID-supported Fantastic Phonics computer program.

4. Global Literacy Project

A key program of the Global Literacy Project is the shipment of books and basic educational supplies throughout Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.  The Walk-for-Literacy fundraiser housed at Rutgers University is run through the Global Literacy Project as well.

5. Literacy.org

Founded at the University of Pennsylvania through a partnership with UNESCO, literacy.org (formerly the Literacy Research Center) has been training teachers and advocates of literacy since 1983.  Literacy.org also hosted a summer intensive workshop in Philadelphia for mid-career professionals interested in promoting literacy in developing countries.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: ProLiteracy, UNESCO LitBase, World Literacy Project, Global Literacy Project, Literacy.org
Photo: Vintage 3D