3. Promote gender equality and empower women
3.A) Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.
Unlike most of the other Millennium Development Goals, for which the deadline is 2015, the deadline for the 3rd MDG "Promote gender equality and empower women" was fast-tracked by ten years, highlighting the crucial importance of providing equal access to education. In its 2010 Millennium Development Goals Report, the United Nations asserts that an ongoing disparity between the numbers of girls and boys attending school will prevent the development of the knowledge required to eradicate poverty and hunger, combat disease and ensure environmental sustainability.
Developing countries are making progress towards gender equality in educational enrolment. In 2008, 96 girls for every 100 boys were enrolled in primary school, with 95 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in secondary school. Back in 1999, these ratios were 91:100 and 88:100 for the two levels of education respectively. Yet despite such progress, gender equality in primary and secondary education remains out of reach in many developing regions. The greatest challenges in terms of primary education exist in Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia. The gender gap in enrolment in secondary education is greatest in the three regions where overall enrolment is lowest – in sub-Saharan Africa, Western Asia and Southern Asia.
By contrast, in Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern and Southeast Asia a greater number of girls than boys are enrolled in secondary school. In terms of tertiary education, the male-female ratio in the developing world is approaching parity, with 97 girls enrolled per 100 boys. As noted by the United Nations report, however, this statistic is largely due to the fact that many more girls than boys are enrolled in higher education in the CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States of the former Soviet Union), Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern Africa and Southeast Asia. In most other regions, by contrast, the number of boys heavily outweighs the number of girls attending college and university. In sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, for example, only 67 girls per 100 boys, and 76 girls per 100 boys, respectively, are enrolled in tertiary education.
UNICEF, Goal: Promote gender equality and empower women