Are We Willing to Wait Another 100 Years for Education Equity? – Women Deliver

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October 11, 2016 Philippa Lei, Advocacy Director Malala Fund

Are We Willing to Wait Another 100 Years for Education Equity?


As many of us watched the Olympics this summer, we saw athletes break world records and set new personal bests. We determine the winners by their speed, distance or technical ability — visible and, in most cases, objective results.

You can think of the Sustainable Development Goals as the world’s quality of life or human rights Olympics. The end result of each goal is clear — eradicating extreme poverty, help developing countries adapt to climate change, give all children access to 12 years of education.

What is not clear is how we will measure the results. Just like Olympians can’t run a race without a clock, we can’t track progress on the SDGs without indicators.


At Malala Fund, our work focuses on Target One of Goal Four:

Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education by 2030.

As of today, statisticians charged with drafting the SDG indicators have proposed to measure the following:

Proportion of children and young people in grades two/ three; at the end of primary (elementary) school; and at the end of lower secondary (junior high) school achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics, by sex.

This indicator does not match up to the target. If this if all we track, we will not measure children out of school or children in upper secondary school. How will we know if we’ve reached the goal of getting all children IN school, if we’re not measuring children OUT of school? And how will we know if all children are going to school for 12 years, if we stop tracking them after nine years at the lower secondary level?

A faulty indicator hurts girls the most — as they are most likely to be out of school, particularly secondary school. If we say girls count, we must count girls.

If we continue at our current rate of progress, it will be 100 years — a full century — before the poorest girls around the world go to school for 12 years. As the SDG statisticians meet in Addis Abba this month, Malala Fund is sounding the alarm about this faulty indicator. Join us and Women Deliver for a Virtual Conversation on 13 October to learn more.

Photo courtesy of: Jonathan Torgovnik

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