Girls' Education

Understanding barriers to girls’ education around the world

We are committed to researching the barriers to girls’ education, as well as interventions that can advance their access to schooling, and promote longevity in school and learning. Existing research tells a powerful story and girls’ education is rightly a policy and strategic priority for governments around the world. Higher levels of girls’ education have long been associated with better health, longer lives, improved child survival rates and financial security. Despite this, many girls are still not guaranteed access to school and remain at high risk of dropping out and failing to complete even basic education. The issues and the solutions are complex and multi-dimensional, and our research work has long focused on this topic. We produce research which can support policymakers and educational decision-makers to take action to support girls in accessing and completing quality education.

Rapid, high-quality research into issues concerning girls’ education

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and global school closures, progress in ensuring girls’ education is threatened. Our rapid response research therefore has a focus on girls’ education.

Evidence from past crises demonstrates that emergencies exacerbate existing gender inequalities and put adolescent girls – especially the most marginalised – at increased risk of falling further behind in their education, of early and forced marriages, and of early pregnancy, making it less likely that they will return to schools when they reopen.  New research conducted by our team – published by the EdTech Hub –  shows that addressing economic issues and the cost of education can support girls’ participation in education through period of crisis. Moreover, gender considerations are a vital component of the design and production of content for distance education, while continued interventions focused on life skills and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are also hugely important.

Research should also focus on the production of evidence to help policymakers to successfully support girls’ return to school upon reopening. To this end, our team is currently working on a series of studies that will provide comprehensive recommendations aimed at governments around the world.

Our research has provided vital information to support better delivery of education for the most marginalised girls.

Our programme has focused on aspects of school and schooling that affect the participation and learning of the most marginalised girls. For example, we produced a study exploring this topic in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) of Turkana and the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. This research was related to Education Development Trust's Department for International Development-funded Girls' Education Challenge programme in Kenya. The report offers a detailed, qualitative analysis of the practices and experience of education of 128 girls across 16 primary schools in these two regions. It examines:

  • Why marginalised girls in ASALs and slums participate and learn better in some schools than in others
  • Why there might be a higher proportion of girls enrolled in some of these schools
  • How reform can be supported in other Kenyan schools to increase enrolment, achievement and the completion of basic education for girls.

Another study looked in particular at how girls in pastoralist communities can be better supported to maintain their participation in education. The study had three main areas of focus:

  • Community members' attitudes to girls' participation in formal education
  • The aspirations that parents and girls themselves hold for participation in formal education
  • Perceived impediments to girls' participation in education.

We are also conducting ongoing research related to issues of girls’ participation and learning in Ethiopia, and have recently completed two helpdesk reports for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), looking at girl-focussed remote life skills interventions, and the links between girls’ life skills interventions in emergencies and their return to education post-crisis, and the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and early marriage. In addition, Ruth Naylor, Lead Advisor, Research, led the authors for the INEE Mind the Gap: The State of Girls’ Education in Crisis and Conflict report.