Title Page
 State of art
 Obstacles to rural women's attending...
 Factors facilitating rural girls'...
 Policy recommendations

Title: Access of rural girls to primary education in the Third World
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00087316/00001
 Material Information
Title: Access of rural girls to primary education in the Third World state of art, obstacles, and policy recommendations
Physical Description: 34 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Safilios-Rothschild, Constantina, 1934-
United States -- International Development Cooperation Agency
United States -- Agency for International Development. -- Office of Women in Development
Publisher: Agency for International Development :
Distributed by Office of Women in Development, Agency for International Development, International Development Cooperation Agency
Place of Publication: Washington D.C
Publication Date: 1979
Subject: Education -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Women -- Education -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Education, Primary -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Ghana
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 28-34).
Statement of Responsibility: Constantina Safilios-Rothschild.
General Note: "October 1979."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00087316
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 08853564

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title Page
    State of art
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
    Obstacles to rural women's attending and completing elementary education
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
    Factors facilitating rural girls' access to formal education
        Page 19
        Page 20
    Policy recommendations
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page R-1
        Page R-2
        Page R-3
        Page R-4
        Page R-5
        Page R-6
        Page R-7
Full Text




Constantina Safilios-Rothschild

Paper prepared for AID/WID October 31, 1979


1. The Statistical Picture

In the Third World, women's literacy and access to primary education

still lags behind that of men, and the situation is more accentuated for

rural than for urban women. The present picture as well as the degree

of progress made in increasing women's access to formal education varies

considerably from continent to continent and from country to country.

In Latin America, for example, women have as much access to primary

education as men, and this access has spread quite widely since 1975,

when 78% of girls (and boys) 6-11 years old were enrolled in school.(

Despite an almost universal literacy in many Latin American countries,

rural women (and men) still often have less access to formal education

than urban women and men. In Asia, despite the greatest increase in

the Third World in the number of girls 6-11 years of age attending

school, (2) the discrepancy between girls and boys of that age enrolled

in school is large (50% of girls and 71% of boys in 1975).(3) The great-

est discrepancy between boys' and girls' access to primary education is

found among low income Asian countries, especially Afganistan, Bhutan,

and Nepal in which girls represent less than 20% of primary school stu-

dents. In Africa where girls attend primary school from the ages 6-18,

the gap between women and men seems to have widened from 1960 to 1975

rather than diminished, especially in the age group of 12-17.(5) In

West Africa, despite increases in total enrollment of girls, female en-

rollment still lags behind that of boys,and according to UNESCO projec-

tions, these disparities will further increase by 1985.(6) Thus, girls in

West and Middle Africa will continue to have less access to formal educa-

tion than in other LDC's.

In general, the overall trends indicate that women's access to pri-

2 -

mary education continues-to be lesser in the low income developing

nations of Africa, Asia, but not of Latin America, as well as in North

Africa and the Middle East. In these areas, about one-third or less

of the primary school students are women.(

The statistical picture becomes clearer and more meaningful, how-

ever, when we come down to the level of specific countries. In 1971,
for example, 18.4% of Indian women and 39.5% of Indian men were literate,

but the discrepancy between rural and urban Indian women was even larger:

13.2% of the rural and 42.3% of the urban women were literate. But

even within Indian states, there is considerable variation from Kerala

where 53.1% of rural (and 60.6% of urban) women are literate to Bihar

with 6.4% of the rural women literate and to Rajastan with 4% of the

rural women literate.(0) The situation is even more extreme in Morocco

where, in 1971, only 14% of all women were literate, but only 2% of the

rural women and 38% of the urban women(11) and in rural Yemen, only 2.4% of

the women were literate.(12) At the other extreme, Chile represents a

country nearing universal literacy for both women and men and El Salva-

dor which has achieved sex parity in literacy although rural men and women

lag behind the urban population. In Asia, Thailand is the counterpart

where female literacy in rural areas is now almost universal.(13)

It seems, therefore, that rural women have consistently less ac-

cess to literacy than rural men but'also less access than urban women.

It must be underlined, however, that literacy is not the most important

indicator of access to primary education since in some countries literacy

does not necessarily imply school enrollment and even less often pri-

mary school graduation, In India, for example, 40% of women literates
S (14)
have not completed primary school, and it is graduation that is crit-

3 -

ical for admission to important vocational training such as agricultur-

al training. Also about 20% of the literate women in the slums of Istan-
bul had acquired literacy without schooling.

In most cases, however, enrollment statistics are not meaningful

and accurate unless the cohorts of entering students are followed up

through graduation since the dropout and doubling up rates for all stu-

dents, particularly girls, are quite high. If completion of grade four

can be taken as an indication of the level of education needed in order

to become and remain literate, only about half of the children who en-

tered primary education in 1970 attained this level. More children,

however, in Africa than in Latin America or South Asia were able to
finish the fourth grade. Here again, there are considerable variations

from country to country, from rural to urban as well as according to

gender. In India, for example, out of 1,000 entrants to primary

schools, only 475 boys and 407 girls are still in school after five

years, while only 226 girls and 439 boys are still in school after six

years in Cambodia and 68 girls and 80 boys in Syria.(17) More detailed

data from Algeria show that only 39% of the boys and 30% of 1,000 en-

trants completed the six years of primary education.

In general, educational wastage is higher in rural areas and

for girl students. Thus, in Algeria, for example, the wastage of girl

students was much higher in rural areas where only 21% of the women

graduated than in urban areas where 36% of the women succeeded in grad-

uating. Also, the discrepancies between Algerian boy and girl grad-

uates were larger in rural areas where 19% more boys than girls gradua-

ted than in urban areas where only 7% more boys than girls graduated.

It is of interest to note that, although girl students show a

greater degree of educational wastage than boys, their wastage is more


often due to dropping out while boys' wastage is more often due to repe-

tition of grades.(19) Girls' attrition from primary school seems, there-

fore, to be less due to failure to be promoted than to withdrawing from

school for non-scholastic reasons. Boys, on the other hand, tend to

"hang on" regardless of scholastic performance as some detailed data

from rural India suggest, according to which boys show greater persis-
tence in school than girls.

'A small but in-depth study of rural school girls in Ghana shows

quite clearly the reality facing schoolgirls in many LDC's in terms of

the nature of factors responsible for their withdrawal from school.

Schoolgirls in the elementary school ranged from 6 to 20 years, one-

fifth of whom were 18 or older, and half of the girl dropouts were 18 or
older and another one-third were 16-17. The age range of the rural

Ghanian schoolgirls is not unique for the rural areas of many African

countries and is due to delayed entry into school as well as to tempor-

ary dropping out and re-entering into the same grade after some time or

to repetition of grades due to failure. The older, however, the school-

girls, the greater the probability that they will drop out because they

get married, because they get pregnant, or because they lose interest

in school, especially when they are able to do some kind of work and

earn some money. The Ghanian case study clearly shows these trends:

37.8% of the schoolgirls who dropped out of school did so because they

became pregnant. Furthermore, over 20% of the girls were engaged in some economic

activity to raise some money and about 80% of them did some kind of

trading as helpers to theirmothers or guardians or by themselves.

These girls are introduced to trading from an early age (6-16 years old)

by often keeping the daily accounts of their mothers' sales and in this

-5 -

way are exposed to the possibility of immediate monetary rewards with-
out the benefit of schooling.

The relationships also between early marriage and withdrawalfrom

school is clear-cut. In Pakistan, for example, only 2% of girls aged

15-19 were enrolled in school and 75% of them were married. (23) The

overall trend for LDC's is a negative relationship between early mar-

riageand school enrollment. More specifically, where girls 15-19

years old defer marriage, their rates of school enrollment tend to be

the same for both sexes, but where they marry young, their enrollment

rates are much lower than those for men.(24) Thus, marriage also inter-

feres with graduation from primary school since a considerable percent-

age of the enrolled girls are 15 years and over.

2. The Importance of an Elementary School Education

Rural girls' access to formal education is the key to their.inte-

gration to the mainstream development efforts of their countries and to

the opening of educational, employment and even maritl options. Grad-

uation from elementary school is crucial for rural girls because:

a) it firmly establishes literacy, and it opens up options

to participate in different types of vocational training

such as agricultural and cooperative training;

b) it increases their ability to take part in different

types of rural developmentefforts and non-formal, exper-

imental educational programs;

c) it contributes to a more extensive literacy and schooling

for the following generations;

d) mothers' education has been found to improve the nutritional
status of children;25

e) it tends to make women more receptive to family planning;

f) it helps women achieve and benefit more from different

types of non-formal education;(26)

g) it has been found to be related to increased farm produc-


The importance of mothers' education for children's education and

nutritional status (as well as for their health) is such that the need to edu-

cate women in LDC's could be strongly argued even only for the sake

of future generations. The poverty cycle cannot be broken as long

as women do not have access to primary education. Iranian data showed

that rural adult male literacy is more closely associated with the school-

ing of boys than of girls while a higher adult female literacy improves
schooling, of both boys and girls about equally.7 And, a study in

Senegal showed that children's regularity of attendance at primary school

as well as their aspirations to more education is influenced by the
1 (28)
mothers' literacy and level of education.

But equally significant is the accumulating evidence that primary

education helps increase farm productivity. In India, for example, lit-
erate farmers were found to produce higher yields per acre.(29) And a

recent survey of 18 studies examining the relationship between farmer

education and farm efficiency concluded that farm productivity increases

on the average, by 7% when farmers have completed four years of school

rather than none.(30) We can, therefore, expect that literate women

farmers' increased productivity may be accomplished by their having ac-

cess to agricultural and cooperative training; by seeking more contact

with agricultural extension workers; by being more aware and more open

and accepting of existing nonformal programs, facilities (e.g., agricul-

tural credit) and strategies that can increase their productivity; and


by being better able to implement new ideas and to use existing facil-

ities. Graduation from primary school helps rural women's linkage with

the "modern" world and with making the first important step toward be-

coming "integrated" into rural development.

While up to now, we have been examining the importance of rural

women's access to primary education in terms of the improvement of

their options within the rural context, we must also examine the opening

up of options outside the rural context. Primary school education will

also provide rural women with the option of migration to urban areas

since there is considerable evidence that formal education is related
to higher rural-to-urban migration rates. This, however, seems to

be more true for areas in which women are not widely actively involved

in agriculture as is more often true for some Latin American countries

and the Near East than for Africa.(32) To the extent that women's increased

access to formal education is inot accompanied by increased access to agri-

cultural training, rural women's formal education may lead to their mi-

gration to the cities. If, however, rural women's primary school gradu-

ation was followed up by agricultural training in many countries and re-

gions many women would become productive farmers instead of seeking an

uncertain future in the cities.

In some rural areas, however, the available agricultural land is

limited and of poor quality and cannot absorb everybody's labor even

at a subsistence level, regardless of economically feasible improvements.

In these cases, it is important for rural women to have the option to

migrate to urban areas instead of having to stay in totally unproductive

fans abandoned by men and to have a primary school education which is a

requirement for vocational training programs. After all, increasing

urbanization, especially in Africa, is an inevitable reality and rural

women must have formal education at the elementary level as a basic skill
for their rural-to-urban transition.

Finally, primary school education is a basic prerequisite for women's

access to higher education and thus to upward social mobility. Even

when only a handful of rural girls are able to continue their education,

this'option is completely blocked when, for a variety of reasons, they

are not able to complete primary school.


The obstacles to rural women's access to elementary education can

be grouped in the following categories:. 1) competing household and child-

care tasks and responsibilities; 2) competing involvement in productive

activities; 3) parents', and especially fathers', negative attitudes toward

daughters' education; 4) parents' limited financial and educational re-

sources; 5) shortage of schools; 6) shortage of women elementary school

teachers and male teachers' negative attitudes toward women's education

and ability to learn; 7) dropping out of school because of pregnancy or

marriage; 8) poor school performance and dropping out of school because

of malnutrition and chronic infections; and 9) educational sex-segregation.

1. Competing Household and Childcare Tasks and Responsibilities

In most developing nations, young girls begin to have house-

hold and childcare tasks and responsibilities from a very early age,

often from the time they are 5-6 years old. This picture is accen-

tuated in the urban slums and the rural areas of the Third World

where a six-year old girl carrying a baby in her arms and another

child trailing behind her is a familiar sight. The mother role

is thrust upon girls from childhood on and it continues throughout


life with adverse consequences for the prevailing fertility rates.

Time budget studies conducted in rural areas of several LDC's

clearly show how young girls have to spend much more time in house-

hold and childcare tasks than boys and are, thus, less able than

boys to attend school and to do their homework. In rural Java, for

example, girls 6-8 years old spend 1.7 hours per day in childcare

while boys of the same age spend 1.2 hours. Girls 9-11 years old

.spend 1.9 hours per day doing household tasks while boys of the same

age spend only 0.9 hours and more hours in school than girls (3.5

hours instead of 2.9 hours spent in school by girls). In rural

Nepal, girls 6-8 years old spend over eight times more hours in

child care than boys of the same age and five times less hours in
school.(34) Similar trends have been reported for rural Peru where

daughters are much more likely than sons to help with cooking and

washing and,above age 10, to substitute for the mothers in the prep-

aration of meals.(35) The same trends have been found in rural

(36) (37) (38)
Yemen36 rural Bangladesh,(37) and Botswana.38

The fact that rural girls are given more child care and house-

work tasks and responsibilities, especially older daughters,

than boys affects their access to education both directly and in-

directly. Girls are not sent to school at all or are withdrawn

from it earlier than boys as well as made to miss school because

they must stay home and take care of younger siblings and do house-

work. Days and hours missed at school interfere with their abil-

ity to follow lessons and to perform satisfactorily. In this way,

girls receive bad grades, repeat classes and eventually lose inter-

est in school, and male teachers' negative attitudes about girls'

ability to learn are further reinforced. Furthermore, because the

10 -

child care and household tasks compete with time

available for studying (especially while there is still daylight),

girls have much less time to do their homework and are, thus,placed

at a disadvantage in school until the road of least resistance be-

comes their dropping out of school.

2. Competing Involvement in Productive Activities

Children's involvement in different types of productive

activities varies considerably by cultural area, country and region.

In some countries, boys are much more often involved in productive

activities than girls, as it has been documented for the village
(39) (40) In
of Char Jopalpur in Bangladesh, and rural Botswana.(40) In
other countries such as rural Java, it has been found that boys

spend'more time than girls in agricultural activities, but girls

spend more time than boys in handicrafts and in rural Nepal,

girls over 9 years of age spend more time than boys in agricultural
activities. Water carrying is often girls' responsibility. In ru-

ral Yemen, for example, girls begin carrying water in small containers

over their heads from the age of 6, and by the time they are 10, they
are responsible for providing the household with water. Another

survey in the Kivu province of Zaire showed that boys up to the age

of 10 were not at all involved in productive activities while girls
5-9 years old helped with weeding and carrying water. This age

difference in responsibility and time commitment between boys and

girls represents an important headstart for boys' primary education.

What is important in all cases is that girls spend considerably more

time than boys in total work, household and child care and productive

activities combined, which seriously interferes with school attendance

as well as school performance.

In West Africa from an early age, girls are heavily involved

- li -

in their mothers' trading activities in addition to child care and

housework and,thus, often lose interest in school since they have

little time and opportunity to study and the more attractive oppor-

tunity to gain some money overshadows any potential long-range

gains from education. Because West African rural women traders

are very often illiterate, they do not value formal education for

their daughters and are not always able themselves to make the nec-

essary linkages with the more "modern" western-style trade that would

allow them to become successful.

3. Parents'Negative Attitudes Toward Daughter's Education

In many LDC's parents feel that it is much more important to

educate sons rather than daughters since sons are expected to sup-

port old parents, and daughters are expected to marry and be sup-

ported by their husbands. (45) The lower priority given to daughters'

education is further justified in terms of the higher cost of such

education because girls who attend school are not available to help

at home. Because girls are immediately needed in the household as

labor but boys are valuable as social security, time allocated to

education would interfere with their ability to contribute labor, and,

on the contrary, can/may enhance boys' value as social security.

In addition to the perceived lesser functionality of education

for girls whose labor is needed at home, parents often hesitate

to educate their daughters because they are afraid that education will

make them disobedient, disrespectful and "bad" daughters and wives
who do not abide by the localtraditions. This resistance becomes

adamant in Muslim countries and regions in which women's virginity,

sexual purity, and lack of any contact with men is necessary for

marriage. In these countries, early marriage is viewed as the best

protection of the girl's good reputation, and parents are anxious

- 12 -

to marry their daughters as soon as possible and thus, transfer

the responsibility for their sexual and moral conduct to their hus-


In general, parents' motivation to educate their daugh ers re-

mains quite low as long as literate and educated wives are not par-

ticularly valued and sought after as partners and as long as women

are not viewed as economically active as men.

4. Parents' Limited Financial and Educational Resources

As we saw earlier, illiterate mothers seem to contribute to

all children's and especially to daughters' illiteracy and poor

school performance. But what seems- to be even a more significant bar-

rier to rural girls' access to elementary school education is pover-

ty, especially when combined with traditional values downplaying

women's education and an underprivileged social status resulting

from membership in a discriminated against ethnic or religious group.

In fact, poverty and tradition often coincide since rural and poor

people usually uphold traditional values much more faithfully than

other people. Since, within the rural context, girls' formal edu-

cation is defined as a luxury, the smaller the parents' financial

resources, the smaller the probability that daughters will have the

same access to formal education as sons. In rural Malaysia, for

example, parents' low socio-economic status represents an impor-

tant barrier to Chinese (but not as much to Malay) women's access

to formal education while it does not constitute a barrier to Chi-

nese men's access to formal education.48 In India the daughters

of Harijans and other scheduled castes have less access to literacy

and primary education than daughters in other rural families,49

and within each caste category, girls' access to schooling increases

- 13 -

twice more than boys' access with size of parental landholding.(50)

The more parents can afford to pay the fees, the cost of books and

the necessary clothes involved in the education of all children,

the grater the daughters' chances to receive a formal education.

The more, however, parents must set financial priorities, the more

boys.are educated at the expense of girls. Parents feel that in-

vesting in a son's education will have higher economic returns

than investing in a daughter's education.51) Furthermore, educa-

ted sons may also be better able to help with dowry and other ex-

penses connected with daughters. As a matter of fact, a study in

Nepal showed that the more daughters in the family the more school-

ing the father wanted for his sons who presumably would thus be
better able to help with the financial "burden" of many daughters.(52)
5. Shortage of Schools

While shortage of schools in LDC's is a definite barrier to

all children's access to formal education, it constitutes an even

greater barrier to rural, poor children and especially, to girls

within this context. In Afganistan, for example, where schools

are sex-segregated from grades 1 to 12, only 12.4% of village schools

(with 3-4 elementary grades) and primary schools are for girls.

Urban slum areas share with rural areas the greatest shortage of

schools and rural girls suffer the most from this shortage for the

following reasons:

a) when schools are available only in other villages, and

attendance requires walking long distances, parents are

reluctant to send their daughters to schools, especially

in countries in which girls' sexual purity is carefully

b) rural girls whose parents are poor are more handicapped

14 -

by the shortage of schools than girls whose parents have

sufficient resources to send her to school in another

village or town;

c) in LDC's in which primary education is sex-segregated,

the shortage of schools is much more accentuated with

regard to girls' schools, especially in rural areas.

But even when the rural schools are co-educational but

small, male teachers most often accommodate the boys in

the limited space available.

In addition to the shortage of school buildings and space, the

almost complete lack of textbooks and educational material in rural

schools affects negatively boys'aid girls' interest in school as

well 'as learning.(55) At least some of the educational wastage among

rural boys and girls could be attributed to their lack of motiva-

tion created by the lack of textbooks and other written material.

6. Shortage of Women Elementary School Teachers

Despite the fact elementary school teaching almost universally

is a "feminine" occupation and the majority of those teachers are

women in such countries as Jamaica (79%), Nicaragua (79%) Philippines

(78%), and Mexico (61%), women are seldom teachers in the least de-

veloped countries or regions. Thus, only 2% of primary school teach-

ers are women in Bangladesh, 18% in Afganistan, 21% in Morocco and

28% in Liberia.(56) Furthermore, women elementary school teachers

tend to concentrate mostly in the cities and are, therefore, rarer

in rural areas. While, for example, 50% of elementary school

teachers in Lagos are women, only 15% are women in Muslim North Ni-

geria and 17% in East Nigeria.(5 And in Afganistan, only 1.4% of

teachers in village schools are women. Women teachers often prefer

- 15 -

to stay unemployed in urban areas rather than accept a job in a

rural school because of lack of housing, low salaries and the dif-

ficult life for young single women in a rural area. This is par-

ticularly true in Muslim societies in which the honor code makes

it very difficult for a single woman to live alone in a small rural

community. In Pakistan, for example, it has been reported that

women teachers' absenteeism is very high and sometimes they remain

on the payroll without ever going there, so that the school exists

only in official records.(59)

The importance of women elementary school teachers is highlighted

by UNESCO data showing that the percentage of elementary school child-

ren who are female increases proportionately with the percentage of

elementary school teachers who are woren.(60) It is, of course,

possible that this relationship is due to the fact that the same

factors are responsible for girls' higher access to primary educa-

tion and for women's choice of elementary school teaching as a career.

It is, however, even more plausible that the presence of women

teachers encourages parents to send their daughters to school because

it establishes the potential economic usefulness and social status

of women's education(61) and that women teachers hold less negative

attitudes toward girl pupils than men teachers. In many rural Muslim

areas such as rural Bangladesh only women teachers can teach girls

and, therefore, the very low percentage (2%) of women primary school

teachers has to drastically increase before rural girls' access to

primary school education can be facilitated.

The beneficial effect of women primary teachers on girls' educa-

tional chances may be also due to the possibility that they discrim-

- 16 -

inate against girls.less than male teachers. Possibly they do not

have uniformly low achievement expectations from girl students, and

they may not structure the classroom environment so that it dimin-

ishes girls' chances. In Senegal, for example, Wolof girls were

placed by the (male) teachers at the back of the classroom from

where they could not hear well and could not follow class proceed-

ings. Because of this, their scholastic performance was poor, thus

reinforcing their teachers' low expectations of them. Eventually,

they became discouraged and dropped out of school or were sent

home by the teachers.

7. Dropping Out of School Because of Pregnancy or Marriage

Since we have already presented the relevant data in Section A,

there is no need for further elaboration.

8. Malnutrition and Chronic Infections

While malnutrition is often widespread among children in the

rural areas of many LDC's, there is some evidence that it is more
widespread among pre-adolescent and adolescent girls than boys.

A study of malnutrition among children in rural Punjab showed that

girls were more often malnourished than boys regardless of their

caste. Despite variation in the incidence of malnutrition between

caste, within each caste there were three or more malnourished girls

for each malnourished boy.(63) 'Furthermore, field studies under-

taken by the Indian Council of Medical Research showed than in 1971

girls outnumbered boys four to three among children with Kwashior-

kor.(64) In rural Philippines, on the other hand, it was found that

families spend more money on food for boys than for girls, especially

in the one to six year old age group (400 and 287 peros respective-

- 17 -

ly).65 And in rural Guatemala, it was found that a protein sup-

plement improved most the mental development scores of girls from

the poorest families since boys tend to be treated preferentially

when resources (food or money) are scarce.

It seems, therefore, that the more food and financial resources

are scarce in the rural part of the Third World, the greater the

probability that -girls will be malnourished and that their mental

development may be low. There is considerable research evidence

from a number of LDC's that malnutrition affects children's mental

development and ability to learn. (67) Children who were treated

for malnutrition when they were toddlers were found to perform

25% of a standard deviation below the mean in scholastic achievement

at the primary school level. Malnourished children have shorter

attention span lower stamina, are more apathetic, cannot concentrate,

their hearing as well as their memory may be poor and their cognitive

abilities may be impaired. Because malnourished children are

apathetic and lack motivation, concentration, and responsiveness,

teachers tend to respond less and to interact less with the children

with serious repercussions for learning and for staying on in school.

In fact, studies from Thailand and Nigeria tie malnutrition and ill

health to irregular attendance, failure in examinations, and dropping

out of school.(70) Since girls are more often malnourished than boys

and spend more time than boys in child care, housework and agricul-

tural activities, they may more often be tired when they are in

class and may have great difficulty concentrating, performing well

and staying in school.

Furthermore, malnutrition lowers resistance to infectious and

parasitic diseases, and parasitic diseases contribute to malnutrition.(71)

Light infections with Ascariasis, for example, diminish children's

- 18 -

ability to absorb nutrients so that 3% of ingested calories are

lost and heavy infections can lead to non-utilization of 25% of
ingested calories. Malnourished girls are found to suffer from

chronic infections such as ear, eye, skin and upper respiratory

diseases (colds, bronchitis, asthma) which further lower their

stamina and impair their ability to attend school, to concentrate,

and to perform at a satisfactory level.73

9. Educational Sex-Segregation

The existence of sex-segregation at the primary school level

more clearly than at the secondary school level indicates the preva-

lence of traditional sex role stereotypes and women's inferior sta-

tus. We could, therefore, hypothesize that sex-segregation represents

an additional barrier to women's access to formal education, but not

enough information is available from rural areas of LDC's to test this


" 19 -


1. No Brothers in the Family. When there are only daughters, parents may

often choose the most intelligent girl (as a substitute for the missing son),

educate her as much as it is possible and have high aspirations for her. In

the absence of sons, parents cannot give priority to their education and
daughters have a better probability of attending school.

2. Visible Disabilities. Girls with visible disabilities, congenital or

acquired in childhood, are encouraged, if not obliged, by their parents to

get educated. In an epidemiological study of chronic disabilities including

the study of attitudes toward the disabled, in rural Orissa and Maharashtra

in India, it was found that the visible disability was viewed as a clear

obstacle to the girls' ability to marry. They were, therefore, educated in

order to obtain the necessary skills for survival. In this situation, schools

became accessible even when they were at a great distance or even when the

girls could not walk since the father was willing to carry her back and forth

from school. It is interesting to note that boys' disabilities did not neces-

sarily increase their chances of schooling; on the contrary, in some cases

they became an additional obstacle.(75)

3. High Socio-Economic Status. As we already saw, the higher the parents'

socio-economic status, the greater the probability that rural girls will

complete primary school.

4. Women's Literacy and Education Becomes a Marriage Asset. The assertion

made by the Indian National Committee on the Status of Women that "the

strongest social support for girls' education comes from its increasing
demand in the marriage market" is definitely correct with regard to primary

school education. Literate women and women with a primary school education

are by now more desirable brides than illiterate ones even in the rural areas

20 -

of most LDC's such as, India and the Muslim North Nigeria, It is above this

elementary education that the evidence becomes mixed as the desirability of

women's higher education is tempered by men's fears that well educated

women will not be willing to accept a subordinate position vis-a-vis their


5. The Presence of Female Role Models. As we saw already, the presence of

women teachers is usually related with girls' higher access to formal educa-

tion. The same, although not so strong a relationship, seems to exist between

the presence of women family planning motivators or health auxilliaries. This

was documented in a nutritional study carried out in several Guatemalan

villages during which girls' mental development scores were improved partly

because they were given a protein supplement and partly because the model

provided by the female nurses, nutritionists and program assistants involved

in the study allowed girls to have occupational expectations for their own

future. Improved mental development scores help the girls do better in school

and, therefore, improve their chances of staying longer in school since usually
only the smart girls are encouraged by teachers and parents alike.

- 21 -


Some of the policies which would help increase rural girls' access

to primary school education are policies which would help increase access

of low income children of both sexes to primary education. This is so be-

cause sex differentials in access to primary education are much more ac-

centuated among low income households, districts, and nations in which

choices must be made as to who can get educated. Policies aiming to im-

prove low income children's educational chances benefit both boys and

girls. Such policies include:

1. Compulsory primary school education combined with self-help

rural development projects which involve the community with the

building of schools utilizing local material and know-how as

well as their maintenance. In addition, the community should be

responsible for providing housing for teachers, especially women

teachers, thus, partially subsidizing their expenses in order to

be able to attract and keep them. The teacher and the students,

with the help of agricultural extension, could develop agricultural

projects (such as a small garden) which could help support the

school while at the same time providing the rural boys and girls

with valuable agricultural information.

Compulsory primary school education in a poor country

either would not be adopted as a policy or would not be imple-

mented due to prohibiting costs unless massive foreign aid was

made available. The backing of such a policy with concrete com-

munity involvement and contributions increases the probability

that a policy of compulsory primary school education will, in

- 22 -

fact, be implemented. Also, in this way, rural students would be

able to go to a school in their own village rather than have to

walk often long distances which tends to increase girls' withdraw-

al from school.

Since no systematic evaluation data are available as to the

degree to which compulsory primary school education improves rural

girls' access to primary education, it is not possible to determine

whether the gap between boys' and girls' access to primary educa-

tion is decreasing and whether this decrease is due to the imple-

mentation of the compulsory education policy.

2. The compulsory primary education should be strengthened by:

a) giving teachers and students free textbooks and other

educational material which can dramatically improve the

amount of knowledge accessible to boys and girls and in-

crease their motivation to stay in school.

b) Some kind of food program offering breakfast and lunch

to pupils, and thus, reaching the most frequently malnour-

ished group, the rural school-age girls.

c) Basic education in hygiene, innoculations against infec-

tious diseases, parasitic treatments, antibiotics, and vita-

min supplements. The realistic implementation of this pol-

icy requires that teachers (especially those to serve in

rural and low-income urban areas) should receive some basic

education in hygiene and health as well as some practical

health skills such as being able to innoculate the students.

Alternatively, in countries in which there are already auxili-

ary health workers at the village level, arrangements should be

- 23 -

made so that they can undertake this role within the schools.

3. Different types of policies and programs are needed to help decrease

the excessive time spent by rural women in household work which

has to be at least partially undertaken by children, especially

daughters. Such policies would include providing rural communi-

ties with accessible water so that girls are not burdened with

walking long distances in order to bring the needed water to the

household. Other policies would involve the development of ap-

propriate technology which is cheap, easy to use, and can relieve

women's and girls' housework burdens. Also, community development

workers, together with rural mothers, should devise some kind

of a rotating system of child care in which women exchange child

care services for farm labor and, thus, free their daughters from

the constraining "child-mother" role. All these policies would

tend to diminish children's immediate value as labor at home, es-

pecially girls' needed services so as to make primary education a

more viable and rational alternative.*

4. The calendar of rural primary schools could be adapted to crop-

ping patterns so as to correspond with the slack season in order

to maximize rural boys' and girls' school attendance.

5. Trained teachers can be supplemented by locally recruited "assist-

ant teachers" who, with less formal qualificatiornand lower salar-

ies can help implement universal primary education in low income

countries with a small number of teachers and large numbers of

rural boys and girls who must be reached. Some rural mothers

or young rural women may be employed as "assistant teachers," thus,

providing some female role models in schools until more women

*The underlying assumption that girls' freed time will be spent in school
is, however, untested. iIn poor households, it is entirely possible that
a competing alternative is involvement in income-generating activities.

- 24 -

teachers are educated and can be persuaded to accept.rural posts.

Such local "assistant teachers' often have better rapport with stu-

dents and parents than teachers who have come from other areas,

and may also make teachers from urban areas feel more comfortable

about coming to rural areas.

In addition to the above, more general policies directed to

all low-income children, some additional policies directly aiming

at widening rural girls' access to primary education are needed

in order to increase the probability that all policies would bene-

fit girls equally with boys. Such additional, more direct policies

are needed in order to overcome traditional sex role beliefs and

resistance toward women's education still prevailing in societies

in whichwomen have sharply unequal educational chances in compari-

son to men. Such policies would include:

6. The intensification of women's training as primary school teach-

ers through a variety of governmental and international aid pro-

grams providing training fellowships and subsidized housing to low-

income, particularly rural, women willing to work for a number of

years in rural areas. One such successful experiment took place in

Nepal where, in 1968, girls represented 13% of the students enrolled

in primary schools. The UNESCO project aimed to train women

primary school teachers, especially women from rural areas, to en-

courage and facilitate such training by providing hostel accommodations,

and to improve the training curricula by including development-related

subjects such as health, nutrition, sanitation, family planning, and

child care. The recruiting of eligible rural girls.proved to be

difficult because there were not enough women with the formal educa-

tional requirements, so it became necessary to enlarge the pool of

- 25 -

potential candidates by providing upgrading courses to rural girls

with insufficient educational qualifications. A mid-term evalua-

tion undertaken in 1973 showed that the average enrollment of girls

in the districts covered by the program was 24% of all primary

school students which represents significant improvement--in one
an increase
district/of 19%. It is also important to note that rural parents

viewed favorably the presence of women teachers and felt that they
would do much to encourage the increased enrollment of students.

7. In LDC's in which primary schools are sex-segregated, governments

and international aid programs should build girls' primary schools

in rural areas and make adequate provisions to staff them with

women teachers. Alternatively, governmental and international or-

ganizations could encourage the building of girls' schools in rural

areas through community self-help projects by providing incentives

such as food-for-work. Also, in countries in which primary educa-

tion is sex-segregated, efforts should be made to maintain education-

al parity between boys' and girls' schools in terms of curricula,

standards, teachers' qualifications, financial allocations, etc.

In LDC's, on the other hand, in which primary schools are co-educa-

tional, it should be made mandatory to enroll boys and girls in equal


8. Since it is very difficult to'change the sex role stereotypes and

the traditional beliefs of teachers so as to equalize their treatment

of boys and girls in the classroom, it is possible to change teach-

ers' motivational structure and classroom behavior by manipulating

rewards. In order to motivate primary school teachers to pay equal

attention to and take equal interest in girls as in boys, their per-

26 -

formance and promotions could be based upon the percentage of

girls who stay on and graduate from primary school. Also, govern-

ments as well as national and international women's organizations

could establish prizes for the most successful male and female

primary school teachers.

9. Compulsory elementary education in rural areas should be accompanied

by agricultural training equally accessible to boys and girls, the

equal numbers of boys and girls admitted to be strictly enforced.

In these agricultural training programs, girls should not be streamed

to separate, sex-appropriate programs but receive exactly the

same skills as boys.

10. Governments and international aid programs should intensify the train-

ing of rural women paraprofessional workers such as agricultural,

extension workers, community health auxiliaries, or multi-purpose

community workers.

The training of such women paraprofessionals should be subsi-

dized by means of training grants and subsidized shelter in exchange

for several years of service in rural areas. The importance of the

presence of these women workers in rural areas in increasing rural

girls' access to education is considerable since they establish in

the parents' as well as in the girls' minds the economic and social

status relevance and pay-off of girls' education.

11. Primary school textbooks should be thoroughly revised (or.new ones.writ-

ten) so as to become free of blatantly sexist, demeaning statements

about women; and so as to render education relevant and meaningful

to rural girls. Women should be portrayed as farmers, traders, teach-

ers, nurses, agricultural extension workers, health auxiliaries, etc.

Special competitions and awards for the best non-sexist textbooks

. f -

27 -

could increase authors' motivation and help produce the appropriate

textbooks. In providing free textbooks to primary school teachers

and students, governments and international aid programs are in a

strong position to provide only nonsexist, high quality textbooks.

12. In view of the crucial importance of the mothers' education for

their children's and especially their daughters' access to primary

education as well as nutritional status, in areas in which the rate

of illiteracy among adult women is high, literacy programs for il-

literate mothers are highly needed. Only through literacy can mothers

become more interested in and more supportive of their daughters' edu-

cation so that girls are sent to school and are not soon taken out

of school.


1. UNESCO, Development of School Enrollment; World and Regional Statistical

Trends and Projections, 1960-2000 International Conference on Education,

XXXVIth Session (Geneva, 1977), Paris: ED/BIE/CONFIDED/36/4 Ref. 2,

pp. 53-56.

2. U.N., ECOSOC, Progress Made Towards Achieving the Goals of the World

Population Plan of Action, E/CN,9/36, 5 January 1979,

3. UNESCO, op.cit.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid and UN, ECOSOC, op. cit.

6. UNESCO, op. cit., Table 18, p. 37.

7. UNESCO, op. cit.

8. Status of Women in India, A Synopsis of the Report of the National

Committee on the Status of Women (1971-74), New Delhi: The Indian

Council of Social Science Research, 1975, Appendix, p. 155.

9. Doranne Jacobson, "The Women of North and Central India: Goddesses and

Wives," in: D. Jacobson and S. S. Wadley, Women in India. Two Perspectives,

New Delhi: Manohar, 1977, p. 35.

10. Status of Women in India, op. cit. pp. 8-9.

11. U.S. Agency for International Development, Project Paper: Nonformal

Education for Women, 608-0139, Morocco, Annex D, Section A, Washington,

D.C., non-dated (1978).

12. Cynthia Xyntti, "Women in Rural Yemen," written for USAID Sana'a,

November 1978.

13. Mary Jean Bowman and C. Arnold Anderson, The Participation of Women

in Education in the Third World, report prepared for the Ford Foundation

October, 1978, mimeographed.

-2 -

14. Status of Women in India, op.cit. p. 9

15. Kamal H. Karpart, The Jecikondu: Rural Migration and Urbanisation,

Cambridge University Press, 1976.

16. Birger Fredriksen, "Universal Primary Education in Developing Countries:

A Statistical Review," Prospects, Vol. 8, no. 3, 1978, pp. 363-374.

17. Bowman and Anderson, op. cit,

18. M.A. Brimer and L. Pauli, Wastage in Education: A World Problem, UNESCO,

Studies and Surveys in Comparative Education, 1971,

19. Ibid; and L.F.B. Dubbeldam, The Primary School and the Community in

Mwanza District, Tanzania, Groningen, The Netherlands: Wolters-Noordhoff

Publishing, 1970.

20. K. Venkat Asubramanian, Economic Aspects of Growth in Primary Education

in Tamil Nadu, University of Baroda, 1977.

21. F.O. Akuffo, "High Wastage in Women's Education: The Case of the Rural

Elementary School Girls," paper presented at the Conference on Women and

Development, Legon, Ghana, September 3-8, 1978.

22. Ibid.

23. Nadia H. Youssef, "Education and Female Modernism in the Muslim World,"

Journal of International Affairs, Vol.30, No.2, 1976, pp. 191-205.

24. UN Commission on the Status of Women and Family Planning..

25. J. Cravioto, et al., "Nutrition, Growth and Neuro-Integrative Development:

An Experimental and Ecological Study," Pediatrics, Vol. 38, 1966, pp. 319-

372; Peter Heller and William Drake, "Malnutrition, Child Morbidity and

the Family Decision Process," Economic Development and Cultural Change,


26. Vivian Lowery Derryck, The Comparative Functionality of Formal and Non-

Formal Education for Women: Report on Phase II, Washington D,C. AID/WID,

July 17, 1978.

. '


27. Ahmad Fattahipour-Fard, Educational Diffusion and the Modernisation of

an Ancient Civilization: Iran, University of Chicago, PhD Dissertation


28. Marie Eliou, "Scolarisation et promotion feminine en Afrique," Inter-

national Review of Education, Vol. 19, No,1, 1973, pp. 30-46.

29. Patricia L. McGrath, The Unfinished Assignment: Equal Education for

Women, Washington, D.C.; Worldwatch Institute, Worldwatch Paper 7,

July 1979.

30. Marlaine E. Lockheed, Dean T. Jamison and Laurence J. Lau, "Farmer

Education and Farm Efficiency: A Survey," Economic Development and

Cultural Change, forthcoming.

31. Garth L. Mangum, A Review of the Economic and Social Impacts of Education

at the Micro Level Upon the Process of Economic Development Washington,

D.C.: AID, July 30, 1977.

32. V.L. Derryck, op. cit.

33. Ester Boserup, Women's Role in Economic Development, New York: St. Martin's

Press, 1970; Constantina Safilios-Rothschild, Chilalrp nd Adn1~ rnt in

Slums and Shanty Towns in Developing Countries, UNICEF Executive Board,

March 1971 (E/ICEF/L.1277 and E/ICEF/L/Add).

34. Moni Nag, et. al., "An Anthropological Approach to the Study of the

Economic Value of Children in Java and Nepal," Current Anthropology,

Vol.19, No.-2, 1978, pp. 293-306.

35. Carmen Diana Deere, "Intra-Familial Labor Deployment and the Formation of

Peasant Household Income: A Case Study of the Peruvian Sierra,: Paper pre-

sented at the International Center for Research on Women Conference on

"Women in Poverty: What do we Know?", Washington, D.C. May 1-2, 1978.

36. Cynthia Myntti, op. cit.

37. Mead T. Cain, "The Economic Activities of Children in a Village in Bangladesh,"

Population & Development Review, Vol. 3, No. 3, September, 1977,

4 -

38. Eva Mueller, "De terminants.of the Intra-Household Allocation of Time:

Theory, Conceptualization and Measurement," paper presented at the

Workshop on Women's Roles and Demographic Change Research Program,

International Labour Office, Geneva, November 16-18, 1978.

39. M.T. Cain, op. cit.

40. Eva Mueller, op. cit.

41. Moni Nag, et. al., op. cit.

42. Cynthia-Myntti, op. cit.

43. David A. Mitchnik, "The Rose of Women in Rural Development in the Qaire,"

OXFAM, July, 1972.

44. F.O. Akuffo, op. cit. Claire Robertson, "Economic Woman in Africa," Journal

of Modern African Studies, Vol.21, No.4, 1974, pp.657-664; Sullen Huntington,

"Issues in Woman's Role in Economic Development," Journal of Marriage and the

Family, Vol.37, No.4, November 1975, pp.1001-1012.

44A Judith Van Allen, Aba Riots or Igbo Women's War? Ideology, Stratification

and the Invisibility of Women," in: Nancy J. Hafkin and Edna B. Bay (Eds.)

Women in Africa, 1976, pp.59-85.

45. K.H. Karpart, op. cit.; Hani Fakhouri, Kafr-El-Elow: An Egyptian Villiage

in Transition, New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1972; Rangit Tirtha,

"Areal Patterns of Literacy in India," Manpower Journal, Vol.1, Nos.3-4,1965.

46. Marjorie J. Mbolinyi, Barriers, to the Full Participation.of Women in the

Socialist Transformation of Tanzania, mimeographed, 1972.

47. Nadia Youssef, op. cit.; Cynthia Myntti, op. cit.

48. Dropout Study, Malaysia, Ministry of Education, 1973.

49. Earl R. Choldin, Educational and Occupational Mobility of the Scheduled

Castes of India, Masters Paper, University of Chicago, 1971.

50. P.C. Joshi and M.R. Rao, "Social and Economic Factors in Literacy and

Education in Rural India," Economic Weekly, Jan. 4, 1964.

- 5 -

51. David Court and Dharam Ghai, "Education, Society and Development," in:

D. Court and D. Ghai (Eds.), Education, Society and Development. New

Perspectives from Kenya, Nairoki: Oxford University Press, 1974, pp. 1-26.

52. Marlaine E. Lockheed and Dean T. Jamison, "Some Determinants of School

Participation in the Terai Region of Nepal," The World Bank, mimeographed,

September 1979.

53. Pamela A. Hunt, "Women and the Development Process in Afganistan," Contract

Aid/NEC-1487 Afganistan, Project: 298-035, July 1978.

54. M.J. Bowman and C.A. Anderson, op. cit. p.69

55. Stephen P. Heyneman and Dean T. Jamison, "Textbook Availability and Other

Determinants of Student Learning in Uganda," Comparative Education Review,

forthcoming June, 1980.

56. Patricia L. McGrath, op. cit.;Table 4, p.34; and U.N. Statistical Yearbook,


57. D. Calcott, Some Trends and Problems of Education of Women in Nigeria

58. Pamela A. Hunt, op. cit.

59. The Fifth Five-Year Plan, Islamabad, Pakistan, para. 11, 1975.

60. Perspectives of Educational Development in Asia, UNESCO, mimeo, 1965, p.96;

and UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, 1977, Paris: UNESCO, 1978.

61. Hani Fakhouri, op. cit; and Ahmad Fattahipour-Fard, op. cit.

62. Constantina Safilios-Rothschild, op. cit.

63. Interactions of Nutrition and Infection, Narangwal, Ludhiana, Punjab:

Rural Health Research Centre, Final Report to I.C.M.R., April 1972.

64. Edwin M. Martin, "Nutrition Problems of the World," address to the Johns

Hopkins University Centennial Symposium on Nutrition and Public Health,

November 11, 1975.

65. Emeline Navera, "Home Investments in Children in Rural Philippines," Paper

presented at the International Center for Research on Women Workshop on "Women


in Poverty: What Do We Know?", Belmont Conference Center, Elkridge,

Md., April 30 May 2, 1978.

66. Patricia Engle, "Sex Differences in Growth and Mental Development in Rural

Guatemala," paper presented at the International Center for Research on

Women Workshop on "Women in Poverty: What Do We Know?", op. cit.

67. K. F. Smart (ed.), Malnutrition and Endemic Diseases: Their Effects

on Education in the Developing Countries, UNESCO Institute for Educa-

tion Hamburg, 1972.

68. Stephen P. Heyneman and Dean T. Jamison, op. cit.

69. J. Crav:;to, et. al., op. cit.; and K. F. Smart, op. cit.

70. M. A. Brimer and L. Pauli, oE. cit.

71. K. F. Smart, op. cit.

72. L. Latham, M. Latham, S.S. Basta, The Nutritional and Economic Impli-

cations of Ascaris Infection in Kenya, World Bank Staff Working Paper

no. 271, September 1977.

73. Unpublished data from an epidemiological study on chronic disability

conducted by WHO in Orissa and Maharashtra in India and throughout

Indonesia in 1978-79.

74. William W. Stein, "Modernization and Inequality in Vicos, Peru:

An Examination of the 'Ignorance' of Women," mimeo, 1975.

75. Unpublished data from a WHO epidemiological study, op. cit.

76. National Committee on the Status of Women, Status of Women in India,

New Delhi: Allied, 1975.

77. Doranne Jacobson,'"Indian Women in the Process of Development," Journal

of International Affairs, Vol. 30, No. 2, 1976, pp. 211-243' and Alan

Peshkin, "Social Change in Northern Nigeria: The Acceptance of Western

Education," in: M.G. Damachi and H.D. Seibel (eds.), Social Change

and Economic Development in Nigeria, New York: Praeger, 1973.

7 -

78. Patricia Engle, op.cit.; and Nancy Birdsall and William P. McGreevey,

"The Second Sex in the Third World: Is Female Poverty a Developmental

Issue," paper presented at the International Center for Research on

Women Policy Roundtable, Washington, D.C. June 21, 1978.

79. UNESCO, Women, Equality, Education. Paris, 1978.

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