Titled ‘Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls’, the report says that 132 million girls around the world between the ages of 6 and 17 are still not in school - 75 percent of them being adolescents.
Less than two-thirds of girls in low-income countries complete primary school, and only one in three completes lower secondary school, including only 40 per cent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa, the report states.
It further asserts that to reap the full benefits of education, all countries - including those in sub-Saharan Africa - need to improve both access and quality of education so that all girls have the opportunity to learn.
The report has been launched in commemoration of the annual United Nations Malala Day, which was marked yesterday.
According to Malala Fund co-founder and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai: “When 130 million girls are unable to become engineers or journalists or CEOs because education is out of their reach, our world misses out on trillions of dollars that could strengthen the global economy, public health, and stability.”
Yousafzai said if leaders are serious about building a better world, they need to start serious investments in girls’ secondary education. “This report is more proof that we cannot afford to delay investing in girls,” she asserted.
World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva said gender inequality should not be allowed to continue getting in the way of global progress.
“Inequality in education is yet another fixable issue that is costing the world trillions,” Georgieva remarked.
Other highlights of the report are that women with a secondary education are more likely to work and earn almost twice as much as those with no education.
Positive effects of a secondary school education for girls include a wide range of social and economic benefits for the girls themselves, their children, and their communities.
The benefits include near-elimination of child marriages, lowering fertility rates by at least a third in countries with high population growth, and reducing child mortality and malnutrition.
“It is time to close the gender gap in education and give girls and boys an equal chance to succeed, for the good of everyone”, states the report.
According to the World Bank, many countries have reached universal primary education over the past two decades, and the figures for girls’ enrolment at primary school level in developing countries now rival those of boys.
Countries also need policies to support healthy economic growth that will generate jobs for an expanding educated workforce. Women with secondary education also have a better ability to make decisions in their household, including for their own health care.
They are less likely to experience intimate partner violence, thus enjoying higher levels of psychological well-being. They also have healthier children who are less likely to be malnourished and more likely to go to school.
Educating girls makes them more likely to be active members of their communities and helps to promote gender equality, the report says.
Since 2016 the World Bank has invested more than $3.2 billion in education projects benefiting adolescent girls.