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Girls are closing the gap

When Bhutan signed the Millennium Declaration in 2000, it was a commitment to eliminate gender parity in primary education by 2005.

Learning Dzongkha takes more time than English at the initial stage

Girls enrolment in primary education is higher than the boys enrolment.

Three years later, Bhutan has progressed fast and could achieve Education For All, while 70 countries are not expected to meet the goal by 2005.

The gender parity gap in primary education has reduced from about 7 percent in 2000 to about 2 percent this year. Of the current primary enrolment 48 percent are girls and 52 percent boys (general statistics book 2003). In 2000, there were 45,846 boys and 39,251 girls enrolled in the primary level (from pre-primary to class VI). In 2003, there are only about 3,868 more boys in the primary level enrolment compared to 6,945 more boys in 2000.

World Bank Education and economic empowerment of women in Bhutan

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Girls' enrolment

According to a spokesman for the education ministry, the gap had been closing because schools were reaching nearer to communities and the quality of education was improving. "Gender is not an issue in education anymore," he said. "The achievement was made without any specific programmes targeting girls, this was automatically achieved when schools came closer to communities," he added.

"Given the gender population parity, the 48 and 52 percent is quite an equity already."

With an annual average growth rate of 6.86 percent, girls enrolment in the primary level showed a significantly higher rate compared with the boys average rate of 4.65 percent.

Against the common belief that girls in the rural areas are likely to leave school even before completing primary level, a study conducted by the education ministry revealed that school "drop-outs" were fewer among girls once enrolled.

"Instead, it revealed that it is likely for boys to leave schools," Tenzin Choeda said. The percentage of girls to boys at the lower secondary level (class VII and VIII) is even higher at 48.97 percent. "While the parity in the higher classes is just a matter of time, we are also confident that gender parity is not an issue even at the lower secondary level."

Against the common belief that girls in the rural areas are likely to leave school even before completing primary level, a study conducted by the education ministry revealed that school "drop-outs" were fewer among girls once enrolled.

"Instead, it revealed that it is likely for boys to leave schools," Tenzin Choeda said. The percentage of girls to boys at the lower secondary level (class VII and VIII) is even higher at 48.97 percent.

Education's general statistics, 2003, stated that female enrolment was nearing the male enrolment at all levels except at the higher secondary level. At the tertiary level, male enrolment is twice more than the female.

However, according to the report, there is an impressive average growth rate for female at the degree level at 20.7 percent.

A report prepared by UNICEF, the only partner investing in the expansion of primary and community schools identifies, the distance from schools, political instability in the south, and gender stereotypes as some of the obstacles to eliminate gender parity.

Primary education in Bhutan is provided through 188 community, 90 primary and 13 private schools.

Another 74 lower secondary, 10 middle secondary, and one higher secondary school also have primary level classes.

Contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper
BHUTAN Demographic, economic and social indicators

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