“Letting Girls Learn” in Asia

When Michelle Obama visits Cambodia next week as part of a White House and US Peace Corp initiative to help the world get the estimated 62 million girls back in school (see Let Girls Learn initiative), she might want to congratulate the Cambodian government for not only enrolling girls in school but making sure they complete their studies.  

At the primary school level, the data is compelling. The most recent statistics compiled by the Asia Development Bank indicates that girls have in fact made dramatic improvements in primary completion between the years of 2000 and 2012.  

The figure below provides a snapshot of Southeast Asia, an area that was plagued by low female completion rates only fifteen years ago, particularly in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Cambodia.  With the exception of Pakistan, in which 44 per cent of girls are still not completing primary school, many parts of the region are now close to full completion. In terms of population-weighted completions, India is at the top of the list.

                                       Primary School Completion Rates* for Females, % 


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