Girls' Education Program

Whether or not a girl stays in school has an astounding effect not only on her quality of life, but also on her future. For each additional year of schooling she completes, her future
income increases by an estimated 15-25 percent.3

In the last decade, the world has made significant gains in primary school enrollment. But girls in low-income countries still drop out of secondary school at an alarming rate.

To thrive over the long term, girls need life skills. Thinking critically, empathizing and relying on themselves help them meet day-to-day challenges and make informed decisions. When girls learn these skills and how use them daily, they become better equipped to handle the challenges they may face, from finding time to study to choosing who and when to marry.

Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program changes the equation for thousands of girls, helping them stay in school longer and develop strong life skills that will serve them long into the future.

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit supporting children's literacy & girls' education. We report our impact annual through our Global Monitoring Report.

For each girl supported through the Girls’ Education Program (nearly 30,000 in 2015), we closely monitor her progress through secondary school.

Understanding which girls have passed their exams, which have had to repeat a grade, and how many have transferred in or out of the schools we support helps us to gauge our own progress toward our goal of helping girls to stay in school and advance toward graduation. This data also enables us to intervene quickly with targeted support if any warning signs arise.

Just as in previous years, the vast majority of program participants worldwide remained in school and advanced to the next grade. As shown in Figure 6, nine percent of participants dropped out of school, and an additional two percent transferred to another school not supported by Room to Read. Ninety-four percent of the remaining girls (i.e., 86 percent of all girls) advanced to the next grade, in line with previous years’ results. This consistently high rate of advancement demonstrates that most girls supported by the program continue to make progress toward graduation.

The program has in recent years faced a challenge of increasing dropout rates as more participants enter the final years of secondary school. As a girl gets older, she faces growing obstacles including high-stakes exams, increased risk of pregnancy and pressure to earn an income or get married, all of which can derail her educational career.

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit supporting children's literacy & girls' education. We report our impact annual through our Global Monitoring Report.

When a girl drops out of school, her social mobilizer (mentor) talks with her to understand the factors that led to this decision. In 2015, economic and academic challenges remained the most frequently cited primary reasons, each responsible for the dropout of 2.2 percent of program participants. Other common reasons cited included migration (2 percent), marriage (1.1 percent), and the girl’s own lack of motivation to continue studying (0.8 percent).

In last year’s Global Monitoring Report, we previewed some early stage work toward the development of a new system to reduce dropout through systematic tracking of known risk factors. In 2015, Tanzania and Zambia participated in a pilot test of this Risk and Response system, and it is showing signs of success as a way to reduce dropouts.

An Early Warning System in Tanzania Helps Girls Succeed

Rachel Mbushi works as a social mobilizer in Tanzania, mentoring students in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program.

Read This Story

<1%

of girls in Bangladesh dropped out in 2015.

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit supporting children's literacy & girls' education. We report our impact annual through our Global Monitoring Report.
Room to Read is a leading nonprofit supporting children's literacy & girls' education. We report our impact annual through our Global Monitoring Report.

99%

of girls in Laos passed "gatekeeper" exam to advance to next grade.

99%

of girls in Laos passed "gatekeeper" exam to advance to next grade.

500th

Cambodia congratulated it's 500th secondary school graduate.

500th

Cambodia congratulated it's 500th secondary school graduate.

Since our first cohort of Girls’ Education Program participants graduated in 2007, one of the most frequent questions we have heard from our external stakeholders is: “Where are they now?”

The question is an important one: knowing what happens to our alumnae after they complete the program helps us understand the longer-term benefits of our program in these women’s lives, and gives us an idea of whether our program has done everything it can to prepare them for the challenges they will face as adults.

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit supporting children's literacy & girls' education. We report our impact annual through our Global Monitoring Report.

In the past, we have often profiled the lives of particular alumnae4, and we have also conducted periodic surveys to understand particular kinds of life outcomes. In 2015, we introduced a new annual survey that will check in with alumnae one year after graduation to track their post-completion decisions in a systematic way. This survey will form one part of an overall strategy to assess short-, medium-, and long-term program outcomes, which is currently under development.

Out of the 399 alumnae who teams were able to contact, two-thirds were continuing their studies in some form of tertiary education. Of these, 75 percent were enrolled in colleges and universities, with the remaining 25 percent in vocational schools.

Nearly 90 percent of the girls contacted were either enrolled in school or employed, many of them pursuing careers in the fields of teaching, healthcare/nursing, business and social work.

Vietnam’s Girls’ Education Class of 2014: Where Are They Now?

Shortly after her second birthday, Tram was left to live with her grandparents in a remote village in the Long An Province of Vietnam.

Read This Story

100%

of 2014 graduates in Vietnam either enrolled in university or were actively employed.

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit supporting children's literacy & girls' education. We report our impact annual through our Global Monitoring Report.
Room to Read is a leading nonprofit supporting children's literacy & girls' education. We report our impact annual through our Global Monitoring Report.

84%

of 2014 program graduates in India enrolled in tertiary education the next year.

84%

of 2014 program graduates in India enrolled in tertiary education the next year.

69%

of 2014 graduates in Nepal have continued their studies, including girls who have enrolled in schools overseas.

69%

of 2014 graduates in Nepal have continued their studies, including girls who have enrolled in schools overseas.

The heart of our Girls’ Education Program is our local mentors (also called social mobilizers), who act as role models, advisors and advocates for girls in our program.

In addition to serving as examples of educated, strong women in the community, they support girls emotionally and guide them through both individual and group mentoring sessions.

Critically, they also lead our life skills education sessions, where girls learn and practice critical thinking, creative problem-solving, communication and other essential skills. Through classes, workshops and extracurricular activities, girls learn how to create a new and different path from the one that might otherwise be forced upon them. They discover their own strength, advocate for themselves and develop their life skills.

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit supporting children's literacy & girls' education. We report our impact annual through our Global Monitoring Report.

Our life skills curriculum is based on cutting-edge research and emerging best practices related to socio-emotional learning and gender. As we reported in last year’s Global Monitoring Report, our analysis of trends in our own data suggests that participation in life skills education is associated with a higher rate of academic advancement and a lower school-dropout rate. This is one reason we try to ensure that as many girls as possible participate fully in life skills education sessions. In 2015, 85 percent of the girls in the program attended at least the minimum number of life skills sessions.

Nevertheless, our growing focus on life skills presents a challenge. Many of our program’s indicators of success, such as graduation and retention, are relatively straightforward to measure. But how can we measure — objectively and reliably — an outcome as abstract and complex as our program’s impact on girls’ life skills? We have made this question a major focus of our recent work.

For girls in low-income countries, many of whom are pressured to leave school early to work or to get married and have children, we believe life skills are as important as academic skills, if not more so. They help girls stay in school longer, marry later and pursue fulfilling careers. But just as we rely on hard data to inform our Literacy Program, we need to establish objective measures for our key Girls’ Education Program goals in order to understand and improve our effectiveness.

Measuring the Effectiveness of a Life Skills Education

In 2015, Room to Read launched its Girls’ Education Program evaluation in India, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Labor, Echidna Giving and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Read This Story

Continue Reading the Global Monitoring Report

Invest in children's education today.