Unicef Says Girls’ Access to Education Limited

Despite progress having been made in recent years to improve girls’ access to education, there is still a gender-based inequality, particularly in rural areas, children’s rights experts said on the International Day of the Girl Child on Friday.

“At the moment there is still a slight gender gap in upper-secondary education and more so in higher education, but if we manage to keep girls in schools, we can expect that these gender gaps will also reduce considerably in the near future,” a Unicef spokeswoman said in an email, adding that access to education had improved considerably.

“In early childhood, primary, lower secondary as well as upper secondary, there is no major difference between boys and girls in Cambodia,” Unicef said.

In 2005/2006, 12.1 percent of girls dropped out of primary school, which was down to 8.7 percent in 2011/2012, according to data from the national Educational Manage­ment Information System. Figures also improved for upper secondary school, which dropped to 10.7 percent from 15.7 percent in six years.

The increase in school attendance, according to Unicef, was partly due to an overall economic improvement, and an increase in the number of schools around the country. The number of teachers also increased from about 78,500 in 2005/2006 to 84,500 last school year.

Still, Chuon Chamroang, head of local rights group Adhoc’s women’s program, said that many Cambodian girls do not have access to higher levels of education because they are expected to stay at home.

“The cultural concept is still that girls and women stay at home. So the girls are kept at home to help their family and do housework ra­ther than sending them to school or university,” she said, adding that it was slowly changing.

“In the past few years, it’s become less and less of a problem,” she said.

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