Conventional wisdom states that gender gaps in schooling often result in failure to generate progress and prosperity for all. While gender gaps in schooling attainment have somewhat declined globally over the years and with many countries still far from achieving gender equality in the classroom, Botswana has managed to fully close 99% of the primary education gap, says Swiss-based think tank, the World Economic Forum (WEF).
While WEF admits that Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind the other regions in terms of educational attainment, with only 84.5% of this gap closed to date, the Forum says “Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Mauritius and Eswatini have closed 99% of this gap.”
In terms of education, the WEF 2021 Global Gender Gap report which examines data from 156 countries, looks at four indicators: literacy rate, enrolment in primary education, enrolment in secondary education, and enrolment in tertiary education. The WEF report shows that females outsmart males in Botswana in all four Educational Attainment indicators. In terms of literacy rate the Insight report shows that females average 87.5% while males average 86.1%. Enrolment in primary education shows that females average 88.1% while males average 87.2%. Enrolment in secondary education shows that females average 51.9% while males average 48.1%. Enrolment in tertiary education shows that females average 29.2% while males average 20.5%.
In terms of global educational attainment, Botswana is ranked first with a score of 1 and is tied with 26 other countries among them Australia, Austria, France, Finland and Denmark. Countries are ranked according to scores across 4 indicators on a 0 to 100 scale, and these scores are interpreted as distance to gender parity, or the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed in a country. 1 is the highest score while 0 is the lowest.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) cautions that narrowing the gender gap in educational attainment does not mean that there will be a noticeable difference to gender gaps in labour market outcomes. In Botswana, while women attain higher levels of education than men, on average, they are less likely than men to be employed and, when they are employed, they earn less.
These findings were also corroborated by Pamela Jakiela, non-resident Fellow at Centre for Global Development (CGD). She says even in countries where schools are achieving gender equity in enrolment and in learning, women’s adult outcomes once they leave school remain woefully unequal.
“Gender parity in education may be a necessary condition for empowerment, but it is certainly not a sufficient condition,” she says adding that the gap in earnings power between men and women is quite big and would not change considerably even if attainment and learning were equalised.
WEF also says the African countries with the highest gender disparities in education of over 30% are “Guinea (68%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (65.8%) and Chad (58.9%)”.