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Nepal: trends in primary education, 1980-2004

Nepal is one of UNICEF's 25 priority countries for girls' education. Countries were selected if they met three or more of the following criteria:
  • female primary school net enrollment rate below 70 percent,
  • gender gap in primary education above 10 percent,
  • more than 1 million girls out of school,
  • included in the Education for All Fast Track Initiative,
  • affected by crises like HIV/AIDS and military conflict.
In Nepal, the primary school net enrollment rate (NER) of girls was historically below 70 percent and much lower than the NER of boys, with a gender gap above 10 percent. Nepal also suffers from the consequences of a long-running Maoist insurgency. Two other criteria are not met by Nepal. The country is not on the list of countries covered by the Fast Track Initiative, and the number of girls out of school is below 1 million. A recent publication by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Children out of school: Measuring exclusion from primary education, estimates that around 500,000 girls and 400,000 boys of primary school age were not attending school in Nepal.

Trend data on enrollment and attendance, plotted in the following graph, shows that the primary school participation rate of girls has increased substantially since the 1980s. On the other hand, the participation rate of boys has remained relatively stable. As a result, the difference between male and female enrollment or attendance rates has decreased from more than 40 percent to roughly 10 percent over the past 25 years.

Nepal: trends in primary education, 1980-2004
Graph with trends in primary school enrollment and attendance, 1980-2004
Data sources: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Demographic and Health Survey, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, Nepal Living Standards Survey.

The graph combines data from a variety of sources.
The data from UNESCO measures primary school enrollment, the data from the three household surveys - DHS, MICS, and NLSS - measures primary school attendance. The net enrollment rate (NER) is the share of children of primary school age that are enrolled in primary school. The net attendance rate (NAR) is the share of children of primary school age that attend primary school. The official primary school age in Nepal is 5 to 9 years.

In spite of some differences, the overall trends in enrollment and attendance are similar. Male NER or NAR values have hovered around 80 percent since the 1980s. In 1983, the NER of boys was 78 percent; in 2003, it was 83 percent. The latest data on primary school attendance is from a Nepal Living Standard Survey (NLSS) conducted in 2003/04. For boys, the net attendance rate at that time was 78 percent.

The female primary school NER was at 33 percent in 1983 but it more than doubled to 73 percent in 2003. The NAR of girls was 67 percent in 2003/04 according to the most recent household survey data. Because of the increase in primary school participation of girls, the gender parity index - the ratio of female to male NER or NAR values - grew from 0.4 in 1983 to more than 0.8 by 2003. If this trend continues, Nepal will reach gender parity in primary education in the coming years. However, additional progress is needed to reach the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015.

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External links
Friedrich Huebler, 10 March 2007 (edited 12 October 2008), Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2007/03/nepal-trends-in-primary-school.html

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