Skip to main content

Australia’s development program

Girls' education


Education has a transformative impact on individuals, communities and entire economies. Education is central to the empowerment of women and girls, and provides the key foundation for a productive life.

Girls’ education is a strategic development priority. Evidence shows that girls’ education has a transformational impact on development outcomes. In addition to education being a fundamental human right, educating girls is one of the world's best investments as it offers wide-reaching returns. Educating girls raises economic productivity, and lowers infant and maternal mortality, child marriage, and the incidence of malaria and HIV/AIDS. Educated women have a positive impact on agricultural production, communities' resilience to natural disasters and they take more of a leadership role in decision-making.

Girls who receive an education are more likely marry older, participate in the labour market in a skilled profession, earn higher incomes, have great autonomy over her sexual and reproductive health and choices, and have fewer children. These outcomes reap significant benefits – educating girl’s enables stronger and more resilient economies and reduces poverty and inequalities.

The impacts of COVID-19

School closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns risk undermining progress worldwide on school enrolment and gender parity in education over the past decades. Previous pandemics, such as Ebola, showed dropout rates for girls due to: teenage pregnancy; costs associated with schooling and preference to invest in boys’ education; and social norms around domestic duties.

Across East Asia and the Pacific, the number of girls out of school is expected to increase by nearly ten per cent, with at least 1.2 million additional girls at risk of dropping out of school. Girls’ access to learning resources has been highly constrained, with an estimated 40 million girls across the region unable to access distance learning during lockdown measures.

The interplay of poverty, gender, ability, rurality, remoteness and age will be core risk factors shaping the pattern of exclusion from re-attendance at school. Intersecting inequalities, challenging environments and evolving policy delivery create a complex backdrop for access and learning in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia's response

The Australian Government's Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response outlines Australia’s approach to tackling COVID-19 in our region, pivoting our development program with an emphasis on supporting women, girls and the most vulnerable. Australia has signed on to the Statement of Action to Accelerate Marginalised Girls' Education Outcomes and Gender Equality, reaffirming our commitment to advocate for policies and investments that empower girls in the Indo-Pacific region and globally.

Reducing potential dropouts and ensuring girls return to good quality school is a core priority. In coordination with partner governments, education programs in Asia and the Pacific are focusing on equity and inclusion in face-to-face, distance, blended and online learning models. Please find below some examples of gender-focused programs and resources:

Rapid Evidence Review: Gendered Impacts of COVID-19 on Girls’ Education and Wellbeing in the Indo-Pacific

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on girls’ education and wellbeing are numerous and diverse. Schools in Asia and the Pacific have been closed for extended periods, and large numbers of children have been unable to access distance learning opportunities. Longstanding gender inequalities and discriminatory gender norms mean that girls and female adolescents are disproportionately affected, with the gains made in girls’ education (access and learning outcomes) and wellbeing over the last two decades at risk.

DFAT has commissioned a rapid review to help inform policy and program responses in the region. This literature review presents an initial scan of evidence. This will be followed by two in-depth Rapid Evidence Reviews focused on Asia and the Pacific, and two country case studies. These reports will investigate the impact of the pandemic on girls’ education and wellbeing; and on the effectiveness of policy and program responses to date.


Girls education stories

In Kenya's low-income settlements, a hot lunch uplifts education

In Nairobi's informal settlements, Australia is helping the World Food Programme to provide a hot lunch to around 77,000 pupils in 91 schools.

Read more: In Kenya's low-income settlements, a hot lunch uplifts education

Bridging gaps for women in mining

The ability to excel requires perseverance, determination and courage, especially for a woman working in the mining industry in Papua New Guinea.

Read more: Bridging gaps for women in mining

Women studying Electro-technology

Each year the APTC graduates scores of girls and young women – often in areas and trades more traditionally associated with men.

Read more: Women studying Electro-technology

Australia Awardee Brenda Lombange inspires Papua New Guineans living with a disability

Brenda Lombange is a champion and role model for the one in every five Papua New Guineans who live with a disability.

Read more: Australia Awardee Brenda Lombange inspires Papua New Guineans living with a disability

Back to top