Interventions for Girls Education - Part 3: Reducing the Time and Distance to get to School


    what works girls educationWe continue our series addressing interventions that work in girls education as outlined in What Works in Girls Education: Evidence for the World’s Best Investment [click on the title to download a free pdf of the book!]. The authors present a list of seven intervention areas which are critical to increasing the number of girls who enroll and stay in school:

    1. Making schools affordable

    2. Helping girls overcome health barriers

    3. Reducing the time and distance to get to school

    4. Making schools more girl-friendly

    5. Improving school quality

    6. Increasing community engagement

    7. Sustaining girls’ education during emergencies


    So far we have explored the importance of making schools affordable and the link between health and girls’ education. This month we look at how reducing the time and distance to get to school improves enrollment and attendance rates. 

    Reducing the Time and Distance to get to School


    25 Of The Most Dangerous And Unusual Journeys To School In The World - Bored Panda


    “Removing fees, offering scholarships, or offering school meals provides little help where children have no schools to attend. Common sense suggests that distance matters for any child, but it seems to matter particularly for girls. The farther girls have to walk or travel, the greater their parents’—and their own— concerns for actual safety and for reputation.”- page 138

    The authors, Gene B. Sperling and Rebecca Winthrop, discuss three approaches for reducing the time and distance to get to school in Chapter 4.

    1. Build More Schools Near Girls Homes

    “During the last two to three decades, with the attention being given to expanding universal basic education, there has been a rapid expansion of primary schools, especially through school construction projects in rural and disadvantaged areas in Cambodia, China, Egypt, and Morocco. In some countries, like Ethiopia, the number of primary schools doubled in just five years, improving access by reducing the distance to school (UNESCO 2007). As a result, there has been widespread improvement in school enrollment rates, especially among girls. And in some cases, reducing the distance that a girl needs to travel to school to less than 1 mile can have an effect on test scores similar to that of many successful classroom-based interventions (Camfed 2012).

    Unfortunately, there has not been a comparable expansion of secondary schools. In most cases, girls who manage to overcome the challenges of completing primary school and who could otherwise transition to secondary school face a new set of obstacles: the distance to the nearest secondary school, sometimes located in a neighboring village. In contexts where an adolescent girl’s mobility is restricted, these longer distances to secondary school mean higher opportunity costs for the girl’s family, which must arrange either for her transportation or for an adult to accompany her to and from school.” - page 139

    The authors cite several studies which show increased enrollment of girls in school related to construction of schools in rural communities. These studies cover a broad geographical reach from Indonesia, Egypt and Afghanistan. 


    Part4 school in Myanmar

    School in rural Myanmar

    2. Community Schools

    The benefit of having schools within the community bridges not only the barrier of physical distance but also cultural differences.

    “Small schools close to home not only decrease the physical distance to school; they also help reduce the cultural distance girls must negotiate. And because community schools are designed on the basis of a partnership between the school and its community, increased community and parental involvement help schools attract more students, especially girls (DeStefano, Moore, Balwanz, and Hartwell 2007).” - page 141

    Chapter 4 of UNICEF’s Manual on Child Friendly School discusses the various ways schools and communities intersect and the impact this has on learning and society:

    Part4 Village Ed. Committee

    3. Flexible School Schedules

    “In general, offering flexible schedules in both regular and informal schools helps boost enrollment by accommodating children’s work, making it easier for children to care for younger siblings, do chores, or even work for wages while enrolled in school. These options have been most effectively implemented in community school settings, where it is easier for the community to support and sustain flexible approaches. For example, in India, efforts to provide flexible hours through non-formal education helped draw working children, especially girls, into primary school. Colombia’s Escuela Nueva program includes flexible schedules for different grades. Also, part-time and flexible scheduling helped raise girls’ enrollment in China (Herz et al. 1991).

    Such efforts do pose a dilemma: They make it easier for children to attend but may make it harder for them to spend time studying. Yet for many poor children, offering flexible school schedules may be the most realistic option for receiving an education. Ultimately, it is important to help children gain time to go to school and to study, and, where children are in informal schools, to enable them to make the transition to regular schools.” - page 146

    Unicef demonstrates how this works in Bangladesh in Strategies for Girls’ Education:

    “Scheduling lessons flexibly. Children are often excluded from school because of family responsibilities or the homework that is more often allocated to girls than boys. BRAC schools in Bangladesh have given priority to girls and inspired many other countries to follow their example. The school schedule is flexible; though it runs for two hours a day, six days a week, the times are set by local parents, and the school calendar is adapted to fit local considerations such as the harvest.11 BRAC schools met with such success that the scheme expanded quickly, and total enrolment is now at about 1.2 million. As a result of the programme’s special emphasis on girls’ enrolment, about 70 percent of children in non-formal primary education and schools providing basic education for older children are female. Around 97 percent of the teachers in BRAC schools are women.”

    Additional Reading: Fixing American’s Broken School Calendar

    Easier Means of Getting to School

    Though not discussed in the book, providing girls an easier means of getting to school is a clear way to reduce the time it takes to get to school.

    “Reducing travel time doesn’t always have to mean building new schools—it can also mean other creative strategies to leverage existing resources and make the journey to school easier.

    For example, in the Indian state of Bihar, a government program gave every 14-year-old girl a bicycle. This idea improved access without actually reducing distance. Girls’ enrollment in secondary school increased by 32 percent, with the impact was mostly concentrated among girls who lived between two and six miles from school—too far to walk, but not too far to bike!” -


    Watch the researchers from International Growth Centre (IGC) discuss their findings...


    Part4 Movign Up a Gear

    Part4 Movign Up a Gear Update









    Recommended Reading: Children and Road Traffic Injury, Sobering facts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF



    How did you [do your children] get to school?

    How far did you [do your children] travel?

    How long did/does it take?

    Were/Are there safety concerns?


    “Thinking of high school, I had two options for getting to school... walk ½ a mile to catch the school bus full of loud and totally out of control kids and travel for over an hour; OR take 10 minutes to walk/ride my bike one mile partly along a busy country highway.

    My kids attend the local elementary school which is about a ½ mile from our apartment. It takes them all of 5 minutes to either ride their scooters or bikes to get there. They cross several streets including a major intersection with a fast moving tram accompanied by me or their dad.”  - Tricia R Saur, Target Chair


    Next month in Let’s Get Schooled, we explore the importance of “making schools more girl-friendly”.

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