IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Virtual event: What if… we wanted to overcome COVID-19’s impact on girls’ access to education?

02 February 2021, 5:45 pm–6:45 pm

Four girls in Indian school uniform

Join our expert panel to debate how the pandemic has impacted efforts to improve girls' access to education, and what action is needed now.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Kate Thomas

Watch the debate

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Immediately prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, girls’ access to education was already precarious in many parts of the world: around 130 million girls of school age were not in class. Many factors contributed to this picture, from cultural attitudes that don’t prioritise the education of girls, to the threat of gender-based violence in schools.

The benefits of turning this around have long been recognised, from reducing levels of child marriage and early pregnancy, to boosting economic growth. This has focused the efforts of numerous international agencies and charities over many decades, encapsulated, in 2015, in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target to eliminate gender disparities in education by 2030.

While progress has been made, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to slow it markedly, with girls disproportionately affected by the disruptions it has wrought. Estimates include that in the order of 10 million secondary-school aged girls may never return to the classroom following COVID’s arrival. 

What strategies were doing most, pre-COVID, to improve girls’ access to and completion of a school education?  How has the pandemic impacted on those efforts so far and what could be its longer-term repercussions for the cause of girls’ education?  What action is needed now to overcome that?


  • Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education.
  • Marelize Gorgens, Senior Specialist at the World Bank.
  • Girish Menon, CEO of STiR Education.
  • Elaine Unterhalter, Professor of Education and International Development, and Co-Director of the Centre for Education and International Development (CEID), UCL Institute of Education (IOE).
  • Chair: Moses Oketch, Professor in International Education Policy and Development, and Co-Director of CEID at the IOE.

Find out more about the speakers of this debate. Join the conversation on Twitter at #IOEDebates


In association with TES