Current State of the World’s Children statistics show that enrollment of girls in school is increasing, but can we really tell the whole picture using statistics? Sadly, no.
Firstly, corrupt governments report numbers that are not true. Lack of understanding of the implications permits administrators to hand in false reports at the bidding of their supervisors. When so much is at stake (aid, funding, jobs), a little lie seems worthy of the big reward.
Secondly, wording, translation, and interpretation can cause problems in research. Governments may report that the number of girls in school is up. However, enrollment and attendance are two different stories. A girl may very well be enrolled in school, and this in and of itself is a positive change, but the same girl may have only attended class for 1 week before her mother became ill and she had to stay home to care for the family. Even when enrollment and attendance match up, girls can be attending school but treated as servants to fetch water and sweep floors rather than as scholars working on their lessons.
Numbers are important. Numbers can show change, can show outliers, can show averages, but numbers never tell a complete story. This is why working with local leaders– seeing, listening, and feeling — is needed in conjunction with quantitative evidence to make decisions regarding development or reform.