» Education critical in preventing adolescent pregnancy
10.07.2017 - Education Sector

Education critical in preventing adolescent pregnancy


UNESCO has released new evidence-based recommendations on the key role education plays in preventing and responding to early and unintended pregnancy (EUP).

The launch of the technical brief, ‘Early and unintended pregnancy: Recommendations for the education sector’ coincides with the 2017 London Family Planning Summit on July 10, 2017 where UNESCO will confirm its commitment to support the contribution of national education sectors to ending AIDS and promoting better health and well-being for all children and young people, especially girls.

Developing countries account for 95 per cent of births to adolescent mothers, and girls are 5 times more likely to become a mother when they have low educational attainment. EUP has detrimental effects on the lives of adolescent girls in terms of health, social, economic and education outcomes.  This includes risks of expulsion from school and home, stigmatization by family, vulnerability to violence, greater poverty and maternal death and health complications. In fact, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the second cause of death among 15 to 19 year olds with approximately 70,000 adolescents affected annually.

More schooling leads to reduction in fertility

Education can effectively contribute to addressing this issue as each additional year of education leads to a 10 per cent reduction in fertility. A review of 58 programmes in India found that girls with secondary schooling were 70 per cent less likely to marry as children than illiterate girls.

However, at present, there is a lack of operational guidance for the education sector on how to address EUP.  The technical brief lays out five priority areas for action, which promote re-entry policies, comprehensive sexuality education for pregnancy prevention, access to school health services and safe school environments for girls.

"Pregnancy has to be integrated into the wider subject of life skills or sexuality education, not as a short, stand-alone topic,’’ said UNESCO Senior Project Officer, Joanna Herat. ‘’By integrating it into life skills or sexuality education, it also means that it is taught to both boys and girls – recognizing that both male and female learners have a role to play in making decisions about healthy sexual relationships, now and in the future.’’

Strong lead needed from education ministries

The brief, produced by UNESCO in collaboration with UNFPA, the Ford foundation and Step Up, Strengthening evidence for programming on unintended pregnancy, is based on a detailed Evidence Review and Recommendations.

The review was commissioned to help ministries of education and education stakeholders understand the effects of EUP and the actions necessary to prevent it while also ensuring that all girls, including those who are pregnant and parenting, can realise their right to education in a safe and supportive school environment.  

Ministries of education and other stakeholders working collaboratively can bring about sustainable change behind EUP prevention and response. While great strides are being made in improving access and retention for girls in the school system, policy implementation regarding EUP must be emphasized to ensure the continuation of girls’ education in a safe and supportive environment.

Addressing EUP also contributes to the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals including tackling poverty and promoting healthier lives to achieving gender equality and building peaceful and inclusive societies.

The London Family Planning Summit will be an opportunity for UNESCO to strengthen the collaboration with other partners and sign the Global Adolescent Data Statement. This new commitment will lead to a better and more efficient collection, use and reporting of data, in order to meet adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health needs through more effective policy and programmes.


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