Indicator 35. Secondary completion rates for girls and boys

Rationale and definition:

Secondary completion is computed by dividing the total number of students in the last grade of secondary education school minus repeaters in that grade by the total number of children of official completing age. It captures dropout rates within secondary school as well as the transition rate between primary to secondary schooling by using as its denominator the total number of children of official completing age.

Secondary completion rates are important to measure since the dropout rates are highest in lower secondary grades. These are the ages when both the actual cost and the opportunity cost of education become higher, and when education systems struggle to provide high-quality instruction. There may be gender differences, as willingness to school girls is far more strongly determined by income and the broader costs of education than is the case for boys, and families are often unwilling to invest in the education of girls if this investment will not bring equivalent and direct economic gains to them and if girls continue to be valued only as wives and mothers.


It is particularly important to disaggregate this indicator by sex, income, disability, region, and separately for children in regions of conflict, since children in such regions are at greatest risk of dropping out of the schooling system. Where administrative data does not capture this information, it may be important to capture it under such categories.

Comments and limitations:

Secondary completion rates are more difficult to compare across countries since the structure of schooling varies widely, and the relevant age groups differ accordingly. Further, students at the secondary level have access to alternate pathways through vocational or other non- formal programs, so global comparison is harder. Secondary completion rates therefore can only be calculated on a national basis with reference to the number of years of schooling of that particular country. They are not easily comparable across countries. Yet it is an important indicator of the reach of the education system and therefore included as a global indicator.

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

Administrative data is preferred, but when there is limited data availability, it can be complemented with household surveys.

Potential lead agency or agencies: