“International development efforts have been glaringly inadequate at getting girls into school in too many countries,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, said in releasing the agency’s flagship report,The State of the World’s Children. “We have to ask ourselves why this is, and what the consequences are. In this report the findings are clear: Gender discrimination is hampering development efforts, starting with the fundamental right of every child to go to school.”International development efforts are leaving hundreds of millions of girls and women uneducated and unable to contribute to positive change for themselves, their children, or their communities, the report says. It notes that illiteracy rates are still far higher among women than men, and at least 9 million more girls than boys, 65 million compared to 56 million, are left out of school every year – statistics that have lasting implications not only for girls and women, but for their children and families as well.Without accelerated action to get more girls into school over the next two years, global goals to reduce poverty and improve the human condition will simply not be reached, it adds. Conversely, bringing down the barriers that keep girls out of school will benefit both girls and boys – and their countries. “We stand no chance of substantially reducing poverty, child mortality, HIV/AIDS and other diseases if we do not ensure that all girls and boys can exercise their right to a basic education,” Ms. Bellamy said. “In daily life, knowledge makes the crucial difference.”An adjustment in development strategies needed to get girls in school and keep them there would jump-start progress on the entire development agenda for 2015, known as the Millennium Development Goals, the report says. These aim, among other things, to halve poverty and significantly improve health by that target date.“Because of the persistent and often subtle gender discrimination that runs through most societies, it is girls who are sacrificed first – being the last enrolled and the first withdrawn from schools when times get tough,” the report states.In a section titled What Must Change, it presents an agenda for action, calling on development agencies, governments, families, and communities to intensify their efforts on addressing the challenges that keep girls out of school.Essentially, it calls for adjustments in how development is approached from the start, including among specific measures: creation of a national ethos recognizing the value of educating girls as well as boys; education to be included as an essential component in development plans; elimination of school fees of every kind; integration of education into national plans for poverty reduction; and increased international funding for education.The greatest need is in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of girls left out of school each year has risen from 20 million in 1990 to 24 million in 2002, the report says. Eighty-three per cent of all girls out of school live in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and East Asia & the Pacific.