1. Children value school and want to study for longer, obtain better jobs than their parents did and delay marriage and starting a family. Among the Older Cohort, between 75 per cent (Ethiopia) and 92 per cent (Peru) of children aged 12 aspired to undertake vocational training or to attend university. Children and their families are investing in school, and they see it as life-changing.
2. Improving achievement levels for poor children is central to overcoming the global crisis in learning. Global attention has rightly moved beyond enrolment alone, towards addressing low levels of learning in school. Across each country it is the poorest children, those in rural areas, and those with less-educated parents who do least well in school. At the age of 12 in Ethiopia, 35 per cent of children have a reading problem, and poor children were found to be 1.6 times more likely to experience difficulties than the average, while the least-poor children were half (0.4) as likely to experience these problems. Gender gaps in learning outcomes begin to open up in early adolescence, widening betweeen 12 and 15 and then persisting until early adulthood.These gaps typically favour boys in Ethiopia, India and Peru and girls in Vietnam. Young Lives also identifies national differences: comparing the Older and Younger Cohorts at the age of 12, we found evidence of falling achievement levels in Ethiopia and Andhra Pradesh, but positive signs of rising achievement in Vietnam and Peru.
3. Despite high aspirations for education and work, the reality at age 19 is very different. Substantial numbers of young people are still in some form of education at the age of 19, often combining this with work. The least-poor young people, those whose parents had higher levels of education, and those growing up in urban areas are most likely to remain in education. In Vietnam the least-poor young people are twice as likely as their poorer peers to be studying (69 per cent, compared with 35 per cent). In Ethiopia, enrolment rates are high, but they often relate to slow grade progression and many young people are still completing the early stages of secondary education. Gender-related differences increase during adolescence, especially for the poorest children. By the age of 19 young women in Andhra Pradesh are 16 percentage points less likely to be studying than young men. However, in Vietnam young women were found to be 9 percentage points more likely to be studying than young men.
4. The poorest girls are the most likely to have married and had a child before the age of 18. Across the countries the majority of young people are not yet married, but in Andhra Pradesh 37 per cent of girls are married by the age of 19 and 21 per cent have a baby. Between 9 per cent (Ethiopia) and 24 per cent (Peru) of girls had given birth by age 19. Poorer young women and those living in rural areas are more likely to have married and had babies. Being out of school at age 15 was strongly associated with early marriage in several countries, although the causal relationship between early marriage and school enrolment is not clear. In Ethiopia, qualitative information suggests that girls often leave school first, and the decision to marry is taken subsequently. Early marriage and other traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), are often seen in communities as ‘protective’ of girls’ social reputations and as a means of ensuring that girls are provided for in adulthood. The degree of choice girls had around marriage and cohabitation varied a great deal between different contexts.
5. From 12 years onwards, gender differences in children’s paid and unpaid work – already evident by age 8, become more marked. Although girls and boys in all countries carry out a range of paid, unpaid, and household work, the kind of tasks and the amount of time they spent on them was different, with girls directed toards household and caring roles, whilst boys concentrated more on paid work, farming and other enterprises. In Ethiopia, Peru and Vietnam, girls and boys spend broadly the same total time on paid and unpaid work, whilst in India, girls did more work overall than boys. Adolescents’ work is highly dependent on local opportunities and circumstances: in Ethiopia, the amount of paid work done by 12 year olds has declined in urban areas and amongst rural girls, whilst rural boys are still doing the same amount of paid work. In India, loss of crops through pests, fire, theft and natural disasters led to, on average, a three-hour increase in the amount of work per week carried out by rural girls, with only a very small increase in boys’ work. Moderate amounts of work are valued by children and their families, and can help fund school costs, but longer hours and some kinds of work (such as stone-crushing) are harder to combine with school. On average, boys spend longer studying at home than girls.