Information by Country

Madagascar: Background

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.
Children make up more than half of Madagascar’s population, and half of the nation’s 17 million people live on less than $1 a day. Natural disasters, such as cyclones and floods, are a frequent risk. Madagascar is nonetheless well on track to meet Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3 – to achieve universal primary education and eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, respectively.

According to the Ministry of Education, the net enrolment rate increased from 76.5 per cent in 2001-2002 to 97 per cent in 2005-2006. However, household survey1 data indicate a net enrolment rate of 67 per cent for 2004-2005.2 The Ministry of Education has not determined official gender-disaggregated gross or net enrolment rates, but the gender gap is estimated to be minimal for enrolment and non-existent in terms of completion rates.

The Madagascar Action Plan emphasizes the need to ensure the enrolment of all children, significantly improve the completion rate (from 57 per cent in 2006 to 95 per cent in 2012) and reduce the repetition rate (from 20 per cent in 2006 to 10 per cent in 2012), in line with Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals. The Ministry of Education updated the country’s Education for All plan and should be eligible to access a second installment of catalytic funds during 2007 as part of the Fast Track Initiative.

Girls’ education initiative

UNGEI was launched in Madagascar in 2005 with the aim of bringing gender issues into the mainstream of planning and policy, improving the quality of education for girls and boys, and advocating for specific actions in regions with high gender gaps.


Led by UNICEF, in support of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Population, partners at the national level include: Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), Orange Madagascar, UN Development Programme, UNESCO, UNAIDS, US Peace Corps. At the community level, the UNGEI committee is composed by members of CISCO, the Mayor’s office, the Ministry of Population and the Women’s Association. 

Barriers to girls’ education

Key barriers to girls’ education include:

  • Poverty and parents’ perceptions regarding the value of education.
  • Cultural and economic factors affecting adolescents, such as child marriage and child labour.
  • Poor quality of education, aggravating the trade-offs parents face between education and supplementary household income.

UNGEI in action

UNGEI in Madagascar is an advocate for action in regions where gender gaps in education persist. In 2006, UNGEI commissioned a series of studies to identify factors affecting girls’ education in these regions and to propose more gender-sensitive curricula. A ‘girl-to-girl strategy’, pairing older girls (‘big sisters’) with younger girls, provides a peer support network that helps younger girls stay in school. Parents and local authorities have been sensitized to the special protection needs of girls.


Since 2002, the Ministry of Education has made primary school registration free of charge, and it has been distributing school kits to all new first grade students since 2003. These two measures have fundamentally contributed to boosting the enrolment level. Primary school enrolment jumped from 2.4 million in school year 2001-2002 to nearly 3.6 million in 2004-2005.

Primary education has been extended from five years to seven years so that children have a stronger foundation in learning basic competencies, as well as being able to continue seven years of education in their home village.

To improve quality, a ‘Competency-based Approach’ has been introduced that aims to ensure children acquire competencies useful in real-life situations. This is carried out with the enhanced participation of stakeholders through the Contract Programme for School Success, through school mapping and through provision of school canteens.

UNGEI within other national and international frameworks

Members of the UNGEI group advocate for gender mainstreaming in the discussions concerning the following frameworks:

  • Madagascar Action Plan (the country’s poverty-reduction strategy).
  • Fast-Track Initiative, which Madagascar accessed in 2005.
  • Common Country Assessment, carried out in 2003.
  • UN Development Assistance Framework 2005-2009, which is focused on providing quality education for all at the primary level, as well as on providing literacy programmes.

In addition, girls’ education is included in the national Education Action Plan.
1 UNICEF, ‘Enquête Permanente auprès des Ménages’, 2005.
2 The divergence could be explained by differences in age-specific populations as estimated by the two sources, as well as by inconsistencies in how enrolment status is recorded.


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