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Educational Attainment and Aspirations - Yemen

Educational attainment among women in Yemen is currently very low: over half (56%) of women and nearly one in five (18%) men have no formal schooling (Figure 1). Eighty-six percent of women and 60% of men report that they have less than a secondary-level education. A very low rate of formal schooling among women limits their ability to pursue careers, contribute economically to families, or to be self-sufficient if they so desire. Women without a formal education may lack basic literacy and math skills, which leaves women vulnerable to economic insecurity and limits their power in the workplace and at home.

Education rates in Yemen do appear to be increasing among the younger generation of women (Figure 2). Only 29% of women 18 to 24 have no formal education, compared to 98% of women 65 or older (Figure 2). In addition, among women in the younger age group, 21% have at least a secondary degree, while none of the 47 women 65 and older interviewed has that much schooling.

Women who have never married are more likely to have some schooling (75%) than are women who are currently (39%) or formerly married (widowed and divorced, 22%). Among the married women, 39% of respondents who were the only wife had some schooling compared to 27% of women married to men with one or more other wives sharing the household (Figure 2).

Women’s education varies a great deal among the different regions of Yemen. Education among women is highest in the Southern region (Aden, Al-Dhale, Abyan, Lahj), Midlands region (Sana'a city, Ibb, Taiz), and Eastern region (Mareb, Shabwah, Albaida, Hadramout, Almaharah) where at least half of women have some schooling. In the Southern region, over a third of all women (34%) have completed secondary school or more and 8% have a university or graduate degree. However, in the Western region (Al-Hodeidah, Hajjah, Al-Mahweet, and Raimah), nearly three-quarters of women have no formal education (Figure 2).

In addition, women in households with higher total income have more schooling than women in lower income households. Over three-quarters of women in households with monthly incomes below 20,000 riyals have no formal schooling compared to 28% of women in households with monthly incomes of 100,000 riyals or more. Almost one-third of women in households with monthly income of 100,000 riyals or more (32%) have a secondary degree or higher; this is nearly five times the percentage for women in households with monthly income below 20,000 riyals (7%) (Figure 2).

Women living in rural areas are much less likely to receive formal schooling than women living in either urban areas or in small towns and large villages. Seventy-two percent of women in urban areas receive some formal schooling, compared to 65% of women in small towns or large villages and only 33% of women in rural areas. Seven percent of women in urban areas and 5 percent of women in small towns or large villages have a postsecondary degree, compared to less than 1% of women in rural areas (Figure 3).

In Yemen, both where a woman resides within the nation and her household income appear to be important to whether she has any formal education at all, and particularly whether she will have education above the primary school level (Figure 4). For survey data analysis of how women’s household income in Yemen varies across regions, please see the topic brief, “Paid Work and Control of Earnings & Assets.”