How You Define the Millennium Development Goals Really Matters

Some countries have achieved the goal of "gender parity" in education, despite having education systems that are bad or totally unfair.

In 2000, all 189 member countries of the U.N. signed on to the Millennium Declaration, an eight-point platform to combat global poverty and hunger, fight AIDS and malaria, and improve maternal health, among other goals. The idea was to hit ambitious targets in each area by 2015.

With the U.N. General Assembly taking place right now, some people are checking in to see how we're doing on those goals (including GOOD's own Alex Goldmark). The short story: It's a mixed bag.

But are the goals themselves appropriately defined? Over at the Guardian's Poverty Matters blog, Jonathan Glennie points out that part of the education goal is to make sure that girls are attending school in the same percentage as boys. And the problem, Glennie notes, is that a country could meet that goal while still having 1) a very low percentage of boys and girls in school and 2) a very wide gap between the percentage of rich urban girls that attend school as compared to the percentage of poor rural girls.

Here's the chart (larger version at the Guardian):

As you can see, Egypt, which is doing relatively well educating its children, hasn't officially achieved "gender parity." But Malawi, a country in which fewer than 10 percent of children attend secondary school, has achieved gender parity. Nicaragua has also achieved gender parity even though that's only because about 70 percent of rich girls attend secondary school, counterbalancing the fact that only about 5 percent of poor girls do.

Gender parity is only one part of the Millennium Development Goals. There are others that address other aspects of education and employment. But the lesson of this gender parity data is that, depending on how they're defined, you can sometimes achieve these goals without really fixing underlying problems of equality.


September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

It's fun to go to a party, talk to strangers, and try to guess where they're from just by their accents and use of language. It's called 'soda' on the East Coast and 'pop' in the Midwest, right? Well, it looks like a new study has been able to determine where a Humpback whale has been and who he's been hanging out with during his awesome travels just from his song.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less