The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed the emergence of an international agenda to promote female education, most prominently seen in the Millennium Development Goals and the ‘Education for All’ campaign. Within these campaigns, the notion of ‘progress’ is largely based on a movement towards gender parity in statistical indicators such as enrolment figures, survival rates and examination achievements. However, these country-based statistics are merely the tip of the iceberg, as they represent major shifts in the politics and the processes of national educational policy making. A full understanding of progress in female education requires an in-depth reading of the socio-cultural and national policy contexts within which these statistical shifts occur.