This article analyses World Bank strategies for education in the context of gender equity. Developing countries face the challenge of expanding education with limited resources. At the same time, promoting gender equity is vital to achieving basic development goals. Appropriate governance strategies are needed to provide education in a way that is cost-effective and inclusive. Privatisation, decentralisation and citizen participation are three strategies that are promoted by the World Bank to control costs and improve transparency in education. Intended to promote efficiency, these strategies can harm equity. This study compares World Bank strategies to proven effective programs in girls' education. Empirical analysis reveals that while many World Bank projects include effective strategies for girls' education, governance reforms generally do not promote awareness of gender. Implications for expansion of girls' education are discussed. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.