Measuring gender equality in education: A challenge for the Sustainable Development agenda

By Elaine Unterhalter, Professor of Education and International Development at the Institute of Education, University College London, and Joan Dejaeghere Associate Professor, Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development, Interdisciplinary Center for Global Change, University of Minnesota.


Young girls attend Adolescent Girls’ Club in South Sudan © BRAC/ShehzadNoorani

As we look to the post-2015 agenda, discussions are turning to how we can expand our thinking around girls’ and women’s education from just gender parity (comparing numbers of girls to boys in the classroom) to gender equality. The focus on parity since the EFA goals were set in 2000 is widely acknowledged to have left serious obstacles to girls’ and women’s educational opportunities, including gender insensitive curricula and learning materials, classroom practices that undermine gender equality, and school management ignoring or minimizing incidents of school related gender based violence (SRGBV).

It is important to move the discussion on from parity to equality. Hiding behind what may seem like parity, for example, may be vast differences in the quality of education girls and boys receive.

How can we measure gender equality?

There are two main challenges associated with measuring gender equality in education. The first is the imprecision associated with the current measurement system. Critics note that current metrics provide limited perspectives for policy discussion. The data routinely collected through administration channels or household surveys does not lend itself to explore more complex processes of inequality. The challenge of finding a way to define and measure SRGBV, which is one of the entrenched forms of gender inequality in education, is an important example.

Clarifying what gender equality or inequality in education is, so that it can be measured and resulting gaps exposed, entails understanding how gender intersects with other forms of social division (disability, class, race etc.) in different socio-cultural and historical contexts. It requires considering issues of social justice and wellbeing.

Continue reading

Posted in Basic education, Equity, Gender, Millennium Development Goals, Post-2015 development framework | 5 Comments

The sustainable development goals won’t be achieved without education

Over the course of the next few days, UN Member States will be meeting in New York for the next intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. They will be discussing global indicators for each of the sustainable development goals and accompanying targets, with some countries providing examples of how they will approach implementing new development priorities at the national level. Member States will also discuss ways of coordinating with the Finance for Development process for the sustainable development goals that has been taking place since October 2014, and is building up to the Addis Ababa conference in July.

Timed with these week’s negotiations, the Global Education First Initiative has launched a new video, using the findings from the GMR’s Sustainable Development Begins with Education booklet released last September. The video highlights the precise ways education can help achieve key goals in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda: from gender equality and healthy families to sustainable consumption and peaceful societies.

Continue reading

Posted in Aid, Basic education, Conflict, Donors, Economic growth, Employment, Environment, Famine, Finance, Gender, Health, Human rights, Learning, Millennium Development Goals, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty, Quality of education, Sustainable development | 3 Comments

The world will not reach new education targets by 2030 unless financial efforts are stepped up

New estimates by UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) reveal that an annual US$22 billion external funding gap must be bridged if low and lower middle income countries are to achieve quality, universal pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education by 2030.

The paper Pricing the right to education: The cost of reaching new targets by 2030,” launched today with Results for Development in Washington DC, shows that even if governments significantly increase overall funding for education to 5.4% of GDP, the new targets will not be met by the 2030 deadline and millions of children will continue to miss out on their right to basic education.

At the primary school level, there should be no more than 40 pupils per trained teacher. Credit: Eva-Lotta Jansson

At the primary school level, there should be no more than 40 pupils per trained teacher. Credit: Eva-Lotta Jansson

These findings come ahead of the crucial International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa this July, where the international community will discuss how much is needed to finance the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and the sources of these funds.

The proposed post-2015 education targets, which take into account an increase in the number of students accessing education, as well as significant improvements in education quality, will cost US$231 billion per year from now until 2030, more than double the cost of education in 2012. For low income countries, this annual cost is set to triple, from US$10.3 billion in 2012 to US$36.3 billion per year until 2030. This increase will ensure that every child has access to a cycle of pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education. It will also provide access to improved school facilities and instructional materials and ensure that all children, particularly the most marginalised, are taught by trained and qualified teachers.

Many low and lower middle income countries are unlikely to have the resources necessary to increase their public education expenditure to the levels required to cover the total cost of the targets. But while governments must ensure their commitment to financing education, aid will still need to play a significant role in enabling these countries to meet the targets.

Continue reading

Posted in Basic education, Donors, Finance, Innovative financing, Learning, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty, Quality of education, Sustainable development, Teachers | 1 Comment

School-related gender-based violence prevents millions of children from reaching their academic potential

The policy paper, “School-related gender-based violence is preventing the achievement of quality education for all,” launched today at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York.

School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is a global phenomenon that impacts millions of children worldwide, especially girls. The new paper explores the extent, causes and repercussions of SRGBV and highlights the need for gender disaggregated evidence to better inform policy.  Available data on violence against children allow us to build a partial picture of gender-based violence in schools, but a significant number of cases are under-reported and the exact number of children suffering as a result of SRGBV remains unknown.

Credit: Hugo Infante/ UNESCO EFA Report

Credit: Hugo Infante/ UNESCO EFA Report

SRGBV is defined as acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of social norms and gender stereotypes, and enforced by unequal power dynamics. It also refers to the differences between girls’ and boys’ experiences of and vulnerabilities to violence.

Estimates from Plan International, based on the number of children affected by verbal bullying, show that 246 million boys and girls experience this type of SRGBV each year. In France, 40% of students reported being victims of cyberbullying and in Zambia, 61% of schoolchildren reported being bullied in the previous month. Millions more children suffer physical violence at school under the guise of discipline: over one-half of all children live in countries where they have no legal protection from corporal punishment in school.

Continue reading

Posted in Conflict, Gender, Health, Human rights, Quality of education, Teachers | 1 Comment

No Girl Left Behind – Education in Africa

By Claudia Costin, Senior Director for Education at the World Bank, Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and Karen Mundy, Chief Technical Officer at the Global Partnership for Education.

On International Women’s Day, let’s remember the challenges girls face in education

A girl in school in Kenya. Credit: James Otieno/UNESCO EFA Report

What would your life be like with only five years of schooling? For many girls around the world, this is the most education they can expect and they are the lucky ones. Across Africa, 28 million girls between the ages of about 6 and 15 are not in school and many will never even set foot in a classroom.

Sunday is International Women’s Day, an occasion to celebrate the tremendous progress achieved in securing access to a basic education for girls in the poorest countries.  But for us, it is also a stark reminder of the millions of girls who are being left behind.

We live in a world where violent extremists are bent on destroying the lives of school girls, their families and communities. And beyond the horror, we see the daily grind of poverty forcing girls to sacrifice their right to education and hope for a better life.

We know educating girls means a world of more educated women who tend to be healthier, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their own children, all of which can lift households out of poverty.

Breaking down the barriers is a joint effort

Our respective organizations are committed to getting all children in school and learning and much progress has been made over the past 15 years, especially on attainment. Examples include Uganda’s free universal secondary education policy (the first in sub-Saharan Africa) and Ghana’s capitation grants. However, at a global level, while the share of children out of primary school has fallen from 15% to 9% since 2000, little progress has been achieved since 2007.

No single organization can break down the complex barriers facing girls, especially in Africa. As part of our collective effort, we are supporting the work of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) to produce the data needed to make a difference in the lives of girls across the continent. Together, we are driving a data revolution in education to ensure that countries collect and use more relevant data.

Image taken from new UIS data tool. Click to view.

Image taken from new UIS data tool. Click to view.

The UIS has developed a new data tool, entitled Left Behind – Girls’ Education in Africa, which illustrates the progress to date as well as the enormous challenges ahead as the international community crafts a new set of global education targets. To what extent are girls enrolling in school compared to boys? Which countries and regions have made the greatest progress in reducing the gender gap in primary and lower secondary education? And what kinds of classroom conditions are shaping the learning experiences of African girls across the continent? These issues, and others, are addressed in this interactive tool, which is automatically updated with the latest available data.

For example, we know that poverty is the biggest barrier to a girl’s education. But if she lives in a rural area, belongs to an ethnic minority, or is caught up in a conflict zone, the odds against her accumulate. If a girl has not started primary school by age 10, chances are she never will go to school in countries like Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Senegal.

Continue reading

Posted in Africa, Basic education, Conflict, Developing countries, Equality, Equity, Gender, Human rights, Learning, Literacy, Marginalization, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty, Primary school, Quality of education, Sustainable development | 5 Comments

How will higher education be integrated in the post 2015 education and development agenda?

POST2015_equity_borderBy Patrick Montjouridès, Programme Specialist at UNESCO Institute of Statistics and Louis-André Vallet, Director of Research at the National Centre for Scientific Research.

As the process of defining a new set of global education targets post-2015 comes to an end, a debate has emerged around how best to monitor progress of the future development agenda.  Given the emphasis on equity and quality, it is critical that target definitions and indicators are aligned to support monitoring activities.

Higher education has always been part of the global human rights framework. And yet, it was never explicitly included in previous international education agendas, including the Education for All movement. In addition, while inequalities are apparent at every level of an education system, evidence suggests that equity issues are especially salient in higher levels of formal education. This is indeed the case in countries such as Viet Nam, Indonesia and the Philippines where the bulk of wealth-related inequalities in education occur at the post-secondary level. Even if higher education is adopted as part of the new education policy agenda, it may still become one of its neglected targets.

Higher education should be treated more comprehensively

Photo: Graduating students in Kenya. Credit: Marteen Boersema/UNESCO EFA Report

Photo: Students graduating in Kenya. Credit: Marteen Boersema/UNESCO EFA Report

In both the Muscat Agreement and the Open Working Group targets, the focus is exclusively on access to higher education. However, inequalities in higher education are not solely a function of access; they are generated throughout the tertiary education cycle. Ideally, a target on higher education should cover access to, progress in, and completion of a higher education qualification or degree program. In addition, the expansion of higher education institutions (HEIs) often involves differentiation, reserving first-tier institutions for highly selective groups of students and then creating opportunities of diminished value for others. Thus access to higher education institutions of differing quality should be monitored in all countries. In equity terms, the issue is also the extent to which children from less affluent households gain access to first-tier HEIs.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Speaking a minority language should not mean being disadvantaged 

International Mother Language Day, observed since 1999 on 21 February, honours the world’s abundant cultural and linguistic diversity. The celebration draws attention to the significance of pluri-lingualism and the need for language preservation. For example, UNESCO’s Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger categorises more than 2000 languages along various levels of endangerment.

Photo: Zinat Rehana/ UNESCO EFA Report

Photo: Zinat Rehana/ UNESCO EFA Report

This year’s special theme is inclusion in and through education: language counts. During celebrations for the International Mother Language Day at UNESCO, yesterday, attention focused on the role of mother language as a factor of inclusion in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

While most countries are bi- or multilingual, education is generally taught in the dominant or national language. Today, minorities repeatedly become marginalised and isolated because of linguistic barriers. These communities are socially, economically, and politically excluded, and if they are able to attend school, are likely to perform poorly on assessments and often eventually drop out. Not only does this impede children’s chances of succeeding but it exacerbates social inequality and reduces citizenship participation.

Continue reading

Posted in Equality, Language, Latin America, Learning, Literacy, Marginalization, Post-2015 development framework, Rural areas, Teachers, Training | 7 Comments