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.
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.