Faith One basic area of student diversity that schools rarely acknowledge is gender. When someone with the authority of a teacher describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing. Fortunately, there is a growing knowledge base about the steps necessary to create conditions in which the gender diversity of every child is accepted, valued, and nourished. While schools should do this work due to the positive impact on all students, increasingly schools must do this work.
Caroline Manion Access to and completion of a quality basic education is widely accepted as a fundamental human right and a key way for citizens to gain valued knowledge, including learning the skills and attitudes necessary to lead an active, engaged and productive life.
The success of this movement and the inclusion of education as a goal and indicator in the Millennium Development Goals framework, and more recent Sustainable Development Goals agenda, attest to the continued importance of education as a key driver of national and global development and security.
Moreover, beyond the challenge of ensuring that all children have the opportunity to attend school is the matter of how schooling is experienced differently by boys and girls and what this means for gender equality in terms of retention, attainment, quality learning and educational outcomes.
Despite differences in socioeconomic, cultural, religious and political contexts, gender inequality in education is a recognized global phenomenon and as such represents a shared challenge amongst nations of the world.
Before discussing contemporary gender in equality trends and challenges and the available policy responses, I first offer a brief conceptual discussion of key analytical and measurement terms.
When we speak of sex differences, we are referring to the biological differences between males and females; when we speak of gender differences, we are referring to the socially defined and enacted differences between women and men in terms of characteristics, capabilities, roles, etc.
We learn our gender roles through socialization practices in our families, communities and schools.
The concept of gender stereotype refers to The importance of sex and gender education and beliefs about the characteristics associated with, and the activities appropriate to, men or women in a given community or society.
Gender bias occurs when people make assumptions or stereotypes about behaviours, abilities or preferences based on gender. Yet, despite the deeply entrenched and taken-for-granted nature of gender, recognizing that gender roles and gender identities are socially rooted and performed brings us to the powerful conclusion that gender norms and values can and do change.
The significance of this realization cannot be over-stated as it suggests that we have the power to address gender-based inequalities in schools and through schooling.
Gender equality, emphasizing sameness, refers to the provision of equal conditions, treatment and opportunity for both men and women to realize their full potential, whereas gender equity emphasizes difference and refers to the process of being fair to men and women.
What gender equity is and how to achieve it involves value judgments, understanding of the different experiences, positions and needs of different women and men in a society, and the recognition that treating individuals or groups equitably sometimes means treating them differently.
Gender in equality in education: Close to three quarters of the countries with fewer than 90 girls for every boys enrolled in primary education were in the sub-Saharan Africa regionibid.
The situation is worse at the secondary level, with the average GPI only increasing from 0. And again, almost three quarters of the countries considered to be far from achieving gender parity at the secondary level are in the SSA region. The challenges to achieving gender equality in education have been well documented over the past decades and continue to persist in the contemporary moment.
With respect to supply-side factors of gender in equalities in education, we know that school and classroom cultures, teachers, teaching and learning materials, the physical condition of schools, and the overall policy landscape e.
Linking school and society, or supply- and demand-side barriers, gender-based violence GBV has become an urgent policy concern over the past decade: GBV has a high social and economic price in terms of parents not wanting to send their children to school, in that it often leads to dropping out of school, causes psychological trauma with long-term and unpredictable consequences, in addition to pregnancy, disease and injury6,7.
Policy responses for the promotion and achievement of gender equality in education There are five main principles or patterns underpinning successful gender equality in education approaches8.
First, partnership approaches that bring together governments, donors and civil society are key. Third, there is a need for strategic and evidence-based policy advocacy and support for continued research, monitoring and evaluation.
Fourth, there must be commitment on the part of governments and their partners to the promotion of gender equality in education.
Fifth, governments, with the support of donors and civil society, must ensure adequate and sustainable education financing ibid. Research suggests that successful policies address change and drive action in three main interconnected areas: The following offers a brief discussion of exemplars of policy responses associated with each of the preceding action areas.
The building of more schools and the recruitment of more teachers, including more women teachers to act as positive role models, is one relatively straightforward way governments can support educational access. Innovative interventions have included pairing volunteers from the community with children to walk with them to and from school to ensure their safety.
Reforms aimed at improving the quality of education are also an important part of stimulating demand for schooling. Such reforms can include the improvement of school facilities e. Gender-responsive teacher training, both in-service and pre-service, is also seen as an effective way to support gender equitable teaching and learning in the long term, and as such represents a valuable policy lever available to governments and an area for serious investment.
Promoting the establishment of school-based clubs e. A further supply-side intervention to support gender equality in education is curriculum reform and textbook revision to remove gender bias and promote gender awareness.
First, the elimination of school fees has been critically important. Second, many governments offer financial subsidies to help off-set the direct and indirect costs of schooling for the most vulnerable groups, particularly girls.
Conditional cash transfer CCT incentive schemes are a more recent policy innovation that have been used with considerable success in a number of sectors, including education, to change behaviour and promote gender equality in education. Additionally, the documented success of school-based feeding programs and reproductive health education as well as other child-health supportive programming support the claim that multiple and multi-sectoral interventions are necessary to address educational challenges related to poverty.
Institutions Enacting and promoting gender equality in education involves institutional reform and transformation.Gender equality would help get rid of such issues and ensure a better life for the oppressed sex. End to stereotyping In most cultures across the world, men are seen as the primary caregivers, while women are traditionally the homemakers.
The difference between sex and gender is that sex is a biological concept based on biological characteristics such as difference in genitalia in male and female.
Gender on the other hand primarily deals with personal, societal and cultural perceptions of sexuality. In summary, sex refers to the biological differences between men and women, while gender refers to psychological differences, including how masculine or feminine you are.
While most people think of sex as only being male or female, there are other possibilities. Policymakers and educators worldwide should not underestimate the importance of early childhood education on the development of deeply engrained gender norms.
It is important to consider the cognitive and affective formation of gender identity which develops in early childhood. Underlying the social conflicts that surround sex education programs are disagreements about the role of government in family life and sex education; parental control of the content of sex education; core values to be included in sex education, such as gender equality and personal responsibility; and, fundamentally, what constitutes appropriate.
Gender studies examines all spheres of life, including the home and family, the workplace, religious institutions, education, government and the media.
Gender studies research also investigates the nature of gender, and thereby helps society and individuals establish healthy gender-related expectations and models of identity.