Gender Equality in Education: the Role of Schools Jyotsna Jha Adviser, Commonwealth Secretariat, London Nottingham, 17 October, 2008
MDGs and EFA: The Reference Points • Millennium Development Goals: MDG 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education MDG 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women • Education for All Goals: (ii) ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality; (iv) achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults; (v) eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls' full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality;
Gender inequality exists even when there is parity • Gender parity is a limited concept. It is a numerical construct. It tells us nothing about equality in terms of the educational environment, infrastructure, attitudes or attainment. Nor does it necessarily mean high enrolment, either for boys or girls. Nevertheless, it is a step along the long road to gender equality. • Gender Equality in education refers to equality of (and ensuring the desired level of) Entitlements, Opportunities, Experiences and Outcomes in education for both boys and girls. • Gender equality in education is also one of the MDG and EFA commitments; difficult to measure though. • Gender equality in education critical for elimination of other forms gender inequalities.
Gender equality in education: The role of educational institutions • What is the role of educational institutions imparting education in the process of transformation? • Are educational processes geared towards change? • Are educational institutions conscious of the responsibility and do they have the necessary wherewithal to make the processes gender responsive and the learning experiences empowering? These questions are especially relevant at secondary stage. Secondary education caters to an age group which is critical for identity formation and for developing critical skill of decision making. This is the stage that provides a link between childhood and adulthood.
Gender Analysis of Classroom and other Processes in Secondary Schools: Background and Rationale • Annotated Bibliography of works on gender and education with special emphasis to Secondary Education commissioned in five countries indicated a dearth of studies looking at classroom and schooling processes • A study on boys’ underachievement suggested classroom and schooling processes play an important role in shaping gender identity and self image which in turn are important for learning and achievement
Research Objectives Using in-depth case studies of four to five schools each, the research provides deeper insights into • how far schools question or maintain status-quo regarding existing gender-unequal practices, stereotypes and expectations • how gender manifests itself in schools and classrooms in different contexts, and what are the significant similarities and differences across different countries, regions and cultures • what needs to be done to make schools more gender-equal institutions that encourage both boys and girls to realise their full learning potentials and in turn make societies more equal
Countries covered • India: very high Population, high gender disparity in favour of boys except in examinations results; high sub-national differences • Nigeria: high population, high gender disparity in favour of boys • Pakistan: high Population, very high gender disparity in favour of boys • Malaysia: middle population, gender disparity in favour of girls • Trinidad & Tobago: low population, gender disparity in favour of girls, especially at secondary level • Samoa: low population, gender disparity in favour of girls especially at secondary level • Seychelles: low population, gender disparity in favour of girls, especially at secondary level
Methodology • Case Studies (single sex as well as co-ed schools) • Essentially qualitative in nature • Tools for the study were developed and finalised in a participatory manner • Observation (classrooms, sports, teachers meetings, etc.) • Focus group discussion (FGD) (teachers, boys, girls – separate as well as joint groups) • In-depth interviews (teachers, principles, boys, girls, administrators) • Document Analysis
What emerged…in nutshell Schools in most cases reinforce the existing gender ideology, stereotypes, norms and expectations everywhere (these themselves are similar in certain aspects and different to some extent in different contexts) schools have the potential of playing a transformative role in changing the prevalent notions and unequal relations, it does not necessarily happen on its own, and requires specific and targeted interventions in most cases.
Teachers’ perceptions and expectations • Girls considered more responsible and hard-working, boys considered indifferent and aggressive; But boys still seen as ‘leaders’ in most countries and girls though girls taking leadership roles in T&T and Seychelles • Teachers expectations in terms of academic performance higher from girls in Samoa, T&T, Seychelles and Malaysia; not so clearly differentiated in the rest • Girls’ role in contributing to ‘care’ work in school and home viewed as ‘just’ and ‘unavoidable’ almost everywhere
Subject choices and Classroom Processes (1) • Gendered Subject choices in most countries though some changes visible • Teachers giving greater attention to boys in terms of providing them more opportunities to respond and participate in India, Pakistan and Nigeria; not much difference observed in remaining countries • Girls shy and timid in India and Pakistan, no effort from teachers’ side to change that • Classrooms passive and teacher controlled in India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Samoa; teacher controlled in remaining countries as well but greater opportunities for students’ participation
Subject choices and Classroom Processes (2) • Girls and boys sit separately almost everywhere • Boys and girls rarely interact even in co-ed schools in Pakistan, level of interaction varies elsewhere • Language reinforcing gender stereotypes in most places; not so in Seychelles • Choice of sports gendered everywhere; sports generally seen as a male preserve everywhere (except Seychelles) • Boys receive more harsh reprimands for minor offences everywhere
Textbooks • Visibility of women is very low as compared to men’s appearance in the textbooks. Women and men are identified with stereotypical attributes: brave, heroic, honest, strong are portrayed as male and caring, self scarifying, love and kindness as female attributes (Pak) • Members of textbook review and author are almost all men. In one instance, a team of female authors and reviewers were able to produce comparatively more gender inclusive textbook (Pak) • under representation of women is clearly evident in all the textbooks across subjects. little effort to depict women in non-traditional roles and portray them as capable of making choices (India, Malaysia); Token ‘shifts’ such as a chapter on women’s status added (India) • Most of the textbooks in use are recently published books and gender friendly in Seychelles.
Students’ aspirations and perceptions • Males believe they will be the main breadwinner everywhere and see girls as “weaker” and in need of protection • Girls less stereotypical in aspirations about career choices: at times inconsistent with their subject choices • Even when girls speak of being ‘independent’ they believe in being protected • Parents reinforce gender stereotypes; Gendered difference in parental support • Boys interested in academics seen as ‘feminine’ by peer: very strong in T&T, to varying extent everywhere
from the Pakistan Report… We boys are like chlorophyll for the family [meaning family is dependent on us for survival just like a plant depends on chlorophyll] (FDG with MCS boys) We female are like a white handkerchief; any small mark of ink on it will be very visible.(FDG with GGHS BVG girls)
Action Gender in School: the Follow up Project • Working with small number of schools in selected countries to change them to become more gender responsive institutions • Institutionalising these changes in those schools • Taking the experience beyond in the form of Action Guide • Technical Support in replication of the approach in the initial set of countries • Technical Support to new countries to adopt and implement pilots
Action Projects: Approach & Methodology • Different technical models to provide variety and range of interventions • Varying management arrangements providing different management models • Continuous monitoring and reflection • Simultaneous documentation • One mid-project workshop (Norwich) to allow exchange of experiences and provide ideas from ‘outside’ • Two trial workshops to share the documentation with a wider audience to feed-in more views and experiences (Southern Africa: Mozambique and the Pacific: PNG or Samoa)
Action Project: India • Rajasthan (one of the lowest female literacy states in India) • Led by a research Institution (Institute of Development Studies); Supported by the state and central governments • Broad based advisory group to guide • A group of selected teachers (both men and women) and head teachers from the schools plus researchers to be the main implementers; • Schools have developed their own action plans and have started implementing; whole school approach
Action Project: Malaysia • Mix of rural and urban schools • Led by a the Educational Planning and Research Division, Ministry of Education • Interventions to be jointly decided by teachers, researchers from the ministry and outside consultants • Subject teaching approach
Action Project: Seychelles • One school in Mahe and one in another island; one additional school attached to each school for influence • Led by a the Ministry of Education with support of external consultant • Large schools: multi-level gender advisory group to be developed (school and the ministry) • Ministry contributing for renovations / physical facilities • Schools implementing their plans
Action Project: Trinidad and Tobago • Three schools in Trinidad and one in Tobago • UWI taking the lead; UWI research students to play a lead role in implementation • Each school to develop separate plan; one researcher each to be attached to a separate school
Ultimate goal • Education processes to be transformative in terms of preparing students to question existing gender relations and notions of masculinities and being feminine • School as space where students have opportunities for questioning, debating, seeing new perspectives, forming new identities and relations without feeling threatened or weak