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Interventions to enhance girls’ education and gender equality: A rigorous review of literature Elaine Unterhalter (Institute of Education, University of London), Amy North (Institute of Education, University of London), Madeleine Arnot (University of Cambridge), Cynthia Lloyd (Independent Consultant), Lebo Moletsane (University of KwaZulu Natal), Erin Murphy-Graham (University of California, Berkeley), Jenny Parkes (Institute of Education, University of London), Mioko Saito (IIEP)
Research questions • On the basis of an evaluation of evidence, what leads to the expansion and improvement in girls’ education? • Under what conditions does evidence suggest that this expansion and improvement is associated with gender equality within and beyond schools?
Methods • Searches: • Five large databases • Hand searches of titles and abstracts of 24 journals (from 1991) • Websites of eleven networks, NGOs and multilateral agencies • Personal correspondence with Southern based networks • Searches for relevant books in 3 University libraries • 1350 works identified for screening. • 169 studies included for full review. All included studies deal with some form of direct or indirect intervention which address aspects of girls’ education and/or poverty • Reviews undertaken by team members according to areas of expertise. • EPPI reviewer database
Distribution of studies • More studies ranked as high quality by the review team use quantitative methods. The potential of qualitative research is under represented in the literature reviewed. There is a lack of longitudinal studies which assess the sustainability of interventions over time. • Roughly equal numbers of studies reviewed deal with primary and secondary education. Considerably more studies reviewed relate to rural, rather than urban contexts. • Africa was the region most represented with 111 studies, followed by Asia (71) and Latin America (17)
Distribution of studies • More research studies focus on interventions linked to resource and infrastructure and changing institutions, than to engagement with norms and problems of exclusion. • More studies were identified on the expansion of girls’ education, notably increasing enrolments, attendance, retention, grade achievement, and completion than on the links between girls’ schooling and gender equality more broadly in society.
Intervention: resources & infrastructure • Interventions that provide resources directly to families or children in cash or in kind • Interventions involving the physical infrastructure of schools • Targeted interventions for girls and interventions focused on boys and girls Evidence suggests: • Targeted resource provision to parents and/or students in the form of stipends and cash transfers, improves girls access, retention and progression in school (but trade-offs between enrolment increases and learning improvements) • There is some evidence that enhanced infrastructure can also led to dramatic improvements in enrolment for girls in poor rural underserved areas • There is no evidence that the provision of toilets on their own improve enrolment, progression or achievement
Interventions: institutional cultures • Interventions to change institutions, either at the level of the school, the education system, or with regard to policy-making and implementation of specific policies. Evidence suggests: • Improved training of teachers, both to higher levels of subject area expertise and with specific attention to gender equality, and fostering of collaborative learning styles is important • Extra curricular activities have a strong impact on improving girls’ knowledge, confidence, and capacity to challenge gender norms • The employment of women as teachers appears promising, but it is difficult to isolate the effects of this conclusively • Gender mainstreaming or appointment of women to local positions of leadership in and out of schools appears promising • The effects of school choice and single sex schools are context specific
Interventions: norms & participation • Interventions concerned with changes in gender norms and improved participation in decision-making and reflection by girls and young women, with emphasis on the most marginalized. Evidence suggests: • Clubs are an important space where girls and boys can discuss and challenge gender norms, including those associated with sex, gender based violence and school progression • There is promising evidence that work with adult women and men in literacy or other programmes yields results in terms of changing household work burdens. • Attention to how discussions and reflections on gender norms can be embedded within communities, through for example religious institutions, women’s groups, and school structures will be important in future research on how to sustain change and participation
Connections to gender equality • Anenabling environment associated with a climate of change in support of girls’ education and gender equality complementary institutional processes. Evidence suggests: • opportunities for women and women’s rights groups in policy making is key. This needs to be combined with legal reforms that remove obstacles to women’s advancement formally. • educational policies which lack a gender focus may not succeed in reducing inequalities. Strategies to improve female education do not necessarily reduce barriers in access to the labour market, but are a key contributor to women gaining this access 2) Empowerment as an outcome of expanded and improved education for girls. Evidence suggests: • expanded education opportunities for girls and women are beginning to challenge some aspects of unequal gender power. However education cannot independently create empowerment, there needs to be continuous policy commitment.
Conclusions on future research • There is a need for an integrated research programme combining quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods studies, explicitly filling the research gaps identified in relation to the three kinds of interventions, their connections with each other and their relationship with gender equality. • Interventions to change gender norms and increase female participation in decision making are particularly under-researched.
Additional conclusions • Reviewing approaches to rigour • Capacity building • Combined interventions