Education from a gender equality perspective

May 1, 2008

Education is universally acknowledged to benefit individuals and promote national development. Educating females and males produces similar increases in their subsequent earnings and expands future opportunities and choices for both boys and girls. However, educating girls produces many additional socio-economic gains that benefit entire societies. These benefits include increased economic productivity, higher family incomes, delayed marriages, reduced fertility rates, and improved health and survival rates for infants and children.

Over the years, education has focused on access and parity—that is, closing the enrollment gap between girls and boys—while insufficient attention has been paid to retention and achievement or the quality and relevance of education. Providing a quality, relevant education leads to improved enrollment and retention, but also helps to ensure that boys and girls are able to fully realize the benefits of education. The primary focus on girls’ access to education may overlook boys’ educational needs. This approach also fails to confront the norms and behaviors that perpetuate inequality.

This paper presents a framework that has been designed to address the inequality described above. A tool for education programmers, the framework helps ensure that education projects meet the needs of all learners. Using an approach that takes into account the relations and interaction between males and females (also known as gender dynamics), the Gender Equality Framework addresses four dimensions of equality in education. These are: equality of access, equality in the learning process, equality of educational outcomes, and equality of external results. Sections on each of the four dimensions include concrete activities that can be implemented as part of an overall strategy to achieve gender equality in education. Additional examples are provided through the use of text boxes, which highlight successful USAID education interventions.

In addition to presenting the framework, this report also explores topics such as the relationship between education quality and gender equality and the distinction between parity and equity. Achieving gender equality in education means that boys and girls will have equal opportunities to realize their full human rights and contribute to and benefit from economic, social, cultural, and political development.

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