International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women everywhere. It also acts as a reminder that although much has been accomplished around the world, there is a long way to go to reach full equality. For this to happen, we must empower every girl and woman by granting them the right to an education, thereby promoting lifelong learning opportunities.
Gender equality cannot be met without taking a stand against the millions of girls currently out of school, denied their right to education or being treated unfairly in the classroom. The Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) is publishing its sixth Gender Review on 8 March. It explores the shortfalls in securing gender equality in education and proposes solutions to the challenges we face.
Meeting our commitments to education for girls and women
The fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and SDG 4 in particular, on which we concentrate our efforts, requires bold and united action. The gender gap remains – in entry to education, leadership opportunities and stereotypes.
Let’s take a look at the facts. In 2015, 193 countries around the world committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, where UNESCO played a pivotal role in conceiving a framework dedicated to delivering “inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
Yet, girls and young women still face steep barriers in gaining an education, from poverty and prejudice to violence and much more.
They continue to be stopped from going to school, when married young or held back by early pregnancy. In Tanzania, girls are routinely tested for pregnancy and the government expels more than 8,000 students who are pregnant every year. Afghanistan has one of the highest levels of gender inequality in education in the world and yet its’ government has signed all of the principal international treaties to grant girls their fundamental education rights.
In 2016, there are 34 million girls but 29 million of boys out of primary school according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Only 66% of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education and just 29% of low income countries.
Accelerating progress to build equitable and inclusive education systems
The 2018 Review paints a picture of the setbacks in gender equality in education and who should be held accountable for ensuring this target is fulfilled. It explores the range of impediments to building equitable and inclusive education systems, spanning from taking a stand against harmful practices and championing women in school leadership positions to ensuring that all governments review textbooks and training teachers to prevent some of the most deep-rooted forms of gender discrimination.
Government frameworks should not only measure the differences in education opportunities between males and females but also push for changes in laws, institutions and policies inside and outside of education systems to ensure the distribution of resources in teaching and learning practices is equitable.
Some basic barriers limit girls’ access to school. In only 9 out of the 44 countries with available data did more than 75% of primary schools have single-sex sanitation facilities. School inspections should seek to get schools to meet the mandated regulations – and where such regulations are missing, they should be provided.
To put an end to gender-related-violence and to reduce the spread of unintended early pregnancies, it is also necessary to have the right education programmes in place in classrooms that address gender power relations.
To address the lack of gender balance in subject choice, governments should consider promoting apprenticeship programmes, mentorships, networking or scholarships for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In the long run, this could boost the numbers of professionals represented across all sectors.
One of the problems at the core of gender-biased education policy and practice is gender disparities in school and other leadership positions. Although data is patchy, in almost all countries there are more female teachers than there are women head teachers.
The Review calls on governments to prepare annual education monitoring reports to track progress towards education targets, including those related to gender equality. The GEM Report’s contributions to place gender parity in the spotlight on International Women’s Day, is a plea to governments to establish, monitor and enforce regulations in favour of gender equality. Ultimately, all people should be held accountable in order to end discrimination on a local, national and global level to meet the objectives of the 2030 Agenda.