“In no society are women and men on equal terms” (Irina Bokova, 2010)

"Men and women at work" © European CommisioN

"Men and women at work" © European Commision 2008. Drawing by an 8-year old Sri Lankan girl as part of the annual European Commission competition to promote gender equality.

Globally, some 39 million girls of lower secondary age are currently not enrolled in either primary or secondary education, while two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate adults are women. Only about one-third of countries have achieved gender parity at secondary level. The evidence shows that something needs to change.

The IIEP 2011 Evidence-Based Policy Forum on Gender Equality in Education: Looking Beyond Parity, aimed to review how schools and the education system as a whole can function pro-actively in the equal interests of girls and of boys, men and women. Much of the currently available research on gender equality in education has focused on gender parity in terms of access to primary and secondary schools (including how this is related to engagement of women within the teaching profession and the education system more broadly). More recently, evidence has emerged that looks beyond access, examining gender equality in more depth in terms of learning achievement.

In addition, there is a dearth of evidence that focuses on leadership patterns in educational planning and management. Although there is increasing evidence in the private sector that increased diversity at senior levels of management makes economic sense, this has so far not been translated systematically to the public sector. This is despite the increased feminization of the teaching profession at the lower levels of education. It is still the case that in most countries, the most senior management and leadership positions in education are occupied by men. The evidence presented during the Policy Forum examined some of the multiple reasons why this is the case.

Therefore, the Policy Forum presented evidence relating to two aspects of gender equality in education:

  • at the school and classroom level – analysis of gender differences in student achievement in relation to classroom teaching, school environment, and local context; and
  • at the ministry of education level (both central and decentralized levels) – improvement of gender equality in relation to educational leadership in planning and management.

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