Gender Equality across the Globe
The importance of gender parity and equality in education within the process of international goal setting has been emphasized in the Education for All (EFA) Goals 2 and 5 (UNESCO, 2000) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 2 and 3 (United Nations, 2006).
According to UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Report 2003/2004, “gender equality” in education refers to boys and girls experiencing the same advantages or disadvantages in attending school, the same approaches in terms of teaching methods, gender neutral curricula, and academic orientation, all of which aim to ensure equal learning achievement and subsequent life opportunities (UNESCO, 2003).
The EFA GMR 2011 gender review notes that, while gender disparities in primary and secondary school enrolments have narrowed since 1999, 69 countries have still not achieved gender parity in primary school enrolment. The global gender divide means that 3.6 million girls are missing from primary school.
Moreover, the gains that have been made in gender parity in enrolment do not necessarily translate into gender equality in education (Saito, 2010). Enrolment data alone sheds no light on whether boys and girls are acquiring the knowledge and skills that will allow them to enjoy better health, a better quality of life, work productivity, and full participation in decision-making (Unterhalter, 2009).
The issue of gender inequality in education is not restricted to girls’ and boys’ access, participation, or achievement, but also involves the question of gender-balanced roles and participation in decision-making, planning and management in the sector. Despite the feminization of the teaching profession in many countries, fundamental inequalities remain within leadership positions (Hungi, 2010), particularly in planning and management of education systems. For example, research conducted by Smulders (1998), highlights aspects of organizational culture in education institutions and how gender bias generated from management practices are often incompatible with female responsibilities at the household level.
Limited participation of one gender group in educational planning and management may also lead to decisions that fail to promote the participation, retention, and learning acquisition of female (or male) students in the school system. Furthermore, even where gender balance in management positions is achieved, biases in favour of one gender group (due to cultural norms or practices) may persist.
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