This goal calls for an equal number of girls and boys to be enrolled in primary and secondary school by 2005 – this is what gender parity means (even though not all girls and boys may be enrolled at this stage). It further aims to achieve gender equality in education by 2015. This is a more ambitious goal, meaning that all girls and boys have equal opportunity to enjoy basic education of high quality, achieve at equal levels and enjoy equal benefits from education.
WHY THIS GOAL?
In principle men and women are equal – with the same rights and duties. In practice that is not the case in many situations. Men can earn more money than women, they can get better jobs, they make more decisions in family and community, and have more positions of power in society. In education, more men than women benefit from higher levels of education, and more boys than girls are in school.
In some situations, the opposite is true – there are more girls than boys in education. Almost everywhere girls do better in school than boys.
However, across the world as a whole, 57 per cent of the children out of school are girls. There are many reasons why this is so: girls stay at home to do chores or look after smaller brothers and sisters, they are married and bear children at a young age, they have to work to earn money for the family, they are passed over in favour of boys. UP
The way men and women relate to one another depends on the community and the society in which they live. However, the countries of the world together have made a number of agreements which recognise that men and women should be treated equally, and that they have equally important contributions to make to society and to its development.
>> Monitoring Report, 2003/04 -Box 1.1. The ‘gender commitment’ instruments
Education is a way of making sure that girls and boys have an equal start in life and the chance to grow and develop according to their potential. This is not the case where girls cannot go to school, for whatever reasons.
We also know that educated mothers are more likely to send their girls to school, to look after the health of their family better, to have smaller families, and educated women are less exposed to exploitation and risks such as HIV/AIDS.
Enabling women and men to benefit equally from what the world has to offer and to contribute equally to society is a goal that involves much more than education. However, education must be at the heart of these efforts if the full potential of humankind is to be unlocked.
Making sure that girls get an education is about more than just what happens at school; it involves:
· tackling social issues such as child labour, female genital mutilation, early marriage and other problems that keep girls away from school;
· making sure that policies do not discriminate against girls and women – in education, in employment or in gaining access to leadership positions;
· tipping the balance in favour of girls – by offering scholarships or school feeding programmes, through making schools girl-friendly with proper and separate sanitation, by employing more women teachers for the security of girls and as a role model;
· making the content of education helpful to girls, for example by including reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention, and by introducing them to their legal rights.
PROGRESS TOWARDS THIS GOAL
Progress towards gender parity is measured by a gender parity index (GPI) where a value of 1 indicates parity between the sexes. The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2003/4 notes that
· 16 countries (13 of them in sub-Saharan Africa) had a GPI value in primary education of less than 0.8 to the detriment of girls;
· 30 countries (17 in sub-Saharan Africa) had the same value for secondary education.
>> Global Monitoring Report 2003/04 - Table 2.24. Current situation of countries according to their distance from achieving the goal of gender parity in primary and secondary education
In terms of achieving the 2005 and 2015 targets, the Report indicates, for a total of 128 countries with data, that
· 52 countries have achieved or are likely to achieve both targets;
· 22 countries which may miss the 2005 target are nevertheless likely to achieve the 2015 target;
· 54 countries are not likely to achieve parity in primary or secondary education or both by 2015. In 25 of these countries, it is boys who are at a disadvantage, not girls.
>> Global Monitoring Report 2003/04 - Table 2.25. Gender parity in primary and secondary education: national prospects for goal achievement in 2005 and 2015
The challenges of getting all girls into school are wide-ranging. They include the following:
· changing attitudes among the male population so that women and girls have the same rights and respect as men and boys; awareness of rights among women also needs to rise because they have often accepted the dominant view and do not know how to challenge it;
· raising the status of the social roles women in society at large – showing that women can and do achieve the same levels of status, employment and power as men;
· educating mothers as a way of sustaining the education of girls in the long term;
· expanding early childhood education, particularly for girls, thus ensuring that more will enter and benefit from primary schooling;
· girl-friendly schooling: it is not just a matter of getting girls into school, but also about making sure that schools are good places for girls to be – secure, healthy, affirming and encouraging;
· no stereotypes: when designing textbooks and other materials, girls and women should not be shown in limited roles, for instance merely as mothers or providers of food;
· adolescent education: for girls who dropped out of school or who never went it is difficult to obtain basic education. There is a need for targeted initiatives to give these girls, most often in their adolescent years, the chance they missed.
POLICY OPTIONS – WHAT GOVERNMENTS SHOULD DO
· Legislate to ensure equal rights before the law; this matters a great deal in areas like marriage law and inheritance, as well as in employment and the ability to sign contracts;
· Make sure that all government ministries are sensitive to gender issues, making equitable decisions in their appointments and allocation of resources; programmes and plans should always respect gender equity;
· Take special measures to encourage girls to attend school where this is necessary – support for the family income, feeding programmes, more female teachers, for example;
· Promote programmes of literacy and basic education among mothers, thus raising the value and importance of educating their daughters also;
· Train teachers to be aware of gender issues and to combat gender stereotypes in the classroom;
· Produce learning materials which portray life chances and expectations in a fair manner for both girls and boys, avoiding the stereotypes of women working only as caregivers;
· Research the need for education for adolescent girls and design appropriate programmes which enable them to pursue or re-start their education or find productive work, building bridges between formal and non-formal education to do so.
POLICY OPTIONS – WHAT FUNDING AGENCIES SHOULD DO
· Support research into the factors in specific contexts which keep girls from attending school;
· Support the framing of legislation to improve the rights and opportunities of women and girls;
· Act as a catalyst for dialogue between government and communities on gender issues, in general and as they relate to education;
· Fund the re-design of textbooks and teaching materials, as well as the re-alignment of teacher training, in order to reflect more equitable gender concerns.
· Demonstrate and model equitable gender practices in their own institutional life and procedures.
WHAT UNESCO IS DOING
In cooperation with national governments and international agencies UNESCO
· plays an active role in the UN Girls'Education Initiative ; ensuring that UNESCO’s experiences from work in girls’ education and gender mainstreaming form part of the strategic development of UNGEI;
· works to promote an active gender perspective in the UN Decades for which it is the coordinating agency, notable The UN Literacy Decade , and the the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development;
· promotes knowledge generation and sharing on policies and practices related to the achievement of gender parity and gender equality, and develop policy recommendations. UNESCO Education Primary Website
· documents good practices from countries that have successfully ensured access for girls to primary education, their completion of it and their transition to secondary education, and disseminates; these lessons to policy makers.