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The findings > Thematic Studies> Girls Education>Part 4
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TRENDS
 
Changes effected through new policies, programmes, and directions in turn create fresh challenges and result in new priorities. These are discussed in the following pages.
 
New Challenges
 
Certainly the focus on girls' education from a gender perspective has raised many important issues about boys' education, and it is fully recognized that a gender-sensitive education is one of the things that will make the vision of Education for All a reality. Similarly, the evolution over the decade in girls' education and, in particular, attempts to better understand the gender gap have resulted in a much better understanding of exclusion-from school, but also in the classroom, even for many who are already in school but excluded from effective learning. This work, often pioneered by a focus on girls, can make it possible to adapt what is known to include other excluded and marginalized groups. One of these groups, among many, that is a challenge consists of adolescents. Adolescence is the transitional period between being a child and an adult, a time of rapid physical, intellectual, psychosocial, ethical and spiritual development. Increasing their capacities and opportunities, and ensuring their safety and support will enable adolescents to avoid high-risk behaviours (such as HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, and violence) and situations that undermine their rights (such as exploitative and hazardous work or sexual exploitation). In short, positively influencing young women and men at this stage of life offers numerous opportunities to break the cycles that undermine human rights and development.
 
The HIV/AIDS pandemic presents unexpected challenges of enormous proportions. Girls are disproportionately negatively affected, whether they are infected or not. Immediate and concerted effort is essential or the hard won gains in girls' education of more than a decade will be eliminated in a few years.
 
It is very apparent from the work in girls' education that access to and quality of education are inextricably linked-it would be easier if this were not the case. This bears on very closely to two other critical aspects of girls' (and boys') education: the need to understand both demand and supply and how these play out, one against the other. Everybody agrees that quality is important, but the experience of and challenge arising from girls' education is that the very notion of quality must change in some very fundamental ways. A quality education includes learning the basics and learning how to learn in a safe, secure, gender-sensitive, healthy, and protective learning environment. This finding presents an enormous challenge to systems that often find it difficult to offer basic education meeting the conventional definition of quality.
 
New research on globalisation is showing the enormous potential of the processes that accompany it to increase disparity. This is particularly alarming as women are already the bulk of the poor and globalisation could exacerbate the situation. In the face of this challenge and to break the cycle of women's poverty, girls' education has to take on a new urgency. On the other hand, the promise of the possibility of new information and communication technologies being brought to bear to close the growing digital divide could make an enormous difference in alleviating unfair disparities. A challenge for girls' education is deeply embedded in this possibility, however. There is a growing body of evidence that girls and women are less likely to benefit from these new technologies than their male counterparts.
 
A challenge that is not discussed much, but is emerging, is a worldwide growing push from forces in support of religious fundamentalism. Often this results in a decrease in, rather than increase in, the rights and empowerment of girls and women. The links of fundamentalism to patriarchy and their implications for educational change deserve more attention if girls' education is to move ahead at an accelerated pace.
 
Understanding of these challenges and monitoring how they are affecting girls' education require more robust data that extend beyond the conventional education statistics. It also demands disaggregated data so that the nature of challenges can be properly understood.
 
Priorities
 
It is not possible to address all issues simultaneously. Priorities have to be set-some can be set globally, but good analysis at local and national levels is critical to determine how best to overcome the barriers to girls' education in a timely manner. Simple access to any kind of basic education remains a major issue for millions of children, the majority girls.
 
Careful and strategic application of lessons learned to close the gender gap and address educational quality are essential if all are to receive a quality basic education. There is no single intervention that will work everywhere-each context will have to adapt what is known to the particular and nuanced circumstances that are working against girls' education. Linked to this is the fact that efforts in support of girls' education must move from what are primarily limited efforts to go to massive scale. This will present enormous challenges around the world, but without such an effort the majority of excluded girls will remain on the outside looking in for the foreseeable future.
 
To make this extra effort, to accelerate progress, will require ingenuity, persistence, ongoing fostering of new partnerships, and significant resource mobilisation and utilisation. There are probably fewer "lessons learned" in girls' education with regard to resource mobilisation than any of the other areas selected for discussion. Yet this topic may present one of the greatest remaining challenges. It is hard to reach girls (poor, with disabilities, affected by conflict or HIV/AIDS, engaged in child labour, for example) who must be included, and it is likely to take more resources per child to reach them than it took the reach those who are already in school.
 
To reach Education for All girls must be included-without this the world will have failed to deliver on the promise of a basic education for all. Girls can be included. It is possible. It must be achieved.
 
Knowledge/Information Dissemination. Disseminating the knowledge of (a) what the range of possible strategies to be used with respect to improving girls' education are; (b) what local conditions and opportunities call for; and (c) what the optimal mix of strategies can be, is a continuing challenge. Further, expanding the educational opportunities for girls and women tend to lead to the emergence of issues about the availability of career opportunities. If girls are gaining as much education as boys, then the rationale for excluding them from certain careers becomes less and less justifiable. An underlying challenge in this area is to understand what the key elements of a successful strategy are and which aspects were context-specific. For example, there have been many attempts to replicate the success of the BRAC schools but none have come close to replicating either their organizational efficiency or their appeal to girls.
 
Developing a consensus on what quality education means. The increased enrolments that often result when parents are encouraged to send their daughters to school almost always bring into sharp focus a debate on quality. The sudden increase in enrolments can cause acute shortages of classrooms, textbooks, teachers and pedagogical materials. There can be a deterioration of quality on a number of dimensions: performance, repetition and dropout rates, teacher morale and turnover, and parental satisfaction. The challenge then becomes identifying the critical indicator or set of indicators for measuring shifts in quality and assessing which of the many input variables contributes most to maintaining quality. Once this has been established, a national consensus needs to be developed and shared so that limited resources are effectively spent.
 
This question requires a close collaboration between technical experts, who can assess the impact of different sets of quality indicators, and community and government interests who can use that information to come to political and economic decisions about the organisation of schools.
 
Monitoring and Feedback. The effective implementation of any new initiative requires close monitoring and processes for continuous review, assessment, evaluation and re-formulation. When done in an environment in which stakeholders are empowered to share their views, these processes will lead to a more effective implementation, in which bottlenecks and unexpected consequences are dealt with more quickly and lessons are shared more systematically.
 
Changing Environment: The rapid change in technology, particularly information technology, and the forces of globalisation have made the issue of exclusion from basic education even more urgent. Countries without significant numbers of computer literate men and women are in danger of finding themselves permanently thrust into the periphery. Females are particularly vulnerable because all the available evidence suggests that women, even in the West, are only a small minority of internet users, computer programmers, web designers, etc.
 
As the gender gap closes, it becomes clearer that it is the marginal girl that needs to be reached. This girl is likely to be poor, to live in remote areas-either geographical or culturally, to be of a different religion or ethnicity. Providing an education of sufficient quality and relevance will more and more challenging and expensive. However, we should be encouraged by the success that has already been experienced in educating populations hitherto considered unreachable.
 
We need to be particularly vigilant about viewing 'the girl child' as a unitary concept. As has been noted before, while gender is a very important human parameter, it is not the only one. The relative disadvantage of each individual girl is mediated by her race, family income, ethnicity, religion and nationality to name but a few factors. Are the programmes, policies being put in place being utilized by those who need them or simply magnifying the advantage of those already of high status? In particular, what does it mean when female enrolment increases more sharply at the secondary and tertiary levels than it does at primary, even in countries with relatively low enrolment levels?
 
As we work towards attaining universal primary education, it will be important that each region and country develop reasonable targets and benchmarks for girls' education.
 
It would be a mistake to ignore the changes that have taken place in the global environment when we discuss achieving universal access to schooling. It is patently clear that our notion of basic education will need to encompass levels of technical competence that were undreamed of in 1990. In a modern economy, more and more of even the most basic jobs (in factories, supermarket cashiers, etc.) require a familiarity with computers. How many of the girls in school (both in the developing and the developed world) will be able to attain computer literacy during their school career over the next decade?
 
CONCLUSION
 
The participants at Jomtien identified girls' education as an important issue and this was underscored at the Amman Mid-Decade Review of EFA. At Dakar, in 2000, it remains, unfortunately, a pressing priority. The urgency of addressing the issue cannot be underestimated. This is where the biggest part of the problem lies with regard to denying children their right to basic education.
 
The picture is not all bleak, however. Over the decade, there have been significant changes. The Middle East is one region that has demonstrated that the education of girls is quite doable, even in situations where it initially appeared that there might be serious traditional barriers. It can be done.
 
Also, over the decade much has been accomplished in terms of understanding what it takes to make a difference with regard to girls' education. Whereas ten years ago, issues of access were predominant it is now known that:
 

Access and quality are inseparable. Supply of and demand for education are intricately linked-this is especially the case when the education of girls is considered by families and communities

Gender discrimination is deeply rooted throughout education systems and to ensure that all girls participate and learn, it is essential that systemic gender bias be eliminated. There are cases where school places are available, but girls do not attend because of gender bias. This points to the need for a new understanding of what quality education really is-learning environments that are rights-based, child-friendly, effective with children, gender-sensitive healthy for children, and protective of children.

Girls' education is not just a matter of concern for educators-it is everybody's business. It is everybody's business because it is society that creates the conditions that mitigate against girls' education and it is that very same society that is paying the high price for not educating its girl-children. This shared responsibility calls for actions outside of education in support of girls' education as well as actions within education systems.

The concept of expanded partnerships promoted at Jomtien has proven to be sound in regard to advocating for and implementing girls' education. Effective strategies have mobilised and engaged a wide range of partners; parents and community members, as well as girls themselves, have proven to be critical partners in most situations.

Careful analysis prior to implementing interventions is absolutely essential. It is known that girls' education is complex because of the multiplicity of factors that come into play when decisions are made about whether to educate a girl or not, and when a girl decides whether to stay in a learning environment or leave it. Interventions that have not taken into account the complexity of the situation are likely to run into problems.

Resources are critical. Reaching the excluded, the majority of whom is female, is proving to have higher unit costs than the costs of those who are already included. The attention to quality also adds to the resource needs, but it has been shown that quality improvements made under the auspices of girls' education benefit boys, sometimes more than they do girls, so they are investments in systemic improvements.

Good analysis demands disaggregated data and this is often hard to find. Nevertheless, one of the contributions that a focus on girls' education is making is to underscore the call for better and disaggregated data so that education actions can be appropriately targeted to make good use of existing resources.

 
Thus, the emphasis from Jomtien on girls' access to basic education has shifted considerably. While some would argue that this change may be adding unnecessary complexity, results on the ground indicate that when this complexity is given due consideration, in fact, significant change is possible, and in a relatively short period of time. Furthermore, lessons from expanding girls' education are being applied to other disadvantaged groups.
 
A focus on girls using a gender perspective has lead to much better understanding of how to meet some of the new challenges of the millennium, such as globalisation and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Understanding that these processes have a differential impact on sub-populations has facilitated the development of more effective and targeted actions.
 
There have been some hard lessons learned, but these are now part of the knowledge base and so should not be repeated. At the same time, the knowledge base relating to girls' education is so much deeper and broader than it was in 1990, and the experience on the ground is much vaster. Community by community and country by country it is becoming clear that girls' education is not just a possibility, it is a reality. In many cases, the desire to overcome what seemed an intractable problem has provided opportunities to experiment and to offer options for change to existing systems of education that were very inflexible. Thus, girls' education has contributed in a modest way to the need to reform education systems so that they better meet the needs of the 21st Century.
 
There are many models and approaches, there are many actors and supporters, but, in the final analysis, the evidence is in. Girls' education can be achieved. Without it, Education For All will never happen.
 
 

INFORMANTS

UNICEF

Sheldon Shaeffer, Chief Education Advisor Mary Joy Pigozzi, Senior Education Advisor Peter Buckland, Senior Education Advisor Vigdis Cristofoli, Assistant Programme Officer

WORLD BANK

Carolyn Winter, Girls' Education specialist, Human Development Department Kekelwa Nyaywa-Dall, Consultant, Human Development Department

USAID

Susie Clay, Office of Women in Development Sharon Benoliel, Center for Development Information and Evaluation Victor Farren, Center for Development Information and Evaluation

UNDP

Anjimile Mtila Doka, Senior Advisor, Social Analysis and Policy John Lawrence, Consultant

UNESCO

Warren Mellor, EFA Forum Secretariat Aicha Bah Diallo, Chief, Basic Education Division Anna Maria Barthes, Programme Specialist, Section for Science and Technology Education S. Saba Bokhari, Programme Specialist, Basic Education Division Ulla Kulha, Consultant, Division of Basic Education Jean Baptiste Saddiki, Consultant, Division of Basic Education Namtip Aksornkool, Principal Specialist, Literacy and Women's Education Denise Lievesley, Director, Institute for Statistics Nicole Belle, Consultant, Institute for Statistics Chu Shiu-Kee, Programme Specialist, Institute for Statistics Ulrika Peppler-Barry, Deputy Executive Secretary, EFA Forum Secretariat

UNFPA

Delia Rarela-Barcelona, Senior Technical Officer, Coordination Branch, Technical and Policy Division

Academy for Educational Development

Beverly Jones, Senior Vice President and Director, International Basic Education Chloe O'Gara, Ready to Learn Center

Rockefeller Foundation

Joyce Lewinger Moock, Associate Vice President

FAWEP

eninah Mlama, Executive Director Eddah Gachukia, former Executive Director

 
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