14 January 2008
Without partnerships between a number of representatives across different societies progress is unlikely to be made, says education expert
There is a pressing need for leadership beyond bureaucracies if gender equality in education is to be achieved, argues Dr Ramya Subrahmanian, a social policy specialist at UNICEF India.
“Policy-making processes need to be made more transparent and inclusive at all levels to ensure both that resources are allocated to meet priority gaps and needs, and that diverse voices are heard in the promotion of social equality,” writes Dr Subrahmanian, who is also a former Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK.
Her comments appear in a handbook for policy-makers and stakeholders – ‘Gender in Primary and Secondary Education’ – recently published by the Commonwealth Secretariat. It is part of the Secretariat’s series on Gender Mainstreaming, or integration, which looks at how all of a society’s or an organisation’s policies and programmes can work towards achieving gender equality.
The author argues that this challenge of gender integration goes beyond building schools and ensuring access, to sustaining these gains and securing the future of education for girls. Thus, she observes, gender mainstreaming in education needs to address the more strategic questions of the relationship between education and wider development and change, and of the relationships between men and women, boys and girls.
Dr Subrahmanian states that there are three main messages that can be taken from a review of theories about female education. First, “advocacy for education” is necessary “for the promotion of girls’ education to be sustained”. Second, she asserts that education must go hand-in-hand with other areas crucial for human well-being including health and nutrition. Finally, Dr Subrahmanian points out that indicators need to be developed for effective analysis of progress towards gender equality.
About 30 million Commonwealth children do not go to primary school and the majority of these are girls. And whereas progress has been made in closing the gender gap particularly in primary education, disparities still exist in secondary and higher education levels.
“Large sections of populations – a significant proportion of whom are girls – are locked out of schooling and formal education institutions,” notes Dr Subrahmanian.
The Secretariat is, therefore, currently working to implement the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality (2005-2015), endorsed by all Commonwealth Heads of Government at their biennial summit in Malta in 2005. This Plan “commits the Commonwealth to improving the social status of girls and women and to putting in place the conditions that will enable them to enrol and stay in school,” writes Ann Keeling, Director of the Secretariat’s Social Transformation Programmes Division, in the Foreword of this publication.
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