2022 Gender Report

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Over the past 20 years, gender disparities in education have changed rapidly, with girls closing or even reversing the gaps that separated them from boys in access, completion and learning at the various education levels. While these are successes to celebrate at the global level, challenges to gender equality in and through education have not ceased. Behind the global success, on average, lies the extreme exclusion of poor girls in rural areas of the world’s poorer countries. Behind the progress of girls in mathematics, on average, lies the pervasive over-representation of boys among the top performers. Behind the steady shift in favour of females of indicators, such as teacher sex composition, minimum proficiency in reading and enrolment in higher education, lie the feminization of the teaching profession and the sorting of female students into particular fields, which strengthen gender stereotypes. Behind the prosperity of numbers lie the discriminatory gender norms that far too many people continue to hold about girls’ and women’s role in society and that curricula and teaching have not done enough to overturn.

A companion to the global 2021/2 GEM Report, this publication has also emphasized the role of non-state actors in influencing the gender inequality trajectory in and through education. Coming in to fill gaps in provision left by the public education system, non-state actors are on the front line for girls’ education in emergencies, have grown to meet the needs of parents with young children who have no public early childhood education alternatives, and have catered for families who prefer to send their children to faith-based schools. Depending on the context, their role can be to push the gender equality agenda forward or to undermine progress and maintain the status quo.

The recommendation to take from the quantitative and qualitative analysis of multiple trends in gender equality in and through education is that policymakers and advocates need to #Deepenthedebate. Deepening the debate requires:

  • Paying closer attention to data: This report has relied upon a comprehensive set of data on gender gaps in out- of-school and completion rates from the UIS database and the VIEW website, and in learning outcomes at various proficiency levels from the WIDE website. Drawing multiple data sources together, the report has shown trends over time and across age groups that allow for greater analysis of who is still left behind and how. These resources can enable a more informed discussion of where the barriers to gender equality in education now lie and where to focus efforts.
  • Taking a closer look at where boys are now falling behind: A conversation on gender equality can no longer ignore the increasing challenges to boys’ education and what they mean. For all the countries where girls’ education must be the top priority, there are others where boys’ needs should be those on the agenda in policy
  • Looking beyond access, completion and learning to societal norms influencing progress: Gender equality in education is influenced by gender-based expectations, by politicians as well as parents, communities as well as businesses and faith leaders. Any assessment of priorities must include a mapping of influential actors to engage with in a plan for reform. Reforming gender equality in education cannot be done by governments alone and requires all actors’ attention.