The gender gap in education remains a crucial issue not just for women, but for all humanity. Today, in the year 2020, there is still a need to push for women’s and girls’ rights to greater access to quality education.
Despite the availability of the Internet, computers, and smartphones, which are the most popular portals to online information and education, many are still denied their much-needed use and benefits. In terms of male-to-female ratios, there are fewer girls worldwide who receive schooling.
The global campaign for the right to education has yielded positive results. Governments, civil society, non-government organizations, and the private sector have pitched in to achieve many target outcomes.
In more advanced economies, women have more access to professional courses like health coach certification, new computer-related courses such as data analytics, and even traditionally male vocational programs like automotive servicing, welding, and construction work.
However, a UNESCO global education report in 2019 states that “technical and vocational programs remain a male bastion.”
Recent studies also show that there are at least 5.5 million out-of-school girls than boys. The records for 2018 show that of the 59 million primary age children who were out of school, 55 percent were girls. The data sets get more complicated for higher grade levels, but the trend remains the same; more girls are not getting education based on global data.
At the collegiate and university levels, many women are receiving the education they need, but yes, more work needs to be done. In the United States, 58 percent of tertiary-level graduates are women for the year 2016. That is a high percentage, but it registered a decrease in the number of women university graduates when compared to data from 2013. In countries like Afghanistan, progress was made in the same metric, which showed that 23.55 percent of university graduates were women, an increase compared to only 18.31 percent in 2013. Still, this percentage remains very low, based on the female population of that country.
Many experts agree that addressing gender disparity in education at the national, regional, and global levels must start with these four vital initiatives:
Change Social Norms
Societies and entire nations need to revisit and change the social norms obtaining in their respective areas. For example, around the world, many still believe that boys should be prioritized in terms of education. In many traditional and male-dominated societies, there is still a belief that women will eventually just be married off to another man, only to be confined to the duties of wife and mother in the home. That means that a woman need not pursue higher education, a belief that is patently wrong and counter-progress. Moreover, in some cultures, only girls are expected to do housework while the boys are exempted from any responsibilities. That leads to a belief that men can explore the world and do as they please. Meanwhile, women are to be kept at home to do all the work.
These beliefs, though held long and practiced widely, need to be gradually replaced with new norms that are based on a human rights framework that promotes equality of women and men in their social, political, religious, financial, legal, academic status and entitlements.
Increase Women’s Role in School Leadership & Administration
It is also essential to pave the way for more women to take leadership and administration roles in education. Traditionally, more women enter the teaching profession and work at the classroom level. Data from several countries show that males outnumber females in terms of school administration roles.
Legal Reforms to Protect Young Girls & Women
Another indispensable reform area is in legislation. Girls and women are deprived of good, quality education because of gaps in legal rights, which are influenced by cultural beliefs. For example, some countries still allow child marriages, which eventually blocks a young girl or lady to pursue higher education due to unnecessarily early responsibilities as a wife and mother. In some countries, a pregnant woman is not allowed to go to school. At the same time, in really culturally and legally backward areas, girls are simply prohibited from getting any form of education. These malpractices and outdated beliefs need to be addressed and corrected through proper legislation and law enforcement related to gender rights and the right to quality education.
Increase Government Funding for Women’s Education & Empowerment
To pursue these initiatives, governments need to “talk the talk and walk the walk.” Simply put, governing bodies need to commit and allocate adequate funds to provide education and training to disadvantaged girls and women. Empowerment of women begins by granting funds that give life to policies, frameworks, strategies, and actual working programs and services on education.
It takes concerted action by all people, women and men alike, to advance human rights, including gender parity in education. While there is still a long way to go, much has already been achieved. All sectors need to come together to uphold and sustain these rights, for doing so benefits not just women but all of humanity.