Education is a basic human right, but to achieve its full potential as a societal game-changer it must be accessible to all. Equal access to quality education helps build a strong foundation for a society that is more gender equal and that in turn reduces child marriage and child mortality, boosts economic prosperity and wage equality, and even improves resilience to climate disasters.
Evidence-based decision-making is a core element of the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) approach to hardwiring gender equality into its strategy for transforming education. That’s why the GPE Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) is building and mobilizing evidence to help GPE partner countries understand and respond to barriers to gender equality in specific contexts. It also provides opportunities for more than 70 GPE partner countries to learn from each other about how to scale approaches that work best.
Gender equality features prominently in the KIX portfolio. All KIX applied research projects promote gender equality in their design and implementation and nearly one-quarter of them focus specifically on gender equality themes, including gender-transformative pedagogies and gender-sensitive schools. Many peer learning activities led by KIX regional hubs also directly address gender equality. Initial results from both are already helping to inform policy to enhance gender equality.
How KIX research is already supporting gender-equal education
One KIX-supported project is building evidence to help scale accelerated education programs and education models focused on girls into national policies in Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Early findings indicate that these programs are only one-third of the cost of one year of primary education (or one-tenth of the cost when we consider the years of education girls can skip after completing an accelerated education program).
During the 2022 KIX Symposium, we heard that Nigeria is already putting the project to use — despite the fact that violence has forced some 11,000 school closures in the last two years. Nigeria’s Ministry of Education is drawing on this research to address the needs of the now millions of out-of-school children in the country, including through standardized certification for accelerated education programs.
The research is proving to be valuable in other contexts as well. Dr. Yatta Kanu, a representative of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Basic and Senior Education, explained, “We have been able to get lots of data about who the students are, why they’re dropping out of school, and how we can get them back into school.”
Lessons from the KIX Observatory project
The Observatory taught us a great deal about how a crisis like a pandemic can worsen gender inequalities in education. Researchers gathered and analyzed evidence from educational responses to COVID-19 in 40 GPE partner countries across Africa. Their findings indicated that countries were able to soften the impact of the pandemic on gender inequalities in education by:
- targeting funding to support vulnerable populations, including girls;
- supporting teacher training on gender-based violence and psychosocial support;
- designing school reopening campaigns to promote the return to school for girls; and
- collaborating with local, regional, and international partners to holistically address children’s wellbeing.
For a quick look at how a crisis like a pandemic can worsen gender inequalities in education, we welcome you to explore this virtual booklet by KIX.
Same challenge, different contexts: data project uncovers key nuances
Promoting gender equality in education also requires understanding how the educational experiences of girls and boys differ across contexts, as outlined in a recent report by a KIX-supported project on using data to improve education equity and inclusion. This evidence demonstrates regional differences and global trends. For example, on a global scale, boys have an advantage in entering primary school. In upper secondary school, the balance shifts in favour of girls, except in Western and Central Africa, where boys maintain the advantage.
These findings show that approaches to gender equality in education must be adapted to the realities of each country. KIX research projects are building and mobilizing evidence that helps do exactly that.
Strengthening gender equality through peer learning exchange
By providing opportunities for countries to learn from each other and from experts, KIX regional hubs help to position evidence on gender equality for use and strengthen the capacity of policymakers in GPE partner countries to integrate evidence into policy and practice.
For example, the Europe, Asia and the Pacific Hub hosted an in-depth professional development course on using geospatial data to improve equitable access to education. Representatives from government, civil society and academia gathered to learn from each other and develop country studies, such as one from Cambodia that analyzes gender parity in lower-secondary school. Education planners in Cambodia used their training to identify districts with low performance and to design interventions such as gender-responsive teaching and learning to improve education outcomes.
In one of many webinars and roundtables hosted by KIX hubs, the Africa 19 Hub brought together representatives from ministries of education to share how they are addressing school-related gender-based violence. Countries compared their relevant legislation and policy frameworks and discussed their experiences. Representatives identified recommendations such as investing in data and evidence to inform their approaches and strengthening connections between education and child protection policies.
The Latin America and the Caribbean Hub recently hosted a webinar on gender equality perspectives in public education. To dig even deeper, the hub is conducting a community of practice on gender equality in public education across the region. Representatives from nine countries are sharing their efforts to promote gender equality in education and co-developing tools to support each other’s work.
KIX is unique in its approach to education research: it responds directly to the needs and priorities of GPE partner countries at all stages of the process, from research design to peer learning and policy uptake. These countries know that gender equality plays a key role in strengthening education systems and that equitable education systems contribute to more equal and prosperous societies. KIX is building an ever-growing body of knowledge on the barriers to gender equality in education and how to address them at scale in different contexts.