Achieving gender equality in education: don’t forget the boysIdes Ofune 7th April 2019 0 COMMENTS
Boys need to be taken into consideration if the world is to achieve gender equality as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goal 4. A UNESCO policy paper argues that although emphasis on gender equality tends to focus on girls’ education due to gender norms, there are negative factors affecting boys’ education especially at the secondary level. A continuing puzzling phenomenon for researchers remains that boys continue to perform lesser than girls in assessment of reading skills worldwide.
According to the paper, in many countries, boys face a great risk of not progressing or completing secondary level education. For example, in Tunisia 75 males completed secondary school for every 100 females. Another example is Enugu State in Nigeria where boys were found to be at a disadvantage in lower secondary school. A prominent reason is poverty which makes them to drop out of school and look for work. The paper states that “young men in poverty are more likely to seek employment rather than complete schooling”. When a poor household’s income suddenly drops, the family may respond by withdrawing a boy from secondary school so that he can earn money.
In some countries, easy entrance into the labour market attracts boys rather than schooling. If poor boys and young men can readily access unskilled jobs, which are not very different to those they could access if they completed secondary school, they may have less motivation to stay in school. In such places, there is less value for education. Another reason boys drop out of school is a general sense of disaffection and not belonging in schools due to gender norms. In southern African countries, boys are taken out of school early to herd cattle. In Lesotho for example, boys are less likely than girls to complete secondary school and poor boys are even less likely to do so than poor girls
“Achieving gender parity in primary and secondary education enrollment and completion is an essential first step in achieving gender equality in education”. According to a research, men who did not complete secondary school are more likely to perpetrate physical violence against a female intimate partner. Furthermore, boys who complete secondary education are less likely to join gangs and violence related groups. Thus, ensuring that boys are educated is one way to mitigate sexual violence and improve gender relations.
The paper calls for positive role models for boys in form of male teachers who are consistent, fair and supportive. In order to achieve the aspirations of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, policy makers need to focus on education quality and inclusiveness as a robust strategy that can improve attainment and learning for all children.
Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at email@example.com