Better data needed to address gender inequality in education, global experts say  

By on 18/02/2024 | Updated on 15/02/2024
Photo by Michele Ferrari via Pexels

Education leaders from around the world have called for better data to advance gender equality in learning.

During a session at UNESCO’s inaugural Conference on Education Data and Statistics – which took place in Paris last week – UN officials, civil servants, academics and experts at non-profits and other organisations discussed how countries could address inequalities through data.

In an update provided after the event, UNESCO said that “high quality and timely data and evidence are integral to policymaking, planning, and the delivery of strategic interventions to advance gender equality in and through education. They can help countries to identify and analyse gendered patterns and trends, and better plan and target resources accordingly”.  

Become a member of the Global Government Women’s Network

Many of the event participants cited disaggregated, intersectional data as key to improving gender equality in education, but noted that many countries lack the resources to generate such data.

Justine Sass, UNESCO chief of section, education for inclusion and gender equality, said that more sex-disaggregated and intersectional data that provides granularity and comparability at sub-national, national, regional and global levels was needed “to understand how gender norms, expectations and structures influence all persons’ educational access, retention, and learning outcomes”.

Though indicators under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 on inclusive education and lifelong learning consider gender dimensions, Manos Antoninis, director of UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report, noted that they do not disaggregate by intersecting characteristics and that this can provide misleading information due to methodological flaws.

“While girls outperform boys in practically every county in minimum proficiency of reading while they are adolescents, this gap flips when we look at adult literacy – so the meaning of this gap is debatable,” he explained. 

To address such flaws and enable easier analysis of trends, Elaine Unterhalter, professor of education and international development at University College London’s Institute of Education, said “we need to put together very different kinds of information that are traditionally held apart. If we put them together, we get a richer picture”.  

Antoninis added that comparable data collected preferably “though not necessarily” by countries was needed, but that not all countries use the same data and survey types and that many lack the resources and capacity to generate robust data.

UNESCO found that of the benchmarks set to measure countries’ progress on Sustainable Development Goal 4, the equity indicator was the second least reported of 11, with only 36% of countries having set this indicator. Nearly a third of countries (27%) cited lack of data as the reason.

Some governments would need access to financial and technical support to ensure effective data collection and monitoring and evaluation systems, Antoninis said.

The Gambia – moving from quantitative to qualitative data  

The example of The Gambia proved that progress could be made with the right assistance.

Alpha Bah, head of education monitoring information systems and information communication technology at The Gambia’s Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, explained that the government wanted to “expand the gender lens beyond gender parity and to align data systems through a systems approach” but that data quality was a challenge.

With the help of UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics and Global Education Monitoring, the ministry coordinated with other government departments and sectors, and was able to “move from aggregate to individual data” and “beyond quantitative data to include qualitative data”, said Bah.

Other examples discussed at the event included the Ministry of Education of Jamaica’s efforts to monitor high school drop-out rates among boys and to address the problem in part through curriculum revision and nutritional support; the use of household surveys across Latin America and the Caribbean to understand socioeconomic aspects of educational access, retention and learning outcomes; and the Bridging Accountability for Gender Equality in Education initiative led by University College London.

The latter aims to address the disconnect between global, national and local data collection and analysis and is helping countries including Indonesia, Kenya and Malawi.

Conference attendees also heard about the Global Accountability Dashboard, which monitors progress against key indicators on gender-transformative education.

The Dashboard was launched in October 2023, is hosted on the Population Council’s Evidence for Gender and Education Resource website, and is part of the Global Platform for Gender Equality and Girls’ and Women’s Empowerment.

It includes profiles for 193 countries and over 900 programmes and is designed to showcase “who is doing what, where, what is working and what and where the needs are”, according to Nicole Haberland, senior associate and director of the Population Council’s Gender, Education, Justice, and Equity Innovation Hub.

Read more: UN introduces feminist climate justice framework for policymaking

Join Global Government Forum’s LinkedIn group to keep up to date with all the insight public and civil servants need to know.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *