Gender equality means that both men and women have equal opportunities to realise their potential. In the schooling environment, it means that both boys and girls are provided with the same treatment in all areas in a bid to enhance their pursuit for educational targets (Davies & Banks, 1995).
Over the past years, boys have had more opportunities than girls due to various reasons in the society; therefore, civil society groups and other non-governmental organisation have been formed to support education for girls, especially in the developing countries. The trend has gradually changed, and more girls are being given opportunities to realize their full potential in schools and various institutions. Despite all these campaigns, there are still cases of gender disparity in schools and learning institutions, with various measures being put in place to resolve them.
Gender inequality can easily be identified in schools by observing how students tend to micro-interact and aggregate in particular activities or groups. This can be manifested in courses taken by either gender; for example, in mathematics, which is considered a manly course, girls may feel discouraged from pursuing it due to the perceived notion (Koch & Irby, 2005). Inequality can also be expressed in the attention given to either gender by a teacher during teaching.
Research has shown that boys are generally given more opportunities to answer questions than their female counterparts; boys also receive more feedback from their teachers, and when either gender makes a mistake, boys often receive more leniency than girls. These trends have done much in promoting gender inequalities around schools.
Social factors have greatly influenced gender equality in classrooms (Blaise, 2012); these factors are highly interconnected with educational systems to influence it both from within and outside. Poverty and child labour form one of the greatest social obstacles to gender equity. Its influence is far outreaching, considering that nearly 1.4 billion people worldwide live on less than $1.25 a day. Girls from marginalised groups, such as children with disabilities and minority communities, are likely to encounter more challenges if they live far from schools; they may be unable to buy leaning materials, and when they do, they do not get adequate attention in classrooms.
Poorer parents are more likely to withhold their children from attending schools so that they may participate in income-generating activities; in some religions, boys are more valued than girls. Generally, poor families will view formal learning with suspicion and would rather prefer sending boys to schools and leave girls at home. In poverty-stricken homes, girls are left to fend for the family and take care of domestic chores as the parents go to search for daily bread.
Gender norms of a community have a direct influence on the performance of students of either gender in school, whether patriarchal or matrilineal society (Bromley, 2012). The impact of these gender norms can be seen in countries like Samoa and Jamaica, where girls perform better than boys. This fact counters the general global belief that boys do better than girls. It is important to note that cultural factors continue to play a big role in promoting gender inequality in schools. In many societies, girls are expected to be married early in life; for example, statistics from the ministry of education indicated that 28,600 girls left school between 2004 and 2008 due to pregnancy.
Where cultural beliefs are prevalent, parents concentrate more on the abilities of boys and neglect girls due to stereotyping; the result of this action is a scenario where girls end up unnoticed or given little or no opportunity to grow. Moreover, lack of parental support will lead to low self-esteem, a situation that has forced many girls to drop out of schools or end up taking careers that are easy (Yelland, 1998).
Gender inequality is also fostered by school practices and educational systems. The quality of education delivered by a teacher will greatly be influenced by the skills and attention a teacher pays to each gender, as this improves participation and learning. This is true when girls receive more attention than boys in patriarchal societies, and boys receive more recognition in matrilineal societies than girls do. Teachers who have not had gender-sensitive training will normally tend to perceive girls as less intelligent than boys, thereby taking no extra efforts when they fail. Enrolment of girls to schools is also low due to the perception that girls are weaker than boys; they show low participation in class and extra-curricular activities as a result school heads being not eager to enrol them.
Female and male role models are also important in ensuring that students enrol and complete their studies. Girls look up to female teachers as their role models; this encourages better performances and completion of their studies. In the case of boys, male teachers serve as role models. A school environment can also cause gender inequality; for example, in an insecure environment prone to drug trafficking and rape, girls will tend to stay away from when compared to their male counterparts. The sanitation of the school will also have a direct influence on gender equality.
Gender-responsive pedagogies encompass both political and cultural dimensions. It is the teaching and learning process that emphasis on certain specific learning needs of boys and girls. There are various methods of addressing school and educational system obstacles such as providing training on gender-friendly teaching methods and also providing the necessary materials needed to increase girls’ performance in school (Gabel, 2002). The girl child has more needs than a boy child; hence, she requires more support in terms of resource provision. There are various methods employed to reduce gender disparities that occur in schools and institutions and ensure that both boys and girls are treated equally.
The first method is Support of Government Professional Development initiative that improves teacher skills, behaviour and attitude as well as provides training programmes on gender perspective and gender-related issues in teaching supervisors, school teachers and students (Skalli, 2006). Most programmes are normally funded by the government and serve to improve the entire school body through the teaching of necessary skills to address the issue of gender inequality. In the long run, these programmes usually curb the aspects of gender inequality in schools.
Another intervention involves strengthening of both boys and girls club at school to increase their knowledge on sexuality, gender, HIV and AIDS as well career development skills; this would help them avoid negative influences that may ruin their lives. When these issues are addressed at an early age, children mature in a conducive environment where there is success in the fight against such negative attitudes and culture. Boys and girls should also be provided with small grants so that they may be able to improve their school facilities such as toilets. This ensures the fair distribution of resources to both genders, hence helping in curbing issues of gender inequality and exploitation of pupils by teachers (Connell, 2011).
The third intervention involves providing training to regional and district gender officers in a bid to enhance support to headteachers, trainees and supervisors in schools when they send feedback to the national level on various issues that need to be addressed by the government. Gender officers are provided with all necessary equipments by the government to educate and create awareness concerning the effects of gender inequality, including the means of resolving them. Later, they send the reports to the National Government with recommendations on how to eradicate the issue of gender inequality.
Fourth, it is important to support gender mainstreaming in textbooks and curricula systems. This method ensures that gender issues are addressed effectively across various regions of the world where people are literate and can be able to get access to them. Generally, books and curricula systems of all grades should deeply emphasize the effects of gender inequality and provide suitable ways to address them in schools.
Moreover, there is a need for increasing the number of female teachers who are well trained to provide quality education at all levels of education, especially where men have dominated for a long time. This will enrich their school experience in various ways, such as support in teacher training and fairness in the recruitment process at the national level.
Parents and guardians should be convinced on the value of education on girls in school through invitation of female role models who have attained high status in the society to speak regularly on the issue of educating the girl child. This will inspire girls to work hard towards success and help them grow confidence in their abilities towards achieving their education goal. It will also bring the girl child to almost the same level as the boy child, who the society perceives as more privileged in terms of education and needs.
Donors should support the government’s projects on gender inequality by increasing training for teachers as well as recruiting female teachers in areas where they are scarce. They should also provide funds to support girls on their basic requirements as well as the development of school infrastructure. This has been a success, especially in geographical areas that lack access to government supplies, hence relying on donors to solve the majority of their problems.
One important intervention that should be promoted involves supporting the process of national policy formulation and implementation frameworks to be more gender-sensitive (Apple, 2004). Boys and girls should be given equal opportunities in schools and places of work, so as to teach both genders in the society on the importance of coexisting without discrimination. With majority leaders of the world being male, the process of implementation may take a few years to be realized, since they perceive that men ought to be given more slots in the society. This has gradually slowed down the implementation process over the past decades but is now coming to effect due to new reforms made by the governments.
Zero tolerance campaigns on violence towards boys or girls should be developed. Government and civil societies should come together and campaign against gender violence and make sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. In addition, civil society groups should come up with mechanisms such as child protection committees in order to address school-based violence and child abuse. The government, in its position under the law, has the ability to pursue supporters of gender-based violence in communities and impose legal charges against them. These campaigns will help in transforming society and making sure everyone is being treated equally without any kind of discrimination (Leonardo, 2010).
Community-based organisations should help schools in planning and implementing their own solutions that address challenges to gender equality in education (Apple, 2014). These organisations should work hand in hand with teachers to come up with the best strategies to help minimize the issues of gender inequality in schools and implement them to become part of school policies. Other than engaging in schools practices, they should also provide necessary resources in terms of equipment or funds that would see faster implementations of programmes to curb gender inequality.
Financial support should be increased, especially for girls from poor families to enable them to attend schools without having the challenge of dropping out due to lack of fees. This has been a major challenge for girls from rural areas where families cannot be able to sustain themselves and boys are given preference in matters relating to education and knowledge. The government should, therefore provide scholarships and other sponsor programmes to help improve the living standards of societies by educating their children. Apart from the government, donors and well-wishers should come forward to assist boys and girls from needy regions of society.
Finally, the communities should be educated about the effects of negative cultural practices that harm girls; in some cases, they should be banned from engaging in such cultural practices regardless of whether they are part of their cultural beliefs or not.
Apple, M. (2014). Official knowledge: Democratic Education in a Conservative Age. New York, USA: Routledge.
Apple, M.W. (2004). Ideology and curriculum. NY, USA: Routledge Farmer.
Blaise, M. (2012). Playing It Straight: Uncovering Gender Discourse in the Early Childhood Classroom. London, England: Routledge.
Bromley, V. (2012). Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.
Connell, R. (2011). Confronting equality: Gender, knowledge and global change. Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
Davies, B. & Banks, C. (1995). The gender trap. In J. Holland, M. Blair, & S. Sheldon, Debates and Issues in Feminist Research and Pedagogy: a Reader. PA, USA: The Open University.
Gabel, S. (2002). Some Conceptual Problems with Critical Pedagogy. Curriculum Inquiry, 32 (2), 177-201.
Koch, J., & Irby, B. (2005). Gender and Schooling in the Early Years. Charlotte, NC, USA: IAP.
Leonardo, Z. (2010). Handbook of Cultural Politics and Education. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
Skalli, L. (2006). Through A Local Prism: Gender, Globalization, and Identity in Moroccan Women’s Magazines. Plymouth, England: Lexington Books.
Yelland, N. (2002). Gender in early childhood. London, England: Routledge.