Gender, Equality and Education from International and Comparative Perspectives: Volume 10

Cover of Gender, Equality and Education from International and Comparative Perspectives

Table of contents

(19 chapters)

With this Volume 10, I end my tenure as senior editor of the series International Perspectives on Education and Society. When I was asked in 2001 to revive the moribund series there had been only four volumes published over the preceding decade. The vision proposed then was to create and maintain a series that would represent an annual review of examples of the best scholarship on selected topics on education from an international perspective. With the intellectual support of the expanding and dynamic community of scholars of comparative education throughout the world this vision has become a reality in the six annual volumes published since 2002. To the publishers and contributing authors, as well as to the scores of reviewers of proposed papers who generously donated their time and expertise in selecting and strengthening the final chapters, I want to extend my appreciation – it has been an honor to work with all of you.

Recent worldwide gains in girls’ schooling are raising new questions about the continued relevance of gender for educational inequality. At issue is whether the time has come to shift the policy focus away from gender to socioeconomic status. Answers to this question, we suggest, depend on how gender gaps close, i.e., do they close irreversibly, evenly, and faster than socio-economic (SES)-related inequality?

Against this background and building on contrasted sociological perspectives on inequality, our chapter examines the recent convergence trajectories of several sub-Saharan countries, asking if these trajectories warrant a policy shift away from gender.

Our findings are mixed. Although, the magnitude of sex-related inequality in schooling is consistently smaller than SES-related inequality, the process of gender convergence remains reversible and it unfolds in top-down fashion. Such findings warrant continued attention to gender in sub-Saharan Africa, but with particular focus on poor girls and on synergies that address both female and poor children. This conclusion supports theoretical advances that transcend the Manichean divide between focus on cultural recognition and socioeconomic redistribution.

With women constituting more than two-thirds of the world's approximately 800 million illiterate adults, the importance of gender and equality in education has never been clearer. The education of girls and women has long been associated with positive outcomes such as lower childbearing rates, improved health for women and their families, increased participation in household decision-making, and increased community participation (Wolf & Odonkor, 1997). Consequently, women's literacy and numeracy are widely understood as critical to individual and national development (Floro & Wolf, 1990). With more than 60 million school-aged girls currently not enrolled in school, however, the status of gender equality in education remains troubling, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Girls’ access to education has improved in many of the world's developing countries. These countries are striving to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) requiring them to provide gender equality, promote the empowerment of women, and establish universal primary education (UPE) by 2015. The success of UPE in achieving gender equality in enrollment in those countries able to institute it is encouraging. Where previously girls trailed boys in their ability to access education due to parent inability or reluctance to pay the costs, they are now entering primary schools in comparable numbers (UNESCO, 1999, 2006).

This chapter seeks to explore the nature of and motivations for cross-generational relationships, and to examine how these relationships structure, limit and enable access to schooling for youth in Ndola (Zambia). Amidst increasing HIV infection rates and decreasing economic opportunity, youth experiences in and outside of school provide information about the impact of macro-level influences, particularly global economic trends and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, on the lives of these young women. Utilizing qualitative methods that seek to explore the lived realities of Zambian youth, this study examines perceptions of the phenomenon of “sugar daddies” and how they are seen to effect educational access and opportunity for young women. Although the study finds that young women are finding ways to cope with being enmeshed in a context characterized by severe economic decline and an extensive HIV/AIDS crisis, the strategy of securing a “sugar daddy” is one that may result in deadly infection and social isolation. Furthermore, policymakers in Zambia can and should take the opportunity to rethink austerity measures and hostility to social spending as well as the content of public health education.

This chapter examines discourses and social practices at individual, community, and institutional levels related to non-majority Vietnamese ethnic girls’ access to and participation in secondary school. This critical analysis utilizes Sen's framework of capabilities to illustrate differences in discourse and social practice that exist around poverty, and the ways in which gendered relations and ethnic traditions are intertwined with the discourse and practices of poverty to affect girls’ choices and well-being in and through secondary education. We particularly draw on girls’ and their parents’ constructions of these issues as they negotiate and are affected by them. We argue that strategies must move beyond the discourse that ethnic traditions and gendered relations are barriers to girls’ education to consider the inequalities and lack of capabilities that perpetuate poverty and unequal gendered relations for non-majority ethnic groups in societies.

In this chapter, we utilize qualitative and quantitative data from a yearlong study in four urban Chinese middle schools to investigate the learning environments for girls at these schools; the behavior and performance of girls and boys in these environments; and what factors impact that behavior and performance. This study particularly focuses on socialization through moral education and the examination system as two sources of authority motivating students’ behavior and performance in school. In the analysis, girls attending three co-educational schools are compared with girls attending one single-sex school, and outcomes for girls are also considered alongside those of boys in the co-educational institutions. Findings indicate that although moral education is particularly emphasized by teachers at the all-girls school, female misbehavior and engagement with teachers is no different for girls attending the single-sex school compared to girls in co-educational schools. Furthermore, differences in outcomes between females and males across schools transcend school-level differences for misbehavior and engagement. However, at the same time, girls at all co-educational schools report higher Chinese and English grades compared to their math and science grades, whereas all-girls school students report no such differences in grades. In regression analysis, socialization variables appear to explain more about students’ misbehavior, whereas the desire to progress to higher levels of schooling explains more about grades and engagement with teachers. That said, socialization variables including moral attitude and attachment to teachers matter more for girls’ math and science grades and their engagement with teachers as compared to boys. This research provides a rare comparative look at education for urban Chinese students and offers new insights about what matters most for girls’ behavior and performance in school.

One of the most significant worldwide transformations in education over the past several decades has been the drastic increase in women's access to colleges and universities. Research suggests that the trend of the narrowing gender gap in higher education is remarkable (particularly, among the industrialized nations), and sometimes it involves an interesting phenomenon – women outnumbering men, in what some scholars refer to as a “reverse gender gap” (Goldin, Katz, & Kuziemko, 2006; Woodfield & Earl-Novell, 2006; King, 2006; Mortenson, 1999). This higher education gender gap trend is consistent with a general global trend of narrowing gender gaps in education in recent decades. The data – at least, analysis of statistical data from countries around the world – support the contention that the disparity between men and women, at all levels of education and in terms of both academic achievement and enrollment rates, is not as dramatic as it once was (Arnot, David, & Weiner, 1999; United Nations Children's Fund, 2005).

The “gender problem” emerging today in CA as it relates to and involves education actually has long history, and was a target of serious social and political reform during Soviet times. We are interested in describing the problematic emergence; subsequent decline; and current difficulties, policies and practices connected to gender equality CA – with a particular focus on education and higher education. There are important historical writings on this topic, as well as contemporary statistical description of the issues. We undertake to illustrate briefly and describe work in both areas to begin this writing. Yet, this chapter is as much interested in the experiences and understandings of gender, education and lived culture as it is in what the history books say and how the statistics read. Our historical and conceptual discussions and generalizations are thus used primarily as scene setters for our later ethnographic accounts.

In recent years, interest in educational issues in the Muslim world has grown rapidly. This interest runs parallel with a media-led exploration of all things Muslim and the ideas that are fundamental to the tenets of Islam. This trend in examining the educational issues that exist in countries that are predominantly Islamic in history, culture, and belief, is part of a wider awareness of the educational elements of a globalized system of commerce, communication, education, and modernization. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has embraced many facets of globalization, striving to become a regional power and a new financial and commercial hub in the Middle East and a high-tech center in a globally oriented society. Along with other Arab nations, the UAE has recognized the strategic role played by education in national development and modernization.

Along with the other Nordic welfare states, Norway has achieved relative gender parity as measured by the Gender Gap Index of the United Nations (Hausmann, Tyson, & Zahidi, 2006) and is therefore looked upon by many as a model in minimising gender gaps in the society. With a 47 per cent share of the active labour force in the country, Norwegian women have had a high level of labour market participation since the late 1980s. In addition, Norway ranks among the top countries in the world in terms of offering women and men equal access to education at all levels, equal access to leadership positions in the workplace and in politics and generous parental leave benefits. Although gender parity in education at all levels as well as in labour market participation is a reality in Norway, there are significant gender differences vis-à-vis in career aspiration among students and the Norwegian labour market is characterized by gender segregation (Foss, 2005) which results in a gender gap in pay where women earn less than men.

Theories and research on gender and civic engagement have changed dramatically since studies were conducted 50 years ago. Over time, definitions of political socialization, knowledge, and engagement have all evolved, and with these developments come differences in how we view male and female political and civic engagement.

Prior research shows that stratification of future adult opportunities influences stratification in the academic performance of students. This perspective is used to generate hypotheses regarding the sources of cross-national gender differences in mathematics performance. These hypotheses are tested using multivariate and multilevel analyses of adult opportunities for women and cross-national differences in mathematics performance by gender. This future opportunity perspective is expanded to take into account the historical incorporation of women in modern nation-states through institutionalized mass schooling emphasizing egalitarian ideals. Results indicate a cross-national shift in the direction of less gender inequality in overall school mathematics performance. However, gender inequality is more evident in the advanced 12th grade mathematics. The results of a more specialized analysis of the advanced 12th grade mathematics are compared with the earlier findings regarding mathematics performance.

Cover of Gender, Equality and Education from International and Comparative Perspectives
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International Perspectives on Education and Society
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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