Scaling up girls education: towards a scorecard on girls' education in the Commonwealth

Scaling up girls education: towards a scorecard on girls' education in the Commonwealth

How to measure, and identify key factors in, advancing gender equity in Africa, tested against case studies

This paper presents a suggested methodology for developing a scorecard on girls' access to and retention in formal primary schooling in Commonwealth countries in Africa. While acknowledging the limitations of scorecards in capturing the complexity of factors involved, the authors suggest that a scorecard could facilitate assessment of progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and permit comparative analysis and identification of key elements to success, thus supporting scaling up of gender equity programmes.

The scorecard looks at not only numbers of girls who attend and remain in primary school, but also whether those girls are able to translate that attendance and retention into future schooling at a secondary level and healthy lives where they earn a reasonable income. Measures used are:

  • girls’ net attendance rate at primary school
  • girls’ survival rate over 5 years in primary schooling
  • girls’ secondary Net Enrolment Ratio (NER)
  • a country’s gender development index (GDI), (used instead of the preferred Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) due to the lack of data for African countries)

From the results, the authors conclude that a number of features outside the education system appear to be crucial in sustaining initiatives to enhance girls access to and retention in schooling:

  • a thriving women’s movement or activism amongst women and public concern about gender equity
  • well supported and well resourced public education
  • integration of public policy in education, health and social welfare
  • peace and democratic governance

The second section looks at four case studies to explore how these additional factors might play out in local level initiatives to promote access and retention. The case studies examine:

  • women’s activism and community engagement with gender equity and access in Wajir district, Kenya, amongst a largely Islamic and pastoralist community
  • the expansion of public schooling for girls and boys in Mukono District, Uganda
  • attempts at local level integration of public policy in education, health and social welfare through the Diphalana initiative for pregnant school girls in Botswana
  • the utilisation of peace and democratic governance to challenge sexual violence in schools in South Africa

From the case study analysis, the authors suggest that future scorecards could usefully include:

  • measures of women’s mobilisation, the inclusion of women in key decision-making bodies and a continued dynamic dialogue between the two
  • attention to innovative pedagogies
  • an analysis of social and cultural relations and the opportunity for dialogue, debate and the exploration of differences, particularly with regard to the public-private interface on issues of marriage, puberty and sexuality
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