BRIDGE Report 25: Gender and Education in Asia and the Pacific

Author: S. Baden, C. Green
Publisher: Institute of Development Studies UK
Publication Date: Jun 1994
What are the main constraints facing women and girls in their access to education in Asia and the Pacific' How can these obstacles be overcome' This report offers an overview of the existing factors that limit female participation in school. Despite significant advancement in female enrolment and retention rates in schooling over the past thirty years, a considerable gender gap in education remains in the region, but with great variation between countries. This gender gap is the result of a combination of historical, cultural, and economic factors. Several strategies can be adopted to promote female participation in education, including the removal of labour market and wage discrimination against women, the provision of scholarships to girls and recruiting more female teachers. Case studies from China and Vietnam illustrate the specific constraints facing women and girls in these countries and how they can be overcome.

The importance of female education has received much attention in recent years, however much of this has focused on the social and economic 'returns' from education, rather than how education can improve women's independence, decision- making capacity, and political and civil participation. Eliminating the gender gap in education is not only a question of equalising numbers, but also of addressing underlying issues which have caused the gender gap in the first place. For example, evidence suggests that girls are discriminated against in the allocation of food and health care within the family. This type of discrimination could contribute to higher absentee rates, poor performance, and the eventual abandonment of school by girls.

Numerous factors that cause lower female school enrolment and retention rates include:
- Poverty - on the whole, low-income countries are more likely to have a wider gender gap in education, although this relationship is not clearly understood. In times of economic hardship, gender norms mean that parents are more likely to prioritise and value the education of a son.
- Labour market and wage discrimination against women acts as a disincentive for parents to educate female children. Parents invest less in their daughters because they expect lower returns from their future.
- Traditional cultural practices such as dowry and early marriage deter investment in female education.
- Higher opportunity costs for girls to attend school exist because their labour is in greater demand, both within and outside of the household, than that of boys.
- Violence against girls and the threat of violence (often on the way to/ from school) can lead parents to withdraw their girls from school, especially if girls need to travel there. . Few female teachers and gender biases and stereotyping within the curriculum.

More research is needed to measure the impact of particular measures that aim to overcome these issues. However recommendations to address constraints to female education include:
- Introducing macroeconomic policies that increase women's access to labour markets and remove existing discriminatory practices (in particular wage discrimination).
- Promoting awareness campaigns on the benefits of female education, and linking these campaigns with adult literacy efforts so parents place more value on educating daughters. . Subsidising female education through scholarships, school feeding programmes, on-site childcare, and provision of uniforms (although careful attention must be given to not discourage those who do not receive these subsidies).
- Recruiting and training more female teachers, removing gender biases and stereotypes from the curriculum, and the expansion of more flexible, community- based education. . Promoting education that transforms gender roles. In particular, supporting educational efforts that empower women and work with men and boys to eliminate violence against women and involve them in domestic roles such as childcare.