Author: Elaine Unterhalter, Amy North, Madeleine Arnot, Cynthia Lloyd, Lebo Moletsane, Erin Murphy-Graham, Jenny Parkes and Mioko Saito
Year: 2014
Full Citation: Unterhalter, E., North A., Arnot, M., Lloyd, C., Moletsane, L., Murphy-Graham, E., Parkes, J., and Saito, M. (2014). Interventions to enhance girls’ education and gender equality. Education Rigorous Literature Review. n.p: Department for International Development
Overview: The central research question that this review sets out to investigate concerns the kind of interventions that research evidence suggests can lead to an expansion and improvement in girls’ education. It also considered evidence on the relationship between an expansion and improvement in girls’ education and a deepening of gender equality. A Theory of Change (ToC) was developed for the review. This drew on the understanding that girls’ education and gender equality are affected by processes within and beyond schools. It is therefore hypothesised that the development and implementation of interventions to improve girls’ schooling and enhance gender equality are affected by aspects of context at local, national and global levels. These include the level or extent of a climate of support for girls’ schooling, the existence of complementary legal and regulatory frameworks, and state capacity to implement policy and engage the widest range of stakeholders in inclusive dialogue. The ToC distinguishes between three kinds of interventions, although it is acknowledged that sometimes a single intervention has overlapping concerns. These are:
  • interventions which focus on resources and infrastructure
  • interventions which focus on changing institutions
  • interventions which focus on changing norms and including the most marginalised in education decision making.
It is hypothesised that, while each kind of intervention can have a positive impact on improving girls’ participation in school, on the quality of education they receive, and on the extent to which that education is empowering to them, impact will be greatest when a combination of different kinds of interventions comes together, and when adequate attention is paid to the context within which they occur. The ToC has thus been developed as a multi-level model to enable an examination of the relationships between context, different forms of interventions, outputs relating to girls’ education and broader gender equality outcomes.
  • Resource and infrastructure interventions: The literature reviewed indicates that the effectiveness of resource interventions depends on careful targeting of educationally under-resourced families, and thoughtful design of programmes to focus on girls most at risk. Complementary in kind health interventions can enhance enrolment and lead to learning gains for both boys and girls. The effectiveness of infrastructural interventions is enhanced when they are linked with processes associated with learning and teaching. Interventions concerned with the distribution of resources and infrastructure were more likely to be associated with improvements in girls’ attendance, enrolment and grade attainment than with girls’ empowerment within school or broader gender equality outcomes.
  • Interventions concerned with institutional change and policy: The research reviewed with regard to changing institutions at the level of the school and the education system points to the importance of having thriving teachers who are adequately supported to enhance girls’ schooling through education, training, reflection on attitudes and in-service continuing professional development. Sufficient resources for gender mainstreaming at different levels of the education system can help embed a concern with gender in educational institutions. Effective interventions are associated with a ‘quality mix’, that is, a combination of a number of different approaches to enhancing quality; these include explicit concern with gender equality in teaching, learning and management; attention to curriculum, learning materials and pedagogical practices for schools and classrooms; and close attention to local context. A significant number of studies suggest that successful interventions associated with institutional change and policy within the education sector may also impact on gender equality outcomes more broadly.
  • Interventions to shift gender norms and enhance inclusion: Interventions concerned with shifting gender norms and enhancing inclusion, by for example, increasing participation in decision making by the marginalised, are under-researched and underresourced. Further research is suggested on promising interventions in this area associated with girls’ clubs, faith communities, work with boys on gender equality, and strategies to include marginalised girls and women in decision making, reflection and action, notably with regard to gender-based violence.
  • Links between the expansion of girls’ education, gender equality and social change: The relationship between changes in girls’ education and developments in the enabling environment of legislation, regulation and opinion formation is underresearched. There is an accompanying lack of studies of the links between girls’ education and empowerment outcomes.

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