How to apply a gender lens to education systems in South Asia

The second regional workshop on gender-responsive education sector planning took place in Nepal in early October and gathered partners from 6 countries

Primary wing of Adarsha Saula Yubak Higher Secondary School, Bhainsipati, Lalitpur, Nepal. Credit: GPE/NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati

Primary wing of Adarsha Saula Yubak Higher Secondary School, Bhainsipati, Lalitpur, Nepal.

CREDIT: GPE/NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati

Is gender synonymous with girls? What challenges are young boys facing? What is the role of the ministry of Finance in advancing gender equality? These were some of the questions addressed during the South Asia regional workshop on gender-responsive education sector planning held in Kathmandu, Nepal, on October 3-6, 2017.

Gender parity achieved in enrollments and out-of-school numbers

Regionally, South Asia has made significant progress in achieving gender parity in enrollments in both primary and lower secondary schools since 1990. In 1990, it was estimated that there were 37.9 million out-of-school children in South Asia, of which 25 million were girls. Currently the numbers of out of school children have dropped to 11.3 million, with roughly even numbers of boys and girls.

Across the region, more out-of-school girls than out-of-school boys will never go to school, and poor girls are the most likely to never set foot in a classroom. However, each country faces its own unique challenges, with Pakistan and Afghanistan facing under-enrollment of girls, and Nepal and Bangladesh facing under enrollment of boys.

Practitioners talk successes and challenges to apply gender-responsive practices

Over 40 education planners and officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and the Pakistani provinces of Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh joined the workshop. The event was co-hosted by UNICEF ROSA and Nepal, in partnership with the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative and GPE.

The participants - government officials, development partners and CSO representatives -  discussed their successes in planning and implementing gender-responsive policies, as well as shared the challenges they faced in their contexts.

In Balochistan for example, only 53% of school-aged children are enrolled in school. Of the 1.5 million children who are out of school, 70% are girls. Balochistan has identified several strategies to ensure that more children, and particularly girls, are enrolled in basic education. However, it wanted to consider the role that the implementing environment and institutional capacity could play in ensuring successful implementation of the adopted strategies.

The Maldives aim to reduce dropout rates of both boys and girls at the lower secondary level. To achieve this goal, the team wanted to identify ways to strengthen the implementation and monitoring of existing policies to be more gender-sensitive and inclusive, to ensure that both girls and boys are fully engaged and learning.

In Bhutan, gender parity in enrollment has been achieved in primary and secondary schools. However, the delegation was keen to identify ways to bring out-of-school children into basic education, address a gender parity gap in enrollment in tertiary education, and improve learning outcomes for girls in STEM subjects.

Giving partners more tools to increase gender-responsiveness

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Nearly all participants said that they were committed to using their leadership and influence to bring about gender equality in education, and shared the view that without strong gender analysis, education sector plans will fail. Many had joined the workshop to increase their knowledge about gender-responsive analysis, and to build their capacity in applying a gender lens to education policy and planning.

During the 4-day workshop, participants reviewed and enhanced their knowledge and skills in:

  • How a focus on gender-responsiveness can accelerate progress towards sector goals related to learning outcomes and access; national development goals and; the sustainable development goals
  • Analyzing education sector plans through a gender lens
  • Using quantitative and qualitative data to identify barriers faced by girls and boys, and the intersectional nature of these challenges
  • Designing strategies to address gender-related challenges, taking into account the enabling environment, institutional capacity, and availability of resources (human and financial)
  • Incorporating gender-responsive indicators into monitoring and evaluation plans
  • How to use equity-based financing to ensure budgetary allocations that support gender-responsive strategies.

At the end of the workshop, participants reported an increase in their knowledge about gender-responsive analysis and capacity to apply a gender lens to planning and policy-making.

The workshop gave us a great learning opportunity to plan better, in a strategic way. In spite of participating countries being at different stages of the learning curve, this platform allowed us to learn from each other’s experience. The interactive sessions with excellent facilitators really helped us to brainstorm quite openly based on realistic expectations. We hope that this will not be the end, but rather the beginning of a great learning and sharing platform” said Tahera Jabeen of DFID Bangladesh at the end of the workshop.

The UNGEI/GPE collaboration will continue in a third regional workshop in March 2018 in West Africa to continue the crucial work of making gender-responsive education sector planning better understood and applied.

For more information:

Document: Guidance for developing gender-responsive education sector plans

Page: Girls’ education and gender equality

South Asia: Nepal


Education specialist, Global Partnership for Education
Wenna Price is an Education Specialist in the Country Support Team at the Global Partnership for Education. In addition to supporting grants and sector work across countries in Africa and Asia, Wenna focuses...

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