Education and Gender Equality

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Nelson Mandela once said, “”Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world””. If this is true, then why do we not give equal education to both men and women? It is no secret that education in the United States and around the world undermines gender equality. Even if we do not want to believe it rather you are a male or female plays a significant role in the education that you receive. In 1960 in the United States there were twice as many men as woman who were college graduates. In 1970 only 14% of young women were college graduates compared to 20% of men the same age (DiPrete & Buchmann, 2013, pp. 715-717). The problem is not just in the United States, it is a global problem as well.

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Today more girls than ever attend school. However, despite the progress that has been made in women and girls getting education they continue to face multiple barriers based on their gender and its intersections with other factors, such as age, ethnicity, income levels, and disability. These barriers make it so that these girls and women cannot get equal enjoyment of the right to quality education. Seeing numbers is the best way to really grasp a subject.

According to the latest available global numbers there are 263 million children and teens who are not enrolled in any type of schooling. This means that 19% of girls and young women around the world are not enrolled in schooling. When looking at primary education levels 61 million children were out of school, and young girls made up over half of that number at 53% (Right to Education, 2018).

When you look at the role education has in specific areas around the world the numbers dwindle and get much worse. For example, in Africa 56% of women who come from middle to upper class homes graduate from secondary school. When looking at women from low income homes that number shrinks to only 14% of women graduating from secondary school (Gutterman, 2018). In Nigeria only 3% of rural young women completed primary schooling while 20% of young men did. Young women are also more likely to be excluded from upper secondary education in the Caucasus and Central Asia, Northern Africa, Southern Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Western Asia. These numbers only show those not enrolled in schooling, they neglect the historical exclusion of girls and women from education, reflected in the statistic that over two thirds of the world’s 750 million illiterate adults are women (Right to Education, 2018). All though participation and statistics cannot capture the ways that girls and young women are discriminated against within the education system and show all of the barriers that these girls and young women must overcome to complete their education, particularly regarding the quality of education they receive; it does show that girls and young women do not receive the same quality education that boys and young men do in the same areas. However, lack of education opportunities is not the only problem.

From the time children enter elementary school we can see the ways that males and females are separated. One of these ways are school policies, more specifically dress code policies. Dress code policies in schools are one of the most controversial policies most school systems have in place. Many dress codes focus on the female student body and not so much the male student body, for example, many schools have requirements that only apply to girl’s attire, such as skirt and short lengths, and the length of shirt sleeves. Schools with strict dress codes often claim that by having such policies in place they can help to prevent in-class distractions, create a workplace-like environment to get children ready for the “”real world””, reduce pressures based on income, and deter gang activity. However, in a time of easy internet access, controversy is increasingly popping up over whether excluding young women and girls from the classroom for violating dress codes is worthwhile, or if they are just taking away their education. The website Change.org recently released a statement stating that it is currently hosting more than 400 open petitions against individual school dress codes. The majority have been created by students, and many of the petitions’ titles assert that their schools’ dress codes are sexist or unfairly enforced by the schools (Jones, 2018).

During the 2015-2016 school year it was found that 53% of public schools enforced a strict dress code policy, and while data on who is being punished for dress-code violations and how the penalties are being dealt out are harder to come by the National Women’s Law Center, or NWLC conducted a survey in which 21 girls where interviewed one on one. During this the NWLC found that all the girls reported experiencing or witnessing dress-code enforcement in their schools. The most common punishments for those violations included missing class time or facing suspension, because of hair, makeup, or clothing styles that were deemed inappropriate or breaking dress code policy. These girls may be struggling academically and can fall further behind in classes when they miss too much time serving suspensions, changing clothes, or waiting while administrators measure the length of their clothing (Jones, 2018).

For instance, in many public schools in the Unites states there are dress code policies that Many female students feel dehumanized and as if they are treated as mere distractions in school. This is a largely unchallenged meta-narrative that correlates nudity with sexuality and transforms any part of over-exposed female bodies into sex objects.

This objectification creates a hierarchy where objectified bodies (female) are less human, less valued, and less privileged than the non-objectified bodies (male) (Aghasaleh, 2018, pp. 97-98). This one small thing can change the outlook a girl has on school if she feels as if she is being sexualized and turned into an object and is supposed to hide herself from the males at the school. This could possibly lead to problems such as lower grades, depression, and dropping out of school all together to avoid dealing with the problem.

Lack of education in women and girls is a problem for many reasons. It effects not only the girls and women who are not getting the education but the communities and surrounding areas that they come from. For starters lack of education has been proven to affect mental health, it can lead to isolation in some countries and lead to higher levels of depression. Not only can lack of education harm a woman’s mental health, it can also affect her reproductive health as well. Lack of education can be linked to unintended pregnancy and higher mortality rates. However, when women and young have education they have fewer children and healthier pregnancies (Gutterman, 2018).

As stated above the lack of education for women can cause problems in the economy and in the communities that these young girls and women come from. One of the most crucial factors in economic development is education. There is a strong correlation between development and education. Thus, countries that value the education of girls will rank higher in terms of development. Young women play a crucial part in the dynamics and the regulation of society. Women also play a significant role in the advancement of the countries and the communities that they are a part of. By looking at the statistics it is shown that there is a global positive correlation between the value placed on women and the development of their countries. By providing girls and young women around the world access to the same quality of education that boys and men in their countries receive we can further advance whole countries and even continents. The education and training of a country’s workers is a major factor in determining just how well the country’s economy will do (Turanli, Turanli, Cengiz, & Akdal, 2015).

Economic reasons are not the only reason why it is important for young girls and women to receive a quality education. Women who are educated have a lower infant mortality rate. Primary education alone helps reduce infant mortality significantly, and secondary education reduces it further. Woman who are educated also are less likely to die during their pregnancy, while giving birth, and in the postpartum period following (Central Asia Institute, 2018)

While it prevents infant and child mortality rates educating women also makes it less likely that there will be a population explosion. Educated women tend to have fewer children then those who are uneducated. One study showed that uneducated women had an average of six children while woman who had an education had an average of 2.5 children. You can further this more by saying that the illiterate woman would have six children, all of whom would be less likely to attend school. If they each had six children, grandma would have 36 grandchildren, then 216 grandchildren and so on. This explosion in the population would have a lot of people drawing on a countries sparse resources and would reduce the quality and standard of living in the country. This is especially true in developing countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan (Central Asia Institute, 2018)

I surveyed 84 students of all ages and genders here at Shawnee State University. Each person was asked anonymously asked five questions regarding their experience in education based on their gender. I analyzed the results of the survey and I learned a few things from it. First, I learned that females are much more open to answering questions than males are regarding their gender. Of the 100 people I tried to survey only 84 agreed to answer the questions, of this 84 only 27 were males while 57 females agreed to answer (McNeely, 2018).

The first question of the survey asked if the participants had ever been treated differently in school due to their gender. On the female side over 70% said that they had been treated differently because they are female; while over half the males at 55.56% said they were not treated different for being males. The answer to that question alone shows how separated the genders are when it comes to education. The second question on the survey asked both sides if they thought that males had more opportunities solely because of their gender. Again the results showed that 70% of females believed males had more opportunities while only 26% of males felt that they had more opprotunites because they were males.

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Education and Gender Equality. (2020, Mar 27). Retrieved August 17, 2022 , from
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