Gender Inequality in Education: Bringing the Gap Closer.

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Review: GENDER INEQUALITY IN EDUCATION: HOW WIDE IS THE GAP?

Cooray, A., Potrafke, N. (2011) ‘Gender Inequality in Education: Political Institutions or Culture & Religion?’ European Journal of Political Economy Vol. 27(2), 268-280.

Darling, J., Glendinning, A. (1996) Gender Matters in Schools. London: Cassell.

Quicke, J. (1998) ‘Gender and Underachievement: Democratic educational Reform through Discourse Evaluation’. in Gender in the Secondary Curriculum. ed. by Clark, A., Millard, E. London: Routledge.

What is the gender question in education? Is there a gap between gender and equal opportunities in education? Who or what is to blame for gender inequality in education? A review of the three sources given above, without being specific to one geographical area, will attempt to shed some light on these questions and many more concerning education and the gender gap. Education of girls is important for economic development - (part of the third of the eight Millennium Development Goals - Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women) (United Nations 2006) “The gender gap in educational performance is a major subject of public policy debate internationally” (Arnot, David & Weiner 1999). All three sources being reviewed address issues relating to gender inequality in education – Cooray & Potrafke focusing on the political, cultural and religious effects while Darling & Glendinning & John Quicke utilize more of a classroom setting. Despite these different approaches & the slightly different parts of the world that the studies are based on, they all attempt to address the various reasons for inequality in education and its impacts on the female gender and the society at large.

Cooray and Potrafke empirically investigate the roles that political institutions, religion and culture play in gender inequality in education discussing the degree and level of contribution of each aspect. The authors criticise prior studies such as that of Brown (2004) whose results suggests that only an executive-recruitment sub-component of democracy had a positive influence on gender equality in education or that of Beer (2009) who found the unexpected result that democracy may negatively influence gender equality in educational attainment. They therefore argue that political institutions have had little or no influence on gender inequality in education. They also indicate that in terms of religion, again referring to previous studies, there has been strong evidence that the presence of Hindu and Muslim dominance in a country has had negative influence on female education; while on the other hand, Protestantism played a positive role in gender equality in education. An example of this in recent events is the shooting of 15year old Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban because of her campaign for girls’ education in Pakistan (BBC News 2012) From their own perspective, Cooray and Potrafke, aim to correct previous studies by carrying out a research covering 157 countries from 1991-2006 at both primary and secondary school levels which indicate that gender inequality in education is majorly influenced by culture and religion and not particularly political institutions due to the fact that there is no discrimination by gender in the case of government scholarships or other educational opportunities. Examining Muslim countries, it is seen that a strong presence of religion and cultural beliefs lean towards and promotes gender inequality and on the other hand, cultural change and democratization as a result of modernization can favour gender equality. In some ways, with regards to democratization, the authors tend to agree to an extent, that it does influence gender equality in education, though this highly differs across regions. They examine communist countries in Eastern Europe and how communism had proved to be a positive influence. But in countries like Benin and Turkey where democracy seemed to have been more present recently, there is hardly...
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