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Global Symposium - Education: A Critical Path to Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

Themes

The symposium will focus on six main themes:

Quality and Gender Equality in Schools and Classrooms
Recent research shows that educational quality measured by learning achievement or the acquisition of cognitive skills rather than access to school or enrolment rates significantly affect economic growth (for instance, Hanushek and Woessman 2007, de la Fuente and Jimeno 2004). Quality education cannot exist without gender equality. The concept of educational quality must take into account gender dimensions in all aspects of the selection, organization, and promotion of relevant and meaningful learning experiences for students. Given that schools and classrooms are a microcosm of society, the symposium will examine how the intersections of gender and culture in the school and the classroom (e.g., teacher-student and student-student interactions) foster or hamper the acquisition of necessary cognitive skills. What can be done by policy makers, teachers and students to promote gender equality in education and quality education for girls and boys?

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Social Exclusion: Access to and Retention in Schools
Approximately 57percent of the estimated 77 million children who are out of school are girls. They are mostly found in developing countries and come from poor families, rural and isolated areas, and ethnic or language minority groups. If the MDG2 and MDG3 are to be achieved, all the children who are socially excluded from school must be enrolled and educated. Reaching these groups has proven to be a challenge and costly. The symposium will address questions such as: How can we accelerate access to quality education and gender equality amongst excluded groups? What can we learn from experiences across the globe on effective ways to reach them? Do we have enough evidence to scale up current policy interventions about educating girls and vulnerable children from socially excluded groups – not only in access but also in increasing retention and improving quality and achievement?

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Post-primary Education and Transition from School to Work
As a result of the recent development of skills-based technology and the growing importance of the knowledge economy, demand for workers who have post-primary levels of education is mounting. Research shows that the benefits of girls’ education are far greater at the post-primary levels than the primary level (see for example, Rihani M. 2007). Yet transition from primary to secondary and ultimately to tertiary education remains a major barrier for girls and the poor, even in countries where primary completion rates are high. Given the strong competition for resources at various levels in developing countries, the symposium will shed light on what the key gender considerations are; policy options and trade-offs that need to be made for expanding post-primary education; How can we improve the transition of girls from primary, to secondary and tertiary education; and how can we strengthen the linkages between female education and the world of work so as to achieve gender equality and empowerment of women?

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Emerging Issues: HIV/AIDS, Violence, Emergency and Fragile Situations
“Emerging” refers to issues that were not widely addressed 10 to 15 years ago, but that must be tackled urgently for the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved. These include HIV/AIDS; child labor; gender violence in schools and education in emergency and fragile situations. In Africa, the spread of HIV/AIDS has drastically altered families, and those who bear the brunt are school aged girls, who have to drop out to take care of their families or perform household chores. For instance, a study in Zimbabwe showed that of all the children pulled out of school to care for relatives with HIV/AIDS, 75 percent were girls (UNESCO 2002). Similarly, what effect does gender-based violence have on girls’ education? Does the fear of violence keep families from sending their girls to school in countries such as Afghanistan? What are the critical intersections of these and other issues with gender and education? And how can education stakeholders work effectively across sectors to address them?

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Monitoring and Evaluation
Monitoring and Evaluation systems are extremely important in the implementation of education programs especially as they track what is being done and help determine whether an intervention is producing the desired results or not. Yet, the reality is that more often than not, monitoring and evaluation is either neglected or unreliable due to poor quality of data and lack of resources. How do we encourage more rigorous evaluations of policies by researchers and the development community? How do we urge or support organizations (e.g., Ministries of Education, bilateral organizations) to monitor program implementation, undertake evaluations and to share research and evaluation findings even when they reveal what does not work so that mistakes are not repeated? What is the cost of making a policy mistake – and of not talking about a policy mistake? How do we improve our measures of education success beyond enrolment, years of schooling and testing (i.e., quality and equality, achievement, work, participation in civil society and political processes)?

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Making Change Happen: The Role of Partners in Financing
Financing is at the centre of educational development efforts. Governments and donors worldwide are allocating resources to promote access, quality and efficiency in education. While such allocations and expenditures have led to a tremendous expansion of schooling in the last two decades, they have not eliminated the level of disparities existing between boys and girls, urban and rural or ethnic minority and majority populations. Resources to respond to the wide range of needs, especially those of the excluded, secondary education, and monitoring and evaluation, are inadequate; and the fiscal environment is uncertain. Several financing mechanisms are currently in use. Donors are increasingly financing education sector plans on a programmatic rather than a project basis. Tensions develop between donor priorities and decentralization where local governments are responsible for priorities in spending. How can we maintain a gender focus with diffused fiscal authority? And how do we ensure adequate and consistent funding for girls’ education?

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