|Follow on Twitter as @jgro_the|
|Growth for all: gender goals could detract from need to tackle other inequalities|
When the United Nations began its push to improve access to higher education in the world’s poorest countries last year, it was hailed as a historic moment by many education experts.
Never before had the UN set itself targets to increase participation in tertiary-level education. Instead, it had focused almost exclusively on making sure that children around the world had the chance to gain a decent education at a primary or secondary school, while efforts around post-18 education were centred on technical or vocational training.
By including a goal of achieving “equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university” as part of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, there is hope that university attendance can be boosted across the globe, particularly for women.
However, the UN’s focus on eradicating gender inequality in education – a cause championed by Michelle Obama, America’s outgoing first lady, among others – may in fact cause governments to lose sight of more pernicious educational inequalities, two University of Cambridge educationalists have warned.
According to a study by Sonia Ilie and Pauline Rose, from Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, educational inequalities concerning poverty are far greater than those regarding gender.
Using data from the Young Lives project, a University of Oxford longitudinal study tracking about 12,000 children born in 1994 over their entire education, Dr Ilie and Professor Rose found that women’s participation in higher education often exceeded men’s, although the participation gap remained huge when income was considered.
For instance, only 2 per cent of Ethiopia’s poorest fifth of male 19-year-olds are in higher education, but 9 per cent of its poorest female 19-year-olds are. Meanwhile, 22 per cent of the richest 19-year-old men and 30 per cent of the richest 19-year-old women are at university.
Income was also a key factor in Vietnam, where some 8 per cent of the poorest 19-year-old men are in higher education compared with 14 per cent for women from low-income families, the Young Lives data show. In comparison, participation rates for richer 19-year-olds stood at a fairly healthy 48 per cent and 56 per cent for men and women, respectively.
Source: Times Higher Education