Gender inequality is a concern that needs to be addressed at all levels of education and training. There should be equal opportunities to quality education for all girls and boys, women and men, vulnerable groups including the disabled, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, and the poor. It is important to have policies that address inequalities attributed to gender norms and discrimination and also incorporate contextual issues on child labour, peace and resilience, among others. In addressing elimination of gender disparities in education and training and equal access for vulnerable groups, countries commit to achieve target 5 by 2030 as stated below:
Target 5: By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
Education 2030 agenda emphasizes on elimination of gender disparities in education and training and equal access for vulnerable groups. The policy brief outlines the context, situational analysis and policy recommendations. It provides the Arab States with information and strategies that will guide policy makers to determine targets and actions for gender parity, equality and inclusive quality education at all levels.
Context The Arab state region consists of 19 countries that are in four categories: Developed, least developing countries, Mashreq and Maghreb. The developed countries are: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman; The Least Developing Countries (LDC) are; Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen. The category of Mashreq countries are; Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Maghreb includes Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Since the year 2000, the Arab States Region countries have made considerable progress in achieving the Education for All goals. However, the most significant challenge to progress in education is conflict, which exacerbates inequality, poverty, exclusion and marginalization and in particular access to quality education. Children displaced by conflict, either internally in their home country or as refugees, face particularly severe barriers to education. Examples include the high cost of schooling, language of instruction, insecurity and bureaucracy. In this context, this policy brief analyses and discusses the situation of gender parity, equality and inclusive quality education at all levels in the Arab States Region.
The areas of focus for target 5 of the education 2030 agenda are policy and equity cross-targets. In the first area of focus, policy is supposed to institutionalize instruments for equal access to education at all levels targeting persons with disabilities, indigenous population and children in vulnerable situations. The indicators to measure progress in this area of focus are: 1) proportion of students in primary education whose mother tongue is the language of instruction;2) proportion of countries which have an explicit formula-based policy reallocating education resources to disadvantaged populations; 3) proportion of total education expenditure borne by households; and 4) proportion of total aid to education allocated to low-income countries. The conflict in some of the Arab States Region countries has led to many children’s education opportunities shattered. As at 2014, the region hosted 4.7 million Palestinian refugees, 2 million Iraqi refugees and more than 2 million Syrian refugees, primarily in Jordan and Lebanon, while many other countries have several millions that are internally displaced. It is crucial to maintain education during emergency, conflict, post-conflict and post-disaster situations, and to address the educational needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. In addition, language of instruction is often a factor in dropping out in countries where the mother tongue is not the language of instruction, especially in refugee situations. The non-achievement of universal primary education in the Arab States was largely among marginalized communities, girls, poor households and children with physical and learning disabilities. The children with disabilities lacked special
needs facilities and limited qualification of personnel. The second area of focus on equity cross-targets is about elimination of gender disparities at all levels of education. Progress in gender disparities are measured using the indicators: 1) gender parity index in education participation and; 2) learning opportunities of various categories (female /male; rural/ urban; and bottom/ top wealth quintile). The Arab States Region achieved progress in gender parity across all levels. For children of preprimary school age, the gender disparities tend to be small in most countries. The gender parity index for pre-primary education improved tremendously from 0.7 in 2000 to 0.9 in 2012. As at 2013, 34 per cent of girls in the school going age group did not go to pre-primary school. In primary the gender parity index was 0.87 in 2000, rising to 0.92 in 2007 and 0.93 in 2012. At the secondary level, the gender parity index was 0.86 in 2000, rising to 0.91 in 2007 and 0.92 in 2012 as illustrated in figure 1 below.
Policy Recommendations A set of strategic approaches are proposed to inform actions to deliver and monitor progress towards eliminating gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable in the Arab States Region. The proposed strategies in this target focus on policy and equity cross-targets. i. Review, develop and implement gender responsive policies and plans that guarantee equality in access to education and training The education policies and sector plans and their budgeting should guarantee the principles of non-discrimination and equality in and through education and training. The plans should target addressing the plight of vulnerable and excluded groups. Also, the curricula and textbooks and
teacher training and supervision are to be free of gender stereotypes and promote equality, non-discrimination, intercultural education and human rights.
ii. Design and implement Affirmative Actions to eliminate barriers of children and the youth access to quality education and training It is important to design and implement contextually relevant affirmative action’s to eliminate discrimination. A comprehensive framework is developed that includes: safer school facilities, school disaster management, and risk reduction and resilience education.
iii. Implement technology innovation that enhance equality of access to education and training There should be provision of distance learning, ICT training, access to appropriate technology, and other necessary infrastructure to facilitate a learning environment at home, conflict zones and remote areas.
iv. Establish monitoring systems to facilitate information synthesize and dissemination on gender equity ad equality in the education sector Relevant school and household surveys and international databases are to be used to monitor progress on gender equity and equality in education and training. It is important that countries have completed and accurate data and information, including on children with disabilities.
UNIICEF (2015) Regional Report on Out of School Children. UNICEF MENA Regional Office UNESCO (2015). Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2015. Achievements and Challenges UNESCO (2015) Education for All Regional Synthesis Report Of The 2015 National Reviews In The Arab States Region. UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education In the Arab States ‐ Beirut UN (2015) Framework for Action Education 2030: Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all (Draft)