Friday, May 2, 2008

The Gender Gap

Around the world are many social, cultural and economic barriers to girls’ schooling, both for enrolling and staying in school. Among the barriers:
In many societies, parents see limited economic benefits to educating girls. Daughters attending school are less available to help with household chores and childcare for younger siblings. Cultural norms are that sons support parents in old age while girls marry out and leave their parents.
Poverty is a major hindrance. Schooling usually involves substantial sums for fees, books, uniforms and transportation. When family resources are limited, parents usually give higher priority to sons.
Decisions about schooling for girls are often influenced by social norms related to sexuality and marriage. In traditional societies where chastity is highly valued, parents may be reluctant to allow girls to travel to school, be taught by male teachers and have close contact with boys. Parents often expect girls will marry at an early age, not needing education.
Disparities between initial enrolment rates for girls and boys are much greater than differences in drop-out rates. This suggests that the major challenge is to get girls into school. Parents increasingly recognize the need for education to improve their children’s chances in life— but this understanding is slower to come in the case of girls. Increasingly many parents also under-stand that the family’s long-term economic needs will be best served by providing better health care and education for fewer children, rather than relying on larger numbers.
Parents who hope for better education for their female children tend to want smaller families, perhaps so that they can provide more fully for the offspring they have.

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