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Top readings on gender and learning

Robert Harding /

Top readings on gender and learning

Twenty resources to take you from the basics to the newest ideas and solutions

Are you looking for ideas on how to achieve gender parity in learning outcomes? Here is the IIEP Learning Portal’s selection of top publications on gender and learning.

Improving the educational experiences and outcomes of girls and women has been a theme for decades, yet much still remains to be achieved. Sustainable Development Goal 4 calls on the global community to “ensure that all girls and boys” have access to “quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education”, to “quality primary and secondary education”, to “affordable and quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education”, and to “literacy and numeracy”. And all UN member states have committed to “eliminate gender disparities in education” by 2030.

If you are helping to work towards those goals, you may be looking for ideas on where to start and what to try. Here we offer a list of top readings on gender and education, customized to your needs.

If you want a good overview of the issues: The 2016 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report was launched together with a Gender Review that sets the context for work on gender equity by presenting the current state of gender and education, and then looking at the linkages with broader issues—gender in work and economic growth, in leadership and participation, and in relationships and well-being. The Review also argues that there is need for a significant amount of improvement in how gender equality in education is measured and monitored. Another UNESCO Report, From Access to Equality, gives a historical overview and discusses current barriers to gender equity in education, while focusing particularly on two key issues: literacy and secondary education. Finally, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) offers a pocket guide on Gender Equality in and through Education addressing universal themes of gender equity in education, but with a specific focus on conflict and crisis situations and the staff who must quickly respond to educational needs under those conditions. All of these documents are available in multiple languages.



If you are looking for practical examples of policies, laws, and initiatives taken to address specific gender-related issues in education: The FAWE Research Series, Strengthening Gender Research to Improve Girls’ and Women’s Education in Africa, with three volumes issued so far, touches on a wide array of educational aspects with research on specific cases and countries. Topics covered include gender-responsive schooling and the role of teachers, mainstreaming gender to increase female participation, addressing violence, harassment, and discouragement in the learning environment, the link between students’ and teachers’ gender and academic achievement, gender disparities in the passage from secondary to tertiary education, and strengthening linkages between education and the world of work. The UNESCO publication Implementing the Right to Education: A Compendium of Practical Examples has a section devoted to gender equality that describes specific legislation, policies, and initiatives from around the world (see pp. 101-12). And the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) Good Practice Fund offers seventeen case studies of gender-focused education initiatives in specific contexts.

If your focus is gender-based violence in schools: You can get a basic background on the issues and data from a 2015 UNESCO/UNGEI policy paper arguing that school-related gender-based violence is preventing the achievement of quality education for all. For more in-depth discussion of research evidence in this area, take a look at the publication A Rigorous Review of Global Research Evidence on Policy and Practice on School-Related Gender-Based Violence, from UNICEF and partners. Another in-depth resource is a UNESCO background paper that offers a global review of current issues and approaches in policy, programming and implementation response to school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) for the education sector. Recently launched is the  UNESCO and UN Women Global Guidance on Addressing School-Related Gender Based Violence, which will be available in the Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence Against Women and Girls.

If you are interested in how girls are pulling ahead of boys in some contexts, but not in all subjects: The OECD’s Trends Shaping Education Spotlight 7 on Gender Equality highlights gender differences in mathematics, science, and reading in OECD countries. Girls have a strong advantage in reading that begins in primary school and persists through secondary. In the areas of mathematics and science, girls and boys perform at the same level in primary school, while boys pull slightly ahead by secondary school in mathematics skills, and far ahead in mathematics self-confidence. The brief provides a number of examples of initiatives focused on increasing boys’ interest in reading, but fewer solutions for increasing girls’ interest in mathematics. There is also an extensive analysis of how to address gender differences in the teaching profession and in students’ choices of careers. The analytical brief What is behind gender inequality in learning achievements? analyses data from the regional assessment TERCE and shows similar trends in girls’ and boys’ unequal educational achievements in reading and mathematics in Latin America and the Caribbean. Further practical approaches for improving boys’ achievement in language and reading—and improve both girls’ and boys’ learning outcomes together—can be found in the publication Gender issues in school.



If you are wondering how to finance initiatives for promoting greater gender equity in learning: The Gender Consultation Report Key Findings for the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity discusses both system-wide and targeted investment strategies and offers seven recommendations for advocacy in gender and education financing.

If what you really want is some data: There are a number of websites that offer interactive databases and graphics on gender and education. Our favourites include the World Bank Gender Data Portal, the World Inequality Database on Education, and the UNESCO eAtlas of Gender Inequality in Education. UNESCO also published its data in PDF form in 2012, in the World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education. If you plan to collect gender-sensitive data in the education sector, you may find useful the UNGEI publication Counting the Invisible and the FAWE Guide to Gender-Sensitive Research Methodology.



Find more on the IIEP Learning Portal library

Discover more resources on gender and education in the IIEP Learning Portal Library by entering “gender” and other search terms that interest you in the search bar at the top right of this page, or by clicking on this link.



Contributed by : Catherine Honeyman Lynne Sergeant, IIEP-UNESCO