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Breaking the Barriers: Empowering Girls through Education at Scale - Mohammed Shoaib

Ensuring quality education for all children is a major global challenge, and closing the gender gap in education is an essential part of this effort. Despite significant progress in increasing girls' access to schooling, especially at the primary level, girls still face many barriers to completing their education and achieving their potential. To address this challenge, it is critical to identify effective policies and programs that can scale up and sustain girls' education at all levels.

A recent research report by David K. Evans, Amina Mendez Acosta, and Fei Yuan, published by the Brookings Institution, presents evidence-based insights and recommendations for improving girls' education at scale. The report synthesizes findings from rigorous impact evaluations of interventions in various contexts and countries, covering a wide range of interventions, such as conditional cash transfers, school-based deworming, teacher training, and community mobilization.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Investing in girls' education has high returns: Girls' education has multiple positive impacts on individuals, families, and societies, including improved health, reduced poverty, and increased gender equality. Moreover, girls' education has a higher rate of return on investment than many other development interventions, making it a smart economic choice.

  • Addressing demand-side barriers is crucial: While supply-side factors, such as infrastructure, materials, and teacher quality, are important for improving educational outcomes, addressing demand-side barriers, such as poverty, social norms, and parental attitudes, is equally critical. Programs that provide conditional cash transfers or scholarships to girls, or that engage communities in supporting girls' education, have shown significant effects on enrollment, retention, and learning outcomes.

  • Early interventions have lasting effects: Starting early with targeted interventions, such as preschool programs, parent-child reading programs, or remedial education, can have long-term benefits for girls' educational attainment and future outcomes. For example, a randomized controlled trial in Kenya showed that a preschool program improved girls' literacy and numeracy skills, reduced grade repetition and dropout rates, and increased girls' secondary school enrollment and completion rates.

  • Quality matters more than quantity: While increasing access to schooling is important, ensuring that the education provided is of good quality is even more crucial for girls' learning and empowerment. Teacher training and support, student-centered pedagogy, and appropriate learning materials are among the key factors that can improve the quality of education. Moreover, ensuring that girls are safe and free from violence and harassment in schools is essential for their well-being and academic success.

  • Partnerships are key for scaling up: No single actor or intervention can achieve the goal of girls' education at scale. It requires collaboration and coordination among governments, civil society organizations, private sector entities, and donors, as well as effective monitoring and evaluation systems. Partnerships can leverage the strengths and resources of different stakeholders and create synergies that enhance the sustainability and impact of interventions.

Overall, the Girls' Education at Scale report provides a valuable resource for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers who are committed to advancing girls' education and gender equality. By learning from the evidence and applying the recommendations, we can make progress towards a world where all girls have the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive.

by Mohammed Shoaib, Founder and CEO, Canasu Dream Foundation

Reference: Evans, D. K., Mendez Acosta, A., & Yuan, F. (2018). Girls’ Education at Scale: Solutions for the Global Education Crisis. Brookings Institution Press.

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