Gender Education and Equality in a Global Context
reviewed by Cristine Smith - April 16, 2008
Title: Gender Education and Equality in a Global Context
Author(s): Shailaja Fennell and Madeleine Arnot (Eds.)
Publisher: Routledge, New York
ISBN: 0415419441, Pages: 230, Year: 2007
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The international commitment to girls and womens education and equality set by the World Education Forum and the Millenium Development Goals in 2000 was undoubtedly a favorable step, but will the commitment be effective in moving girls and women towards gender equality? This new volume examines how concepts and policies of gender education have been influenced by the Education for All (EFA) goals. Yet, the main theme of the book is that gender equality is complex, and that theories, policies and research methodologies must look beyond access to education in order to understand the true nature of gender roles and womens empowerment in the workplace, home, and community.
Gender Education and Equality in a Global Context is a compilation of articles by key gender and education practitioners and theorists from around the world. Divided into three parts, the book provides a valuable overview of debates and perspectives about current efforts to promote access, equality and equity. The first section, entitled (Re)conceptualizing gender equality, covers past and present theoretical frameworks on gender education: how changing global spaces have affected concepts of needs, rights and capabilities; how traditional human capital theory influenced an economic agenda around gender equality through education; how the impetus brought about through EFA and Millenium Development Goals will not be enough to ensure equality if financial resources fall short; and how concepts of social capital can inform understandings of the role of civil societies in education. The second section, Researching agency engagements and empowerments, offers four close-up views of gender equality and education in local contexts as varied as the historical transition in Tajikistan, girls and boys views on sexuality and HIV/AIDS in East Africa, the experiences of female teachers in rural Ghana, the burdens of women across the generations in Bangladesh, and the work of women community educators in Mumbai, India. Although this section purports to showcase how different research methodologies can uncover the true nature of gender in peoples lives, the contribution of the five articles in this section lies predominantly in their ability to convey the complexities on the path towards equality, as told through the lives and voices of girls and boys, men and women in widely divergent contexts. The final section, (Re)defining global equality agendas, focuses on the potential of policyglobally, nationally, and locallyto either promote or stifle gender equality. The articles in this section all address how international development agendas, globalization, poverty reduction strategies and other policies differentially affect the interplay between education and gender equality, from the school curriculum to ideas about citizenship and nationhood to the role of non-governmental and civil society organizations in womens education.
This volume is particularly strong in providing an explanation of the development of conceptual and policy frameworks over time, so that it is accessible to those who are not gender education experts. Taken in its entirety, it helps to bring the reader up to speed about the complex relationship between education and gender in light of international policies and goals. In fact, the editors predict that the new global context of Education for All is likely to affect all future gender research (p. 12), and they hope that this book will be the start of a conversation on how different disciplines, frameworks, research methodologies, and policy analysis can help us understand the role of education in social change. Whether this book contributes to that conversation remains to be seen, but it certainly will provide a broad perspective on the most recent thinking about gender and education for those of us committed to the genuinely powerful and commendable goals of achieving gender equality (p. 12).
On a practical note, for those of you considering this book as a text for gender and education courses, I would recommend starting your graduate students with the more-accessible chapters in the middle section of the book, rather than with the first chapter, which would probably be tough going for those who are not gender experts. This first chapter makes much more sense after reading the rest of the book. Finally, the reader will encounter multiple typos and punctuation eccentricities that are distracting, but this is a small point compared to the wealth of information in this book.