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Gender Education and Equality in a Global Context

reviewed by Cristine Smith - April 16, 2008

coverTitle: 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 women’s 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 women’s 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 people’s 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 policy—globally, nationally, and locally—to 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 women’s 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.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: April 16, 2008
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15216, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 7:33:01 PM

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About the Author
  • Cristine Smith
    University of Massachusetts
    E-mail Author
    CRISTINE SMITH is Assistant Professor in the Center for International Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her areas of interest include girls’ and women’s literacy, non-formal education training design and project management, and gender in education. She served as co-editor of seven volumes of the Review of Adult Learning and Literacy, and currently is Principal Investigator of the Adult Transitions Longitudinal Study through University of Massachusetts.
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