United Nations


Commission on the Status of Women

3 January 1995

Thirty-ninth session
New York, 15 March-4 April 1995
Item 2 of the provisional agenda*

     *   E/CN.6/1995/1.

                         PRIORITY THEMES:  DEVELOPMENT
           Promotion of literacy, education and training, including
                             technological skills
                        Report of the Secretary-General


      The Commission on the Status of Women, at its thirty-fourth session,
selected the "promotion of literacy, education and training, including
technological skills" as the priority theme in the area of development for
consideration at its thirty-ninth session.  The present report, based on the
results of an expert group meeting organized to examine the theme, presents
the progress achieved at all levels of female education and describes the
obstacles in access and achievements that still persist at regional and
subregional levels.

      The right to education is universally recognized.  Female education is
considered a powerful instrument of public action and a catalyst for economic
and social change.  Investing in educational opportunities for girls yields
perhaps the best returns of all investments in developing countries. 
Recently, the focus has been shifting from mere access to education to the
quality, type and appropriateness of education and training for women
throughout their lives.  The elimination of gender bias from curricula,
textbooks and teacher attitudes and the introduction of supportive measures
are ways to improve female education.  Improved access to training in science
and technology is also considered important, in order to prepare women for the
twenty-first century.  The expert group meeting recommended changes in
educational policies, improved access to education, changes in the learning
environment, and more activities for girls and women in especially difficult


                                                              Paragraphs Page

INTRODUCTION ................................................   1 - 2       3

ISSUES IN GENDER, EDUCATION AND TRAINING ....................   3 - 22      3

     A.  The rationale for female education .................   3 - 6       3

     B.  Obstacles to girls' education ......................   7 - 11      4

     C.  Elimination of female illiteracy ...................    12         5

     D.  Progress achieved at all levels of formal schooling   13 - 16      5

     E.  Complementary role of non-formal education .........  17 - 18      6

     F.  Women in science and technology ....................    19         7

     G.  Women in teaching ..................................    20         7

     H.  Quality of education ...............................  21 - 22      7

        GENDER, EDUCATION AND TRAINING ................................     9


1.   On the recommendation of the Commission on the Status of Women, the
Economic and Social Council, in its resolution 1990/15, decided that the
Commission should consider, as a priority theme at its thirty-ninth session,
in the area of development, the "promotion of literacy, education and
training, including technological skills" and prepare a report for the section
on strategic action in the platform for action, the final document to be
adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women.  The theme was suggested by
the recommendations and conclusions arising from the first review and
appraisal of the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for
the Advancement of Women.  In the Forward-looking Strategies, education is
considered "the basis for the full promotion and improvement of the status of
women" (paras. 163-173). 1/  Recommendations related to education for women
are set out as an area of development, but references to the need for formal
and non-formal education and training are made in many other sections of the
Strategies.  The Strategies do not make a specific demand for parity of
women's enrolment at all levels but call for "equal opportunities" in access
to resources, especially education and training.

2.   In order to help consider the theme, an expert group meeting on gender,
education and training was convened by the Division for the Advancement of
Women, Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, United
Nations Secretariat.  It was held from 10 to 14 October 1994 at the
International Training Centre of the ILO in Turin (Italy).  The main
conclusions and recommendations of the seminar are annexed to the present
report.  The analysis in the first part of the report draws on the background
and working papers prepared for the expert group meeting. 


                    A.  The rationale for female education

3.   The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that "everyone has a
right to education". 2/  The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women calls for the elimination of discrimination
against women in order to ensure equal rights with men in the field of
education (art. 10). 3/  In order to achieve this goal, the utilization of
specific "appropriate measures", as reaffirmed by article 4.1 of the
Convention and contained in general recommendation No. 5 on temporary special
measures, may be appropriate.  The Committee encourages States Parties to make
more use of special measures such as positive action, preferential treatment
and quota systems to advance women's integration into education. 

4.   The World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990) drew
attention to the gender gap in educational opportunities and its consequences
for human development.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child also
contains provisions on the right to education, including the right to
compulsory and free primary education and access by all to secondary,
vocational and higher education. 4/  It also requests equal rights for girls
and boys to education and asserts the importance of education as a social and
cultural right. 

5.   Education is an agent of development through its impact on health,
mortality, productivity, household income and fertility rates.  If women are
key agents for development, any improvement in their education brings with it
higher social and economic returns.  Potential economic gains result from the
expansion of women's income-earning capacities in the formal labour market and
their increased participation in the informal sector of the economy. 

6.   The social returns of a woman's education go far beyond individual
welfare and are vital to national development.  Numerous studies have shown
that higher education for women is associated with healthier children and
lower infant mortality.  Educated mothers are better equipped to maintain good
hygiene and sanitation practices.  They have fewer children at a later age in
their life, which in turn increases the family resources devoted to each
child.  The education of the mother has a larger impact on children's
schooling than father's education, influencing significantly student's
motivation, achievements and study habits.  Educated women and girls have
greater environmental awareness and understanding of social, economic and
political systems. 

                       B.  Obstacles to girls' education

7.   There are economic, cultural, social, political and educational
constraints on girls' education.  Access to schooling is affected by urban or
rural residence and by social class.  Poor and rural women are more likely to
be illiterate, to have no access to training programmes and higher education. 
Since the public educational system is fragmented, the poor attend low-quality
schools, and vulnerable groups are most affected.    

8.   The direct and opportunity costs of sending girls to schools influence
parents' decisions on the education of their daughters.  The annual cost per
pupil for primary education can be as high as a rural family's annual cash
income; for secondary education, it is even greater.  If a family decides to
educate a child, culture and economics frequently favour the male.  In many
developing countries, even when schooling is publicly provided, much of the
cost of education is borne privately, including expenditures for school fees,
textbooks, transport, uniforms, and, in addition, the opportunity cost of the
child's time spent in school.  If girls do more home and market work and
perform a larger share of family labour than boys, parents may be reluctant to
send daughters to school.  Experience suggests that compulsory education laws
and tuition-free primary education are not sufficient to achieve equal
enrolment rates between men and women.  Specific gender-based interventions
may be required, such as reducing the opportunity costs of educating girls by
allowing girls to bring younger siblings to school, establishing day-care
centres for mothers at work, or introducing simple technologies that can
substitute for time in fetching water or firewood, thus releasing girls from
household work. 

9.   The geographical location of schools and the distance from home to
schools are deterrents to girls' enrolment, especially when security and
sexual safety are concerns.  Where the privacy and seclusion of girls is
required to protect their reputations, restrictions are put on female mobility
at the onset of puberty.  Socio-cultural factors such as a patriarchal system
of school organizations, absence of female teachers, early marriages and
pregnancies and traditional practices such as circumcision prevent girls from
attending school. 

10.  Poor health and bad nutrition impede girls' performance in schools.  In
some developing countries, there tend to be a higher achievement by boys at
all levels, in particular in science and math.  The gender difference in
academic achievement is due to the reduced learning opportunities of girls,
lack of role models, deficiencies in teacher training and absence of support
systems for girls to learn.  Absenteeism and drop-out rates are higher. 

11.  Girls and women with disabilities often lack access to education and
training because educational facilities cannot cater for their special needs. 
The costs involved in providing equal opportunities for girls and women with
disabilities prevent many political decision makers from providing the
adequate and needed services.  The children of minority populations and
communities and indigenous populations have special educational needs because
their distinctive culture and language should be respected and preserved.  In
many countries, there has been markedly less educational improvement among
particular groups of girls, such as migrants, aborigines, girls with
disabilities or girls living in poverty. 

                     C.  Elimination of female illiteracy

12.  World wide there are 905 million illiterate men and women, of whom
65 per cent are women. 5/  About the same number of men and women can be
considered functionally illiterate.  Illiteracy rates, usually obtained
through census interviews, tend to underestimate the true prevalence of
illiteracy.  Important progress has been made in eliminating both adult
illiteracy and the differentials between female and male illiteracy.  High
illiteracy rates in some countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific are a
reflection of past discrimination and lack of education.  In the present age
group 15-24 years old, illiteracy rates are significantly lower due to higher
levels of school enrolment.  Countries with large indigenous populations have
higher disparities in female/male literacy ratios.  In the developed
countries, the percentage of illiterates is higher among immigrant populations
and people living in poverty.  Mass literacy campaigns constitute one
effective strategy for the elimination of widespread illiteracy among adult
women within a set time-frame.  Literacy strategies are only successful when
they take into account the social condition of women and make a link to
income-generating activities. 

            D.  Progress achieved at all levels of formal schooling

13.  In the past decade, substantive and successful efforts were made to
attract girls to primary schools.  On a regional level, girls' enrolment has
achieved parity with boys' except in Africa and Asia.  The lowest rates
persist in sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia where in some
countries almost half of the children of primary school age are out of school,
the majority being girls.  In many countries with rates of high population
growth, the planning of new educational facilities did not meet the actual
need.  Economic crises and measures of structural adjustment in the 1980s had
an impact on the educational system in the form of cuts in salary, reduced
numbers of teachers and lower expenditures on resource materials.

14.  Studies have indicated that as per capita GNP increases, female enrolment
rates rise and women generally move towards parity with men.  This does not
occur automatically since certain countries with relatively high per capita
GNP show disappointing achievements in terms of progress in female enrolment,
whereas certain countries with low per capita GNP show remarkable success
because of deliberate educational policies taken to promote female education. 
Female education has the best chance to progress when macroeconomic policies
to promote general social and economic growth are accompanied by educational
policies specifically tailored to the particular characteristics and
requirements of the female population. 

15.  The number of men and women in higher education is approaching parity in
the developed countries.  In Latin America and the Caribbean and in Eastern
Europe there is a higher proportion of women compared to men in tertiary
education.  A generational transition is taking place, with a trend towards a
female population that is proportionally better educated than the male
population.  In countries where the provision of tertiary education is far
from adequate, the establishment of distance-learning programmes would benefit
female students when mobility and family situation do not allow them to attend
courses as full-time students. 

16.  Female students at the secondary and tertiary levels remain clustered in
traditional fields of study.  However, more women are enroling in fields once
dominated by men.  When equality in access and attainment is achieved,
equality in professional qualifications or remuneration still lags behind. 
There is a growing distortion between the qualifications and expectations of
young educated women and their possibility of participation in the labour
market.  Curricula and course content are not adapted to the requirements of
the economic and socio-cultural realities. 

                E.  Complementary role of non-formal education

17.  Non-formal approaches to basic education for school children and youth
have grown in many countries where access to formal education is unequal. 
These have been advocated by many educationalists as a temporary means to
improve access and performance.  Non-governmental organizations are essential
partners for providing non-traditional programmes for out-of-school children
in a non-institutional environment based on a learner-centred curriculum and
flexible schedule. 

18.  Continuing education and training for women throughout the life cycle is
carried out by a variety of organizations, including non-governmental
organizations, political parties, educational institutions and foundations. 
Educational activities for adult women are a major component to awareness-
raising and increasing self-confidence among women.  Training in legal
literacy, for example, has gained importance since it is a necessary tool for
making women aware of their human rights. 

                      F.  Women in science and technology

19.  The rapid development of science and technology and its impact on global
markets and economies has created new challenges to education systems and
policy makers.  Many training programmes for women in developing countries
have been restricted to traditionally domestic activities and are concentrated
in the capital cities and a few provinces.  Women's participation in higher-
level education in science and technology and research programmes remains low.

Few female researchers are actively involved in defining research programmes
and setting the research agenda for the next century. 

                             G.  Women in teaching

20.  The male-to-female ratio in teaching varies according to the level of
teaching.  The percentage of female teachers is high at the primary level,
decreases at the secondary level and further declines in universities and
equivalent institutions.  Although the number of female academics in higher
education is increasing globally, tenure is still heavily concentrated among
senior male academics.  Women are generally underrepresented in the higher
status and higher-paying categories but tend to be employed in support
positions which lack promotional opportunities.  The absence of female
teachers in remote rural areas has an impact on the schooling of girls.  In
addition, the training of teachers is often not adequate, and salaries are not

                           H.  Quality of education

21.  The quality of education is a question that goes beyond the issue of
access and performance and basic educational needs to improved completion
rates, critical awareness and empowerment.  Much research has been done on
gender stereotypes and bias in education and training in the past decade.  The
establishment of womens' studies programmes in the undergraduate and graduate
levels is the most visible acknowledgement of the need to examine gender
issues in society and gender bias in education, training and research.  There
is an increasing consensus to utilize the knowledge about gender bias in
education to define and implement strategies of action for transforming sexual
discrimination within educational institutions.  Female education can be
improved through curriculum changes, improvement in teacher training,
incentives and other supportive measures (scholarships, reduced fees, boarding
facilities, school meals, counselling, child care services). 

22.  In a first step many Governments have removed gender bias from textbooks
and curricula, but often no further action has been taken.  Experience has
shown that equality must be mainstreamed in the teaching process in order to
give boys and girls equal opportunities in education.  Gender awareness in
education can be promoted through gender-sensitive training courses for
teachers and development of teaching materials, experimental projects and
training centres that focus on various actors, including girls and their
parents, teachers and administrators.


     1/  Report of the World Conference to Review and Appraise the
Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women:  Equality, Development
and Peace, Nairobi, 15-26 July 1985 (United Nations publication, Sales No.

     2/  General Assembly resolution 217 A (III).

     3/  General Assembly resolution 34/180.

     4/  General Assembly resolution 1386 (XIV).

     5/  UNESCO, World Education Report (Paris, 1993).


                        GENDER, EDUCATION AND TRAINING


                                                              Paragraphs Page

 I.   PREAMBLE ..............................................   1 - 13     10

II.   RECOMMENDATIONS .......................................  14 - 51     12

      A. Educational policies ..............................   14 - 26     12

      B. Access ............................................   27 - 39     17

      C. Learning environment ..............................   40 - 48     21

      D. Girls and women in especially difficult 
         circumstances .....................................   49 - 51     26

                                 I.  PREAMBLE

1.   As we approach the twenty-first century, this Fourth World Conference on
Women allows us an opportunity to evaluate and consolidate the many
achievements of women the world over and to specify the interventions
necessary to meet their continuing needs.  In the area of education,
significant gains have been made in improving access and quality in the
education and training of girls and women.  However, much still needs to be
done to address, for example, the needs of some 905 million illiterate men and
women, of whom 65 per cent are women.

2.   The world today is different from the world we knew in 1975 and 1985. 
The challenges are greater than before.  Today, the world faces globalization
of production and trade, more intense fundamental beliefs in all religions,
reduced national budgets, and intense ethnic rivalries.  On the other hand,
more extended definitions of democracy have been envisaged and applied,
pluralistic political systems are emerging, and individuals and groups in mass
movements are asserting themselves as legitimate social actors.

3.   Various trends in the world pose special challenges to women.  The
emergence of an increasingly knowledge-intensive society and the growth in
information and communication technologies require that women acquire
appropriate education and training to function in contemporary society. 
Further, education and training should enable women to perform well in a
changing economic, social, and cultural environment.  Changes in the economic
environment include the shifting nature of the formal sector in light of
global economic restructuring, resulting in demands on women to adjust to new
opportunities and situations, and the increased importance of small and
medium-sized enterprises which creates both opportunities and limitations for
women.  The same applies to the growth in flexibility in the economy, which
can provide opportunities for women and men better to balance family, social
and economic responsibilities.  Environmental degradation has affected girls
and women in adverse ways.  Many women in rural and remote areas who were
dependent on nature for their daily subsistence are finding it increasingly
difficult to survive with the resources at their disposal, and the demands on
their time and energy further constrain their participation in education.

4.   The conceptual, theoretical and practical understanding of gender as a
force that shapes the social order in decisive ways has matured and grown
increasingly complex.  The call for a gender-sensitive approach emphasized in
the present report enables women and men to recognize and revalue women's
experiences, skills, and contributions throughout history to culture, the
economy, and social life; to share domestic and caring responsibilities; to
participate in society as conscious, active, and responsible citizens; to
enjoy gender relations based on equality and solidarity and to value
tolerance, diversity and peaceful resolution of conflict.  This approach
requires individuals and groups to realize the social and economic asymmetries
created by gender discrimination and to conceive the structures and mechanisms
required to transform stereotypes about masculinity and femininity and the
privileges attached to them.  A gender-sensitive approach is also viewed as
being profoundly transformative in nature, given its potential to create and
maintain a social order truly in accord with a fully democratic and just

5.   The Forward-looking Strategies provide strong recommendations for the
advancement of girls and women, many of whom have benefited from the
implementation of several of its recommendations.  While some of the changes
needed can be done through policy and attitudinal change, the implementation
of recommendations in several countries have been constrained due to
inadequate translation of the recommendations into specific action and lack of
adequate resources.  We see the Fourth World Conference on Women and the NGO
Forum, to be held in Beijing, as crucial meetings that will set up specific
recommendations for action by national Governments, civil society and
international bodies.  A crucial element in the platform for action will be
the monitoring mechanisms at national, regional and international levels to be
put in place to ensure implementation and evaluation of the actions to be

6.   The present report proposes actions for education and training of girls
and women to be considered at this international forum.  It emphasizes access
to quality education for girls and women as a basic and fundamental human
right.  Women's education yields numerous benefits, including increased
economic productivity, lower birth rates, decreased maternal and infant
mortality, improved family health care and nutrition, and delayed marriage. 
Education also has impacts on other social sectors.  Investing in education
therefore means simultaneous investments in health, the environment, the
labour force and increasing women's political participation.

7.   The recommendations in this report call for special and sustained
governmental interventions.  International agencies, non-governmental
organizations, parents, the private sector, community groups, and labour
unions are also challenged to contribute to and share responsibilities for the
education and training of girls and women.  The recommendations are in four
main areas:  educational policies, access, the learning environment and
education for girls and women in specially difficult circumstances.

8.   The recommendations dealing with educational policies identify the need
for legislation, administrative actions, educational inputs, the media,
participation and partnerships, and resources.  The recommended policies
provide the framework and legitimacy for the actions required to improve
education for girls and boys, and women and men.  Recommendations to improve
access by girls and women emphasize the need for interventions to improve
physical provisions in the educational system and address concerns in the
social context that affects girls' and women's education:  improve the quality
and relevance of education and training, link them to the labour market and
ensure adequate monitoring and evaluation.

9.   Recommendations for improving the learning environment focus on the
physical environment, the teacher, curriculum, learning materials, alternate
delivery systems, and adult and lifelong education.  The quality of education
which girls and women receive is a source of concern, given the gender-
stereotyping and biases that exist in aspects of the school curriculum,
textbooks, teaching and learning aids, and the delivery system.

10.  With respect to the quality of education the recommendations also stress
the importance of the education of girls and women in the areas of science and
technology and technical and vocational education for less-biased
representation in those fields.  Women in science and technology will
contribute to a redefinition of these areas and to the application of
knowledge to the design of technologies relevant to their needs.  Their
participation in technical and vocational education and training is also a
means to increase their access to technical knowledge and to diverse
opportunities in the productive sector.

11.  Recommendations for the education of women in especially difficult
circumstances are premised on the fact that education is affected by gender
differentials in social class position, urban/rural residence, ethnic
affiliation, racial distinctions and displacement.  Conditions affecting women
are not uniform and women can be further marginalized by the combination of
arbitrary social distinctions.  It is, therefore, important to recognize the
existence of extremely vulnerable groups of women and children - for example,
those in refugee camps and in exploitative circumstances such as entrapment in
the sex trade - and to provide special educational and training interventions
to address their needs and enable them to contribute to the solution of their

12.  While many of the recommendations for qualitative improvement of
education and training do not require significant additional resources, it is
important to note that the real resources available for education and training
have diminished, in a context of structural adjustment in many countries, and
that new sources of funding are required.  The recommendations being made
depend on several sources of support, and an appeal is being made to the
industrialized countries to contribute at least 0.7 per cent of their GNP to
development in less advanced countries.  The international community is also
being requested to ensure that a significant proportion of the peace dividend
go towards education as an integral component of human development. 

13.  Finally, it is important to stress the responsibility of national
Governments to provide education and training as a basic human right.  Girls
and women should be encouraged to make use of available educational provisions
and be empowered to assume responsibility for their welfare in general and for
their education and training in particular.

                             II.  RECOMMENDATIONS

                           A.  Educational policies

14.  Access to, and participation in education is a basic human right for all. 
Education for all and forward-looking policies in education are imperative for
the development of the individual, the community and for the growth of

15.  The process of providing quality and equitable education for all begins
with the formulation and implementation of comprehensive gender-sensitive
policies that affect the different aspects and levels of education and
training.  Gender-sensitive educational policies have to remove all
stereotypes and prescriptions that prevent women and men from fully realizing
their capacities, skills, and aspirations and enable them to be full partners
in private and public spheres.  Those policies could be reached through policy
dialogue and consultation that involve all the stakeholders in education and
training, within both the public and private sectors.

16.  Those policies will have an impact on all major aspects of the education
sector such as legislation, administration, educational inputs, processes,
results and resources.  It is important to recognize that the implementation
of these recommended forward-looking policies does not always assume the
prerequisite of additional funds.  Many of these policies would require the
reallocation of resources, and only a few would require generating new
resources for their implementation.

1.   Legislation

17.  Legislation should be adopted to:

     (a)  Ensure equal opportunities for girls and women at all levels of
education and training by endorsing the principles of affirmative action in
national education legislation, in order to remedy unequal status, whenever

     (b)  Ensure the enforcement of compulsory, primary education and
universal basic education by providing as many of the following measures as

     (i)  Eliminate all direct costs of basic education for girls of low-
          income families;

    (ii)  Provide scholarships for girls of low-income families during the
          first phase of the secondary level;

   (iii)  Provide separate boarding facilities for girls at secondary level;

     (c)  Recommend that Governments issue a language policy that recognizes
the value of maternal languages in the early grades of primary;

     (d)  Eliminate all discriminative legislation that may prevent girls and
women from attending and/or continuing to attend schools, such as the punitive
policies regarding pregnancy and maternal leave; and enact legislation that
encourages equitable participation of girls and women at all levels of
schooling and training;

     (e)  Ensure gender balance in the teaching profession and educational
administration at all levels (primary, secondary, vocational, technical, and
tertiary) and, where necessary, establish a quota system;

     (f)  Ensure that education and training offered through the private
sector be responsive to gender-equity principles and therefore contribute to
the narrowing of the gender gap in both education and employment;

     (g)  Strengthen the linkage between the education and training sector and
the labour market by ensuring equal opportunities of employment for both women
and men, through affirmative actions, where necessary;

     (h)  Raise the minimum legal age of marriage to 18 years in order to
reduce the drop-out rate that results from early marriage; and establish 16
years as the legal age of consent, thus preventing schools and society from
holding female students solely responsible in case of pregnancy;

     (i)  Prohibit child labour, especially for children under 14 years of
age, in order to encourage children to remain in basic education; and whenever
children are in bonded labour situations, enact labour laws that require
employers to facilitate basic and continuing education and training for all
those children and specifically for girls;

     (j)  Formulate legislation against violence and sexual harassment in the
educational system;

     (k)  Formulate legislation that will reinforce the creation and the
existence of support services such as child care centres, career counselling
and guidance and job placement assistance so as to allow greater access to
girls and women to education and training, both in educational institutions
and the work place;

     (l)  Promote incentives, such as tax reduction for enterprises, that
offer education and training programmes to female employees.

2.   Administration

18.  Administrative reforms are necessary to:

     (a)  Increase the number of female principals, administrators and
planners at all levels of the education system (i.e., national, regional,
district and local levels);

     (b)  Offer gender-sensitization training to all educational
administrators, both men and women;

     (c)  Ensure the full involvement of female planners in all levels of the
planning and management aspects of the educational and vocational training

     (d)  Promote research and studies to analyse all the causes of the gender
gap, and to examine the values, traditions and social practices that are
supportive and non-supportive of the principles of gender equality and equity;

     (e)  Ensure at the national, regional, district and local levels the
disaggregation of all educational data by gender and by urban/rural residence,
and establish educational and job opening indicators that can be used to
monitor the narrowing of the gender gap;

     (f)  Ensure the full integration of disabled students by mainstreaming
them in education and training programmes and by providing them with equal
access and participation.

3.   Educational inputs and processes

     Schools and training centres

19.  It is necessary to:

     (a)  Provide a greater number of places for students by constructing more
schools.  Vocational training should include new and innovative programmes
responsive to employment requirements;

     (b)  Construct single-sex schools, whenever needed, and ensure that they
are as well equipped as regular schools, specifically in mathematics, sciences
and technical fields;

     (c)  Construct smaller schools (one-to-two-room multigrade schools) in
remote areas to ensure access to difficult to reach communities.


20.  It is necessary to reform the curriculum to ensure the inclusion of:

     (a)  Gender-sensitive contents;

     (b)  Relevance to daily lives and realities;

     (c)  Linkages to other sectors, specifically the labour market;

     (d)  Life skills:  nutrition, health and environment;

     (e)  Improved science and mathematics;

     (f)  Education for citizenship, democracy and human rights;

     (g)  Family life education:  family planning and parental education;

     (h)  Critical thinking and problem-solving;

     (i)  Education valuing tolerance and diversity;

     (j)  Career guidance and counselling.

     Educational and training materials

21.  It is recommended that:

     (a)  Newly produced textbooks and educational materials are based on a
gender-equality perspective;

     (b)  All sex bias and sexist language be removed from all textbooks and
educational materials and teaching aids;

     (c)  Textbook content for girls and women be aligned with employment
situations and realities.


22.  It is recommended that:

     (a)  The number of teacher training facilities at national and district
levels be increased;

     (b)  Service teacher training be strengthened at all levels;

     (c)  Gender-sensitization training for teachers which results in
non-biased attitudes and improved methodologies of teaching be provided;

     (d)  The deployment of a sufficient number of female teachers into
schools for girls be ensured.

     Non-formal and informal education

23.  It is necessary to ensure that there are alternative educational
opportunities for out-of-school children, adolescents and adults.  Whenever
those non-formal and informal educational systems are created, it is important
to ensure the linkages of those alternative systems with the formal systems of
education and employment opportunities.

4.   Media

24.  It is recommended that:

     (a)  Policies that will gender-sensitize the media be formulated, by
ensuring that the gender perspective is taken into account and that the images
projected of women and men are non-stereotyped and equitable;

     (b)  Mechanisms that encourage women to enter the media profession be
established, in order to increase their impact on the planning and
implementation of media programme, and to ensure an equitable portrayal of
women and men;

     (c)  Stronger linkages between the media and the formal and non-formal
education systems be created, in order to reinforce equal opportunities and
aspirations for women and men;

     (d)  Gender sensitization training be offered to both women and men who
are already in the media and social communication profession.

5.   Participation and partnerships

25.  For improved participation and partnerships it is necessary to:

     (a)  Create an enabling environment for full participation of the
different governmental agencies, employers and communities in the education
and training processes;

     (b)  Promote partnerships and coordination among all stakeholders of
education, such as ministries of education, finance, planning, and labour;
teachers' associations, labour unions, businesses, non-governmental
organizations, women's groups, community leaders, and the media.

6.   Resources

26.  It is recommended that:

     (a)  National resources from other sectors, especially the military
sector, be reallocated to the education and training sector;

     (b)  Resources within the education sector be reallocated so as to ensure
that the basic education budget receives at least 50 per cent of the total
national education budget and to ensure that sufficient resources are
allocated for measures that will increase the enrolment and retention of girls
in school and women in educational programmes;

     (c)  Allocations, allowances or line items within the educational budget
be dedicated to ensure that most of the reallocation of the educational budget
is spent on specific measures to increase the enrolment and retention of girls
in school and women in educational and training programmes;

     (d)  Community participation in the provision and management of resources
for education and training be encouraged;

     (e)  The participation of the business community in the provision of
resources and support of education and training programmes in general and
girls' and women's education and training in particular be promoted.  Special
attention should be given to enterprise-based and on-the-job training leading
to career mobility;

     (f)  A substantial increase be advocated in donor agencies' allocations
for narrowing the gender gap in education and training;

     (g)  The use of debt swap and debt conversion schemes for human resources
development and specifically for girls' and women's education be encouraged.

                                  B.  Access

27.  Access to quality education is a human right.  Ensuring access requires
that girls and women have equal opportunities to participate in the
educational and training system, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. 
Equal access means not only attaining equality in enrolment ratios but also in
retention rates and cycle completion.  Ensuring access requires that the cost
of education does not impose a barrier to girls' and women's education and
that the benefits to education are fully recognized.  This means not only that
adequate school facilities exist but also that the curriculum and its content
are gender-sensitive and forward-looking.

28.  Access is affected by the learning environment created by the educational
and training system (the schools, the teachers, and the curriculum) and the
social context (the family and the community) within which educational
decisions are made.  Access to the educational system can be fostered by
launching campaigns to mobilize the community and parents.

1.   The educational system

29.  The system should promote the access of girls and women to education and
training by:

     (a)  Providing universal, compulsory and free basic education; direct
costs (tuition, examination fees, textbooks, materials, uniforms, stationery)
should be eliminated or reduced as much as possible; scholarships should be
targeted to disadvantaged girls in both urban and rural areas;

     (b)  Providing an adequate number of schools with proper facilities,
preferably in each community; smaller facilities should be available where
needed; where this is not economically feasible, transportation should be
provided.  Boarding schools or dormitories provided at training centres may be
a viable alternative;

     (c)  Ensuring that school buildings provide special facilities for girls
-for example, separate toilets;

     (d)  Providing separate classrooms for boys and girls, where necessary;

     (e)  Providing a healthy environment - for example, adequate lighting and
potable water for both girls and boys;

     (f)  Paying special attention to women and children at risk, such as
those from disadvantaged socio-economic classes, ethnic minorities, scheduled
castes and first-generation learners, in order to ensure that they benefit
from education provisions;

     (g)  Promoting the participation in all aspects of the educational system
of girls and women with physical or mental disabilities.  In the construction
of educational facilities, adequate attention should be paid to the needs of
students with disabilities;

     (h)  Offering flexible schedules that do not compromise quality of
education, given the many demands on girls' and women's time;

     (i)  Using remedial education rather than repetition of grades to
encourage girls to complete the school cycle;

     (j)  Having an adequate number of motivated, gender-sensitive, and well-
trained teachers.  Single-sex schools and female teachers may be required in
certain cultural contexts;

     (k)  Encouraging adequate distribution of female teachers in rural and
isolated areas through financial incentives, such as housing and professional

30.  In addition to these factors that influence the access of girls and women
to all levels of education, there are certain issues relevant to the specific
levels of education.

31.  Secondary education should include a sufficient variety of school types
and curricula to allow girls to select courses of study freely, without being
confined to choose programmes designed for boys.  Secondary schools should
allow girls and boys open access to all types of courses.  Guidance and
counselling for girls should be "enabling", not "limiting".  Scholarships and
stipends should be offered to disadvantaged girls in urban and rural areas. 
Appropriate transportation should be provided.

32.  Girls and women should have equal access to a diverse range of
programmes, including non-traditional fields of vocational and technical
training.  In order to enhance the participation of girls and women, training
activities should be scheduled to take into account their responsibilities.

33.  Higher education should be open to all.  The numerus clausus principle
should be avoided, if possible.  Stereotyping should be avoided.  Links to the
labour market should be developed by developing labour-market information

34.  Adult education should be given due importance.  In addition to helping
universalize primary education, adult education is needed for the empowerment
of the learners, especially women.  This should be based on needs assessment,
to determine priorities and objectives.  Appropriate methodology and training
for adult education teachers should be used.  Adult literacy should be
functional and should include legal literacy for both men and women.  The
campaign methodology has been effective in reducing adult illiteracy. 
Retraining programmes should be available.  There should be special curriculum
designed for adults.  Efforts should be made to enable re-entry into the
formal school system.

35.  Distance learning should be available for girls and women who are unable
to attend formal school so that they have the opportunity to participate in
the educational system.

36.  Non-formal education should be considered as a means of educating girls
and women who are out of school, but efforts should be taken so that they re-
enter the formal school system, whenever possible.  Non-formal education
should also include various types of learning centres, including science
education centres, science fairs and science clubs, and should disseminate
information about technology.

2.   The social context

3^  Even if the school and training system offers equal access to girls and
women, they may not participate because of economic, social and cultural
constraints.  Participation can be increased by reducing the indirect costs of
education by making provisions to reduce household burdens.  Recognizing the
value of girls' education, all agents including the girls and women, the
family and the community should:

     (a)  Campaign to enrol and retain girls in schools.  This could be
accomplished in partnership with the State, non-governmental organizations and
advocates; different strategies should be used, such as a multimedia campaign,
and targeting religious and traditional leaders and the community;

     (b)  Enhance the value of a daughter's education for the parental family
by changing those social constraints that prevent daughters from contributing
to the welfare of their parents and natal family;

     (c)  Initiate labour-market reforms to guarantee that women receive the
economic benefits associated with education or training;

     (d)  Undertake adult literacy campaigns that can make parents and family
members literate and also help increase girls' education;

     (e)  Provide child-care facilities;

     (f)  Increase the availability of water, fuel and food.

3.   Quality and relevance

38.  The system should improve the curricula, content, materials, technology
and teaching methodologies in order to enhance the access of girls and women
to education or training that is gender-sensitive, relevant and which
motivates girls to complete their education.  Special consideration should be
given to:

     (a)  Curriculum:  guidance and counselling; science, technology, and
mathematics education; the use of the mother tongue; gender-sensitive teaching
and training methodologies and strong relation between curriculum and labour
market needs and evolution;

     (b)  The status of teachers:  salaries, conditions of service, training
and responsibility in decision-making;

     (c)  The community:  school-based decision-making, private sector
involvement, government, non-governmental organizations and trade union
cooperation and coordination.

4.   Monitoring and evaluation

39.  Governments should bear responsibility for monitoring the implementation
of these suggestions.  In addition, it is necessary to:

     (a)  Establish autonomous monitoring units which may be funded by three
sources:  one third of funds from the Government, one third from the United
Nations, and one third from other sources;

     (b)  Collect data that is disaggregated (by gender, level, and type of
education, urban/rural residence etc.) and that can be used to conduct both
quantitative and qualitative analysis, in order to evaluate progress.

                           C.  Learning environment

40.  The learning environment provides the context for interactions in the
teaching and learning process.  In order to provide an enabling learning
environment for the education and training of girls and women, attention
should be paid to components such as the physical environment, the teacher,
the curriculum, learning materials, alternative delivery systems, adult and
lifelong education and higher education. 

1.   Physical environment

41.  The physical conditions of the schools or training centres and classrooms
affect access and quality of education and can determine the participation of
girls and women, in particular.  There is need, therefore, to provide
appropriate facilities in schools to cater for the needs of all students and
trainees, including those with disabilities.

2.   Teachers

42.  The home and the community usually provide the first learning environment
for children.  Within this environment, by the time they enter primary school,
boys and girls have been socialized into gender roles and may have acquired
different bodies of knowledge.  The task of the formal and non-formal aspects
of the schooling facilities should be to create an environment that will
equalize the life chances of both sexes.  The teacher should be an agent of
change in the learning environment.  The presence of female teachers in
schools has a positive impact on the education of girls.  Female teachers
serve as role models for girls and, more importantly, in many societies, they
provide for the physical and emotional well-being of girls.

43.  There is need therefore to:

     (a)  Facilitate the recruitment of female teachers where necessary. 
Governments should adjust the entry qualifications of teachers in order to
favour the employment of women teachers, provided that opportunities for
academic and professional advancement of these women are made available; the
personal development of female teachers is in itself crucial to the success of
their role vis--vis the female student;

     (b)  Favour the employment of female teachers in traditionally male-
dominated disciplines, especially in the natural sciences, mathematics and
technical and vocational education;

     (c)  Pay special attention to gender-sensitization in teacher training
programmes and expose both female and male teachers to these programmes,
including the use of non-sexist language in content and methodology as a way
of promoting equality;

     (d)  Include in teacher education programmes, guidance and counselling
components that encompass human rights education, formation of self-identity,
interpersonal communication skills and women's issues;

     (e)  Train teachers in classroom management that emphasizes equality in
the physical arrangements, interpersonal relationships and interactive

     (f)  Train teachers for science, technology and mathematics education by
taking into account the barriers that prevent girls and women from
participating fully in these areas. 

3.   Curriculum

44.  Special attention should be paid to the curriculum to ensure that it
addresses equally the interests and needs of all students.  The curriculum
should be free of gender bias which creates or reinforces stereotypes.  The
curriculum should also provide an opportunity for girls and boys to acquire
knowledge, skills and attitudes for a better understanding and acceptance of
each other as equal partners.  There is need therefore, to:

     (a)  Understand the context or environment from which the curriculum is

     (b)  Pay special attention to curricula at early levels to provide
motivation and facilitate achievement and retention;

     (c)  Develop relevant curricula which emphasize the needs and aspirations
of girls and boys in compliance with the principles of equality;

     (d)  Reform curricula so as to enable girls and boys to acquire the
generic skills of literacy, numeracy, problem-solving, decision-making,
critical thinking and information-processing;

     (e)  Develop curricula that enable both sexes to understand and transform
social and cultural conditions currently shaped by gender-based beliefs and

     (f)  Include elements, such as family-life education and guidance and
counselling, which deal specifically with gender-related issues;

     (g)  Establish mechanisms for continuous monitoring, evaluation and
review, especially in terms of the achievement levels of girls and boys,
including the development of indicators;

     (h)  Provide opportunities for girls and boys to acquire knowledge,
skills and attitudes that enable them to understand their environment and
prepare them to participate more meaningfully in the productive sector;

     (i)  Incorporate popularization activities to educate girls and boys
about the role of science and technology in their lives and raise awareness of
the importance of science and technology in a changing environment;

     (j)  Provide technical and vocational education and training for girls
and boys and foster freedom of choice in their selection of options;

     (k)  Develop curricula for technical and vocational education and
training, taking into account the demands of a changing labour market;

     (l)  Provide all students with opportunities to acquire learning-to-learn
skills so that they can adapt easily to a changing environment;

     (m)  Encourage girls to participate in physical education programmes and
sport as a way of fostering health and self-esteem;

     (n)  Provide physical education programmes that take into consideration
the needs of girls and boys.

4.   Learning materials

45.  Learning materials, especially textbooks, should be motivating, free from
gender-bias, interactive and readily available.  There is need therefore, to:

     (a)  Ensure that adequate resources from budgets for recurrent
expenditure are allocated for teaching and learning materials;

     (b)  For both boys and girls, ensure that learning materials are
developed using knowledge obtained from the community as well as from public
and private sectors; produce materials that are low-cost and linguistically
appropriate for easy comprehension; use the environment as a resource for
teaching and learning; use a variety of learning materials for the full
participation of all students, including the disabled, and make reading
materials available through mobile library services;

     (c)  Produce materials that provide role models for girls and women,
remove gender stereotypes and foster the concept of choice by both sexes;

     (d)  Develop programmes and materials for the acquisition of scientific
literacy and technological literacy by both girls and boys.

5.   Alternative delivery systems

46.  To improve the participation of girls and women in education and
training, attention should be paid to alternative delivery systems - for
example, non-formal and distance education methodologies.  There is need,
therefore, to:

     (a)  Understand the obstacles to girls' and women's education in a given
community in order to develop relevant education delivery systems;

     (b)  Establish partnerships between Governments, non-governmental
organizations and community groups to enable females who are out of school to
gain access to education and training;

     (c)  Ensure that learners receive quality education through the training
of tutors/facilitators and through an adequate supply of learning materials;

     (d)  Facilitate mobility for continuing education by articulating
non-formal education and mainstream education;

     (e)  Provide programmes for developing skills for negotiating,
bargaining, resolving conflicts and creating political and gender awareness;

     (f)  Establish structures and use available communication technologies to
provide education and training through the use of distance education

     (g)  Train teachers to prepare and use distance education materials in
the delivery of education by distance;

     (h)  Use distance education to train female teachers who have difficulty
leaving their homes and communities for training programmes;

     (i)  Provide incentives and appropriate certification and institute any
other necessary measures to ensure and maintain a high status of alternative
schemes for the delivery of education;

     (j)  Establish systems involving the community for the planning,
management, implementation and monitoring of non-formal education programmes;

     (k)  Recruit female teachers for non-formal education with assistance
from community groups.

6.   Adult and lifelong education

47.  Women who are literate and educated are more likely to recognize the
value of education for their daughters.  Education and training enable women
to be equal partners with men in the family and society, in decision-making,
inter alia.  They are also more likely to take advantage of lifelong
educational opportunities.  It is, therefore, necessary to:

     (a)  Make use of or create a demand for adult literacy programmes for
women through advocacy and campaign, by linking functional literacy to income
generation and other productive activities;

     (b)  Develop and implement various innovative programmes to meet the
education and training needs of women in a variety of socio-cultural

     (c)  Provide legal literacy programmes for both men and women;

     (d)  Provide science and technology programmes to enable women to employ
strategies that are helpful to them in their daily lives;

     (e)  Provide appropriate education and training for sustainable use of
resources and protection of the environment;

     (f)  Provide education that helps women to improve their productivity in

     (g)  Provide opportunity and support mechanisms for women to acquire life

     (h)  Provide opportunity for girls and women who have dropped out of
school to continue their education;

     (i)  Provide skills training programmes for entry into the labour market
or for self-employment;

     (j)  Provide entrepreneurial skills training for both sexes;

     (k)  Use labour market information in making decisions about programmes
in technical and vocational education and training;

     (l)  Provide supportive policies and credit facilities to enable skilled
women to enter into the productive sector;

     (m)  Provide programmes for retraining women - for example, in situations
of retrenchment, migration, displacement and disruption of family life through
divorce, separation, death or absence of spouse;

     (n)  Provide incentives for companies to train women for employment.

7.   Higher education

48.  In  order to develop a cadre of professional women who can provide
leadership at political, policy and managerial levels and serve as role models
for girls and women, attention should be paid to the education of women at the
tertiary level.  It is, therefore, necessary to:

     (a)  Institute schemes for improving women's access to and participation
in higher education;

     (b)  Review entry qualifications to make them more realistic and provide
preparatory programmes to improve access by women to tertiary education,
especially in non-traditional areas of study;

     (c)  Provide flexibility in the entry to and organization of programmes
to enable women to complete tertiary education at their own pace;

     (d)  Support teaching and research in women's studies that will enrich
the body of knowledge to formulate strategies for improving the status of

     (e)  Establish supportive mechanisms to enable women to be more active
politically and to take leadership roles.

           D.  Girls and women in especially difficult circumstances

1.   Those in refugee and other war-affected populations

49.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that all children are
entitled to education, even if they have been displaced within their own
country or across international boundaries.  Where the country concerned
cannot meet the cost of providing education for a displaced population, the
international community, in the spirit of the Convention, should support a
rapid, continuing and solutions-oriented educational response.  Since
displacement can adversely affect female enrolment, agencies providing
emergency education programmes should structure them to encourage female
participation.  To achieve this objective, it is necessary to:

     (a)  Consult with refugee women's committees, teachers and parents
regarding physical accommodation, school timings, inclusion of locally
relevant pre-vocational or other topics, arrangements for girls after puberty,
use of open learning and distance education and motivation for girls'

     (b)  Appoint female refugees as teachers as far as possible, with
in-service training to provide necessary support;

     (c)  Provide literacy and numeracy courses and post-literacy materials
for refugee teenage girls and women, linked to practical life-skill messages,
legal literacy and education for peace and conflict resolution; also second-
chance primary education, if desired;

     (d)  Promote vocational training programmes for women, linked to work-
experience and income-generation opportunities, with the use of informal
apprenticeships and community-based mobile courses, targeted preferentially to
needy female-headed households;

     (e)  Mobilize financial resources earmarked for the promotion of
education and training for refugee girls and women.

2.   Those at risk due to economic pressures, or membership in minority and/or
     socially disadvantaged groups

50.  Large numbers of girls and women are being forced by poverty into the sex
trade either as migrants or through entrapment by commercial intermediaries. 
Female street children are also at risk of prostitution.  Education and
training have a vital role to play in mitigating these effects.  Steps should
be taken to:

     (a)  Promote and extend school attendance of at-risk girls by extending,
for example, the period of basic schooling, making this extended basic
education available at village schools near the girls' homes, providing
scholarships to at-risk girls;

     (b)  Provide non-formal education and skills training, linked to projects
supporting self-employment, entry to waged employment or formation of

     (c)  Train community-service workers and non-governmental organizations'
staff working with vulnerable rural populations or female street children, in
working with communities and at-risk girls, to generate awareness of sex-trade
dangers, notably HIV/AIDS;

     (d)  Initiate projects providing social support, psycho-social
counselling, training and job placement for girls and women leaving the sex

     (e)  Provide knowledge and services to enable girls and women to be
informed about and protected against AIDS/HIV and other health hazards;

     (f)  Ensure that women and children in prison receive basic schooling,
vocational training and counselling designed to promote economic self-reliance
and self-confidence on release from detention.

3.   Those in unequal labour situations

51.  Girls and women entrapped in bonded labour and other unequal employment
situations, including girls in child labour, are vulnerable to sexual
harassment and condemned to a life of poverty.  As an interim measure, and
contributing to the discontinuation of these practices, steps should be taken

     (a)  Require employers to ensure basic schooling to all child workers;

     (b)  Support, encourage and protect programmes of non-formal education
and training for adolescent girls and women in bonded labour and analogous




This document has been posted online by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.

Date last updated: 06 December 1999 by DESA/DAW
Copyright 1999 United Nations