To improve girls’ education outcomes in Asia donors need to find a common language
Author: Learn More | Published: 30 March 2022
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How Learn More’s learning systems analysis in the region is helping shape donors’ definition of success

In the past 20 years girls’ education has become a key strategic goal for bilateral international development donors. Yet directing resources to best use is challenging when girls’ attainment levels lag behind boys’ in so many countries, a challenge intertwined with too many other social issues to count. Indeed, FCDO and other institutions looking to prioritise girls’ learning are increasingly seeking specialised guidance to identify contexts where interventions can be most impactful.

Some key lessons learned from the research process:

– Comparative education research is essential not only to more targeted impact, but also to learning from other systems’ evolution and successes. Our analysis finds exceptional progress in gender parity over the years in South-East Asian schools, suggesting that FCDO’s most impactful work here may be lesson-learning.

– Learning systems analysis is challenging because it requires vastly different perspectives, from government policy down to instructional practice. While desk analyses are unable to capture what happens in the classroom, proxy variables such as student-to-teacher ratio can help provide clues. For instance, our research found that countries averaging fewer students per teacher tended to have relatively worse outcomes for girls.

– A more sobering finding is that the policies we analysed are ultimately less important than, or at least dependent on, prevailing cultural attitudes. Countries with the most restrictions on women’s freedom such as Afghanistan and Pakistan simply offer fewer opportunities for donor intervention.

– Shared frameworks for learning systems analysis are crucial to building broader conversations around systemic change. By grounding our work in the RISE Framework, we were able to formulate findings in language that could be seamlessly integrated into FCDO’s decision-making processes. More theoretical work like this is needed to encourage conversations at the systems level.

– It is not always clear what successful learning outcomes for girls look like. In some countries girls’ enrolment is higher than boys, despite scoring lower on PISA tests. Elsewhere boys were less likely to attend university but more likely to enter the labour market later on. When setting desired outcomes for their programming, donors must choose between competing dimensions of success.

Please find the research here

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