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© Piyawan Wongwanitchareon, Thailand

Gender equality is a human right.  It means equal access for males and females, without discrimination,to goods, resources, services or benefits, including education.  In the long term, gender equality in education increases economic output, promotes lifelong education and helps to make communities sustainable.

Despite this fact, gender is not a major focus of many regional educational systems, including Asia and the Pacific, because the term “gender” is often misunderstood.  “Gender” refers to the social roles, responsibilities and behaviors attributed to men and women, such as men as income earners and women as child caregivers.  To achieve gender equality in learning, we need to move away from looking at children collectively as simply students and focus more on the specific situations of “girls” and “boys” within classrooms and schools.

Gender gaps in education persist in the Asia and Pacific region.  Gender parity in primary education enrollment has not yet been achieved.  Girls’ enrollment in primary education continues to lag in countries like Afghanistan, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Pakistan, Macao (China), Maldives and Vanuatu.  Gender parity in secondary education enrollment is even lower.  Additional obstacles specifically related to girls involve sub-regional issues, hidden disparities in girls´ enrollment and the low enrollment ratio of girls in technical and vocational education and training.  Educational systems in the region do not always favor boys.  Boys in secondary school in countries such as Bangladesh, China, Kiribati and Nauru are more likely to be out-performed by girls in literacy-related skills.

Promoting gender equality in all areas of education - for example, from the classrooms to early childhood education to ICT - means more than just ensuring equal enrollment access.  It also means that both boys and girls can achieve their full potential by participating and benefiting equally from the range of subjects or other learning experiences offered in schools and classrooms.This can be achieved in different settings.In classrooms, teaching important life skills and using gender-sensitive curricula and learning materials helps boys and girls to learn and improve equally.In the project implementation and management processes, to ensure gender equality in education, it is necessary to havea gender-responsive strategy, a clear budget, concise plans, gender indicators and checklists