Accountability for gender equality in education: Critical perspectives on an indicator framework for the SDGs

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Education, Practice & Society


The Framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in 2015 set ambitious targets for achieving an expansion of education provision worldwide and enhancing gender equality. The Policy Document Education 2030 sets out the detail on this. Some new indicators to monitor, evaluate and build accountability for this framework have been developed and others are under discussion by a number of technical committees. This project aims to contribute to this work. We propose to i) review the scholarly literature refining insight into what is entailed in definitions of learning outcomes linked with gender equality, ii) discuss some of the critiques and limitation of indicators as a technique for building accountability, and iii) develop an indicator framework for gender equality in education that can support the work of Education 2030, particularly the monitoring of the SDG targets on gender and education (Target 4.7 and 4a) , while also responding to concerns of organisations that work at international, national and local levels. South Africa and Malawi have been selected as research sites for detailed work reflecting on a proposed indicator framework for accountability for gender eequality in education. Both have policies in place in support of an expansion of education provision and addressing aspects of gender inequality. Howevever, both face complex challenges of implementation. Through a series of key informant interviews in each country with partipants who have knowledge of the needs of the education sector, women's rights and gender equality issues, we aim to refine the proposed indicator framework we wish to develop . We also plan a number of interviews regarding the proposed indicator framework with key informants located in global women's rights networks and who work at the global level in multilateral, bilateral, NGO and large donor organisations. Outputs from the project will include a revised indicator framework on gender equality in education, with particular relevance for monitoring for SDG targets 4.7 and 4a.

Planned Impact

The research will be of benefit to the community of practice concerned with the indicators for the SDGs and Education 2030, particularly international organisations (UNGEI, UNESCO, UNDP), and national governments engaged with responding to the proposed SDG indicators and grappling with how to evaluate gender equality and learning outcomes. It will also benefit academic and activist communities, including women's rights networks, engaged in critical reflection on the translation of international policy frameworks into local contexts, the use of indicators as techniques of accountability, and how to enhance international action to support gender justice.
These groups will benefit from this research through the team's development of an indicator framework to evaluate gender equality in education linked with the SDGs, but responsive to local contexts as exemplifed by South Africa and Malawi and some critical views of activists in the women's rights movement. This will support enhanced information for critical engagements with the SDG process, and support work on indicators linked to Education 2030 that respond to aspirations for gender equality in education that go beyond gender parity.
Description Metrics are important for accountability processes towards achieving gender equality in education, but the information captured by the existing metric, gender parity is too limited to understand the many facets of the gender relationships associated with resources, power and multiple processes and outcomes in education. The project is develing a new indicator framework for gender equality in education. Around the world while school enrolment rates for girls and women have risen steadily, educational gender inequalities persist in key areas such as the ongoing marginalisation of certain groups of girls and women from accessing education, and the gendered conditions within learning environments. More needs to be understood about how girls' education relates to gender equality in the labour market, poverty, equal political participation and representation, and levels of violence against women.
Existing indicators of gender equality in education are overwhelmingly based on measures of gender parity of particular functionings relating to education (frequently enrolment or achievement measures such as literacy or numeracy), such as the indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the Global Partnership for Education Results Framework. While such measures can be an important initial step in illuminating the incidence of educational inequalities, 'gender parity' metrics omit insight into the conditions that underpin these, which may be significantly different for different groups of children (such as pedagogic relationships and curriculum opportunities), which can be constituted or constrained or expanded by institutions, norms or national frameworks. we have worked to construct oa new indicator framework, first through a 'dashboard' approach and secondly through the potential for a composite indicator, looking at the possibilities for using existing data sources to capture and compare information on gender inequalities in education. A range of key domains are proposed, to cover aspects of educational outcomes, resources, conversion processes and the environment.
Exploitation Route Development of national dashboards in a wider range of countries, and development of cross country comparisons
Sectors Education

Description UNESCO Global Education Monitor team is using our findings to devbelop a global indicator of gender equality in education. Our development of a dashboard for governments to evaluate gender equality in educaiton is under discussion in Malawi and South Africa, and is being considered as part of the training module for the UNGEI led Gender Responsive Education Sector Planning work. Many of the insights from opur project have informed the formualtion of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) KIX strategy on gencder
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Development of UN GEM global gender indeicator framework
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Title Gender equality in education dashboard 
Description Developing a theoretically informed dashboard for monitoring and evaluating gender equality in education 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Better conveing of community of practice working on indicaotrs of gender equality in education 
Description Chancellor College, University of Malawi 
Organisation University of Malawi
Country Malawi 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Presentation of joinly written conference papers, development of jointly written paper submitted to an international journal, hosting key policy makers for advisory committee meetings
Collaborator Contribution Office space, facilitating expedniture on meetings
Impact Conference presentation, Johannesburg colloquium of Rasing Learning Outcomes programme, September 2018 Convening of advisory committee for AGEE project, November 2018
Start Year 2018
Description UN Girls Education Initative 
Organisation United Nations (UN)
Department United Nations Girls Education Initiative
Country Global 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Comments on ongoing projects as member of advisory committee and advice on projec ts beign devdeloped Published Equals newsletter with funding from UNGEI
Collaborator Contribution Advice on projects being developed, policy networks, policy papers in development
Impact Development of dashboard indicator framework, scoping paper in development for GPE KIX
Start Year 2009
Description University of Kwazulu Natal 
Organisation University of KwaZulu-Natal
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Contribution to jointlyu authored c onference paper, jointly authored paper submitted to an international jhournal, profile of un iversity at international policy meetings Co -investigators from two projects GEHPRi and AGEE. Presented lectures, seminars, collaborated on conferenc epresentations, books, and articles
Collaborator Contribution Sponsoring co-investigator to attend WERA conference, August 2018 in Cape Town. Provision of meeting rooms for convening of advisory committee, February 2019 Contributed to research design, data collection and analysis, co-auhtored conference papers and presentations
Impact Conference presentation, WERA, Cape Town August 2018 Convening Adviosry Committee, February 2018
Description Dialogue with GPE 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Reviewing global public goods on gender and education
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Technical meeting (London) to discuss developing a dashboard for monitoring gender equality in education 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The purpose of this technical meeting co-organised by the AGEE project and the UNESCO Global Education Monitor (GEM) was:
i) to review a dashboard concerned with gender equality and education developed from these phases of work and to consider this as a possible shared indicator framework for a community of practice concerned with gender equality and education to compare across countries to evaluate progress towards gender equality in education. This indictor framework might become a useful review mechanism for countries to use in developing Education Sector Plans
ii) to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a composite indicator of gender equality in education to be developed for the UNESCO GEM 2020 which will focus on inclusion and education

The meeting buildt on consultations held in London in September 2015 which produced the UNGEI working paper Measuring gender inequality and equality in education .
At the techncial meeting a community of practice working on gender equality and education indicaotrs convened, discussed exiting indicatotr frameworks, and the potential to build on these
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description UN Women expert group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Development of report by UN Women f
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description school visit (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Puropose to inform Year 10 students of what working in socila policy on gender and education with global organisations involved and some of the key contemporary issues about measurment and indicators
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019