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Can we close the gender gap in mathematics? Lessons learned from Secondary Schools in Ethiopia

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Seacliff B


Achieving gender equality on major educational outcomes is at heart of the efforts of most international organizations funding and implementing educational projects in developing countries. Eliminating gender disparities in education is embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and at the best interest of everyone fighting for more equitable outcomes in education. Considering all educational cycles, girls are disadvantaged in relation to boys as they are more likely to never attend school (UNESCO, 2018). However, evidence regarding gender gaps in secondary education is mixed. In some contexts, including Latin America and Eastern Asia, boys are at greater risk of falling behind to progress and complete secondary education, yet the opposite trends exist in Sub-Saharan African and South Asian contexts (UNESCO, 2018). More importantly, even within a single country one can find trends that favor either sex. In addition, gender gaps vary according to the outcome being studied: girls tend to perform better than boys in reading, but boys tend to outperform girls in math and science. The conclusion is that we need to evaluate gender gaps in each context and to examine critically the reasons behind such gap.

This study will explore gender gaps in mathematics for secondary students in Ethiopia. Data for this study will correspond to subsequent evaluations of the Supporting Transition of Adolescent Girls through Enhancing Systems (STAGES) project, implemented in Ethiopia’s Wolaita Zone of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR). The purpose of this paper is two-fold: a) to gauge the gender gap in mathematics performance and b) to understand which elements within the STAGES intervention are having a positive impact in math outcomes for girls. With regards to the first purpose, we will measure the gender gap in mathematics education in the Wolaita Zone using monitoring data collected yearly by the Ministry of Education. This data will allow us to measure the performance gap between girls and boys in mathematics across a variety of grade levels (4th, 7th and 9th) and to compare such gap to other subject gaps such as English. With regards to the second purpose, we will examine which elements of the STAGES intervention (capacity building activities, governance activities, school performance appraisal meetings, gender action plans, teaching training and methodology, new schools, toilets, tutorial program, material support, socio-emotional learning, mentoring, gender clubs, awards for high performing girls, campaigns and community initiatives) have the highest impact on the following outcomes : girls’ performance in mathematics, girls’ transition rates (between primary and secondary education), and girls’ attitudes towards math subject. Overall, this study will allow us to reflect more critically on what we can do to improve the situation of girls in secondary schooling, in relation to mathematics.


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