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Challenges to System Change for Gender-Responsive Education

Wed, April 17, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Atrium (Level 2), Garden Room A


Attempts to ignite transformative system change to accelerate gender equality in education at the country level are not always successful. Despite the global momentum of the SDG4 agenda from international to local levels; growing international attention to girls’ education and gender equality in education; increased resources to improve gender equity in education in Tanzania; and the availability of a draft comprehensive Guidance for Gender Responsive Education Sector Planning to chart a path for GRESP consultancy in Tanzania, Tanzania’s newest Education Sector Plan (dates) contains few references to gender. As one of the first countries engaged to implement the GRESP process following a three-country pilot of the Guidance tool, the GRESP process in Tanzania met with resistance at various levels. It did not emerge as a model of stakeholder engagement and planning and as had been hoped.
From a systems theory analytic framework (Porter and Cordoba, 2009), this paper explores these unanticipated outcomes as positioned in the broader theme of gender and education, and the conference theme of sustainability. It examines the ongoing struggle to implement a gender-responsive education sector planning process where institutional, contextual, and other factors pose major challenges each step of the way. From a contextual perspective, the government’s move of the national capital and of various ministry offices from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma when the GRESP was being implemented altered the planned steps of the GRESP process and affected GRESP data collection (e.g., document availability; interviews with officials from the Ministry of Education, with the exception of the gender desk officer, who was among the last to move to the offices in the new capital). From an institutional perspective, the bureaucratic assumptions of efficiency and rationality were challenged by national, intergovernmental, and civil society institutions that were operating within the same international framework but within a wide range of official and personal commitments to gender responsiveness. Among the final challenges in the last stages of the GRESP and the publication of the ESP, was the Ministry’s decision to forego a policy of gender responsiveness in education for a broader policy of inclusion, under which gender would be subsumed. This was presented within the context of the declaration of new national policies that reversed earlier gender-responsive education policies allowing girls to return to school after pregnancy.
Findings from this case analysis are presented both as suggestions or recommendations for implementing the GRESP in contexts with similar challenges, as well as an invitation for session participants to further the analysis and to add recommendations from other examples of applied research and practice.


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