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A crucial aspect of UNICEF’s Global Skills Framework is its gender responsiveness. Although there seems to be a divide in terms of bodies of literature and communities of practice between what has been called 21st century skills (Ananiadou & Claro, 2009; Scott, 2015; Martin, 2018) and life skills for girls (e.g. Population Council, 2013; World Bank, 2015; Kwauk & Braga, 2017), UNICEF’s global framework integrates the two perspectives in this new framework. The framework recognizes that gender-responsive life skills education (LSE) should not only address the needs of girls, but also be effective in engaging boys in gender equitable behaviors and attitudes.
Gender-responsive LSE has increasingly become a common component of school-based and community-based programmes, aimed at strengthening a set of skills that would enable boys and girls to become more empowered, motivated and confident to learn, to make informed decisions, and to participate in their communities. While adolescent girls face particular challenges in regularly accessing services and opportunities due to roles and expectations placed on them by society; adolescent boys face the challenge to conform to gender norms that associate masculinity with school disengagement and often risky, violent behaviors. Gender-responsive LSE targets gender-based discrimination and seek to support girls and boys to navigate these challenging gender norms, so they are able to become agents of change and grow into healthy and productive citizens.
Gender gaps in life skills development persist. Data from the Young Lives study shows that across the four countries of the study (Vietnam, Peru, India and Ethiopia) as girls transition from adolescent into young adults they lag behind boys in terms of perceived self-efficacy. Gender differences in self-efficacy were not significant at age 12, they appear at age 15 and widen at age 19. For agency, data shows that even in cases when girls show greater agency at ages 12 and 15, these differences disappear at ages 19 and 22 (Peru) or even reverse in favour of boys (Vietnam). Inter-cohort comparisons for the ages of 12 and 15, show important and positive changes for younger generations in Ethiopia and India. The gaps get smaller for 15-year-olds in 2016 in relation to the gaps for 15-year-olds in 2009. (Ogando-Portela and Espinoza, in press). Additional analysis of gender gaps in self-esteem and perseverance are being processed and will be presented during the conference.
Uncovering gender gaps in self-efficacy, agency, self-esteem and perseverance is important in the process of translating UNICEF’s global framework on skills to curricula and pedagogies that contribute to eliminating gender gaps, thus building towards an education that is empowering for both girls and boys. UNICEF sees empowerment as one of the main outcomes of quality education, essential for education to be gender transformative, given that empowered adolescents recognize their inherent worth and the fundamental equality of men and women, boys and girls. We will discuss how UNICEF’s new framework has the potential to address gender gaps in skills development by bringing gender-responsive pedagogies and gender rights to the forefront of the pedagogical process.
Population Council. (2013). Adolescent Girls Empowerment Program. Health and Life Skills Curriculum.
World Bank. (2015). Life Skills: What are they, Why do they matter, and How are they taught?. World Bank’s Adolescent Girls Initiative
Martin, J. (2018). Skills for the 21st century: findings and policy lessons. From the OECD survey of adult skills. OECD Education Working Paper No. 166
Ananiadou, K. & Claro, M. (2009). 21st Century Skills and Competences for New Millennium Learners in OECD Countries. OECD Education Working Papers.
Scott, C. L. (2015). The futures of learning 2: What kind of learning For the 21st century? UNESCO Working Papers.
Kwauk, C. & Braga, A. (2017). Translating competencies to empowered action. A framework for linking girls’ life skills education to social change. Brookings Institution. Washington, D.C.
Ogando-Portela, M. J. & Espinoza, P. (In press). Self-efficacy, agency and empowerment during adolescence and young adulthood. Young Lives Study. University of Oxford.