The gender gap has often been a towering problem in the education sector for centuries. Even in developed nations, stringent rules were framed to prevent women from getting educated. This made women more vulnerable due to the lack of formal education, causing them to miss out on the chance of getting a job, stripped of property rights, unable to deal with banking and financial transactions and in a way, end up being dependent on the family members, primarily the men in the household  to get certain daily tasks done because they were not offered the equal amount of opportunity given to the other gender.

However, the last few decades have seen protests by women’s rights groups, reforms in the academic world, encouraging more women to study and governments working on trying to bring gender equality in education where women will be given equal opportunities to study. But how far have things changed? Today, we will discuss gender diversity in academic institutions and where women stand in terms of literacy rate vis-a-vis their male counterparts.

Two-thirds of Illiterates in the World are Women

A detailed study carried out by the United Nations, back in 2015, has pointed out that out of 781 million adults (over the age of 15 years) who are considered illiterate, women comprise of 481 million, which is slightly more than 60%. This shows the glaring disparity, which exists in terms of female literacy across the world. The same survey also found that people ages 65+, 30% of women and 19% of men are illiterate. In the poorer countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East, the drop out rates of women are still phenomenally high. 

As per the UN, out of 58 million children who are out of schools, 31 million are girls and the disparity rises more towards the rural sector. Even though comparing with the last few decades, women’s education is touching an all-time high now, especially in European countries, discrimination in premium institutions have created a major problem for getting closer to a gender-equal classroom. In addition to that, non-white women in Europe and the USA tend to face racial discrimination, which hinders their chances of getting admitted to the top schools and colleges. 

Wars and Conflicts have Reduced the Scope of Women’s Education

War-torn countries have always been dangerous for women in terms of socio-economic developments. With rampant sexual abuse, poverty and religious bias force families to keep their girl child away from public places, be it education or anything else. Global rankings tell us that the worst countries for women’s education are impoverished, violent, and have a very conservative society (Liberia, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc.), making it almost impossible for a girl child to complete formal education.

As large parts of Africa and the Middle East suffer due to civil wars lasting for decades, many schools have been destroyed, resulting in very high drop out rates among children, especially women. Moreover, when a family has to choose between a boy and a girl, the preference is mostly towards the boys as they are expected to be the bread earners of the families. 

Women are More Educated than Men in Developed Countries but are Underpaid

According to an OECD report in 2015, women are paid at least 19% less compared to men, even when they are more qualified. This also stops them from reaching the top positions or becoming entrepreneurs because of the limited financial assets they possess and the lack of confidence of recruiters in hiring them. Also, in the USA, it was found that 36% of women aged 25-34 have a bachelor’s degree or more, while 28% of men have the same qualifications. This indicates a gap of 8% in favour of women. This is a positive aspect, even though the disparity in remuneration has been a concern for most governments. 

The secretary-general of OECD stated that to attain gender equality, men and women need to take equal household responsibilities. Only then will companies feel confident about hiring women post marriage or with kids. Another positive development in attaining gender equality in education is that in countries like Qatar, Barbados, Uruguay, Iceland, Argentina and many others, women have outnumbered men in tertiary education. 

In Barbados, for example, 88% of women go into higher education, which is 2.5 times more than men’s. In Qatar, women to men ratio in attaining education is at a staggering 6.66. So these indicators are showing a dynamic shift as far as gender equality is considered. Still, the problem is, having a higher education is not resulting in a better human development index for women, which is a matter of worry.

UNESCO’s Effort and the Future of Women’s Education

UNESCO’s Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education has taken the initiative to take women’s education seriously and create an effective road map, which can be implemented worldwide. Their goal will be to encourage families to send girl children to schools, enhance the scope of higher learning and minimize the gender gap in academic institutions. UNESCO is partnering with governments, NGOs, educational institutions, private sector, civil society and media to make this program a grand success. By 2030, the United Nations is also looking to provide equal opportunities to all men and women across the world, which is a steep slope to climb. In India, online learning has provided better access to women in education, leading to higher enrollment. MyFavTutor, one of the largest tutor search portals in India, has expanded the scope of education by acting as a bridge between students and tutors. The portal encourages more women tutors to sign up as part of our initiative to reduce the gender gap. If you are a student or tutor looking to widen your outreach, do join our portal and let us make learning accessible to all.