Girls' learning and empowerment: the role of school environments

Research reports and studies
October 2016
Rachel Marcus and Ella Page
Bangladeshi schoolgirl. Credit: Leonard Cheshire Disability International

Despite major increases in girls’ access to education and improvement in girls’ learning outcomes over the past decade, gender inequalities persist and are particularly stark in many low-income countries. Given the developmental benefits of education – for individual girls, their families and communities, and wider society – these inequalities represent significant lost opportunities.

Although it is widely recognised that education provides empowerment pathways for girls, there is little synthesised knowledge on how schooling can be organised to maximise empowerment.

This evidence review and its related policy brief, produced by ODI and supported by UNGEI, brings together evidence on two key questions:

  • What kinds of school environments and pedagogical approaches are most effective in promoting girls’ learning?
  • How does school-based learning contribute to girls’ and women’s empowerment, and are there minimum levels of education necessary for empowerment processes?

The evidence review addresses four main ways in which education contributes to girls’ and women’s empowerment and gender equality, and distils this into two parts. First by recognising the importance of learning and skills development to girls’ and women’s empowerment, the review brings together evidence on which kinds of school environment and pedagogical approaches make the greatest contribution to girls’ learning in low- to middle-income countries, and explores the impacts of attempts to promote gender-sensitive pedagogy. Secondly, it synthesises the evidence on the impacts of education on girls’ and women’s lives. It concludes by identifying knowledge gaps.