How to Encourage Girls' Scholarization
Reasons Why Girls Leave School
Before addressing how to encourage girls' schooling, or more pointedly, ensuring girl's educational opportunities, it is important to understand the factors behind why girls cease to continue attending schools or never even have the opportunity to be schooled in the first place. While the focus here is more on girls attending developing country schooling systems, some of the issues are equally applicable to girls in developed country schools.
By way of a brief outline, here are some key reasons why girls leave (or never attend) school:
- Lack of finances - a family without finances will often prioritise attendance of the sons over the girls in a developing country context
- Lack of assistance at home in running the household, food production, assisting with family livelihood
- Lack of belief in a need for girls' education from parents/family/guardians
- Gender issues within the school; privacy of latrines etc.
- Disinterest on behalf of girls; sometimes spurred by outside opportunities, sometimes by inability to cope with subject-matter or disheartened by an inability to read/write etc.
- Poor health, poor nutrition
- Early pregnancy
- Early marriage - especially impacting on higher grade levels
- Fears that an educated daughter will not be able to get a husband
Addressing the Challenges Involved in Girls' Schooling
There are numerous ways to begin providing solutions to these obstacles. Key responses include:
- Scholarships - a key way to encourage girls to remain at school, as the cost burden is lifted from the family
- Donations of textbooks, stationery, uniforms, shoes, bags etc. to remove these additional costs from the family
- UNICEF offers an example of a "girl-to-girl" strategy used in Madagascar, whereby teachers identify first-grade girls who appear to be at risk of dropping out of school and pair these girls with "big sisters" from the fourth and fifth grades. These girls sign pledges to help their "little sisters"
- Provide additional programs addressing basic skills gaps, such as reading and writing
- Targeting keeping girls in higher grades - frequently, the higher the grade, the fewer girls attending
- Teaching girls about the dangers of early pregnancy, about birth control and providing girls with babies care facilities that still enable them to continue being educated
- Teaching boys and men the importance of education for their sisters, daughters, female friends and women; demonstrating the ways in which this will improve community life for everybody.
Associated Subject Stream Challenges
When girls do remain at school, stereotypes can still impact the quality of girls' education. For instance, many developed countries find that it is a challenge to get girls to continue with science and mathematics courses. This can impact a girl's ability to enter university or other higher education and it reduces the opportunities for girls to work in such fields as medicine, engineering, software technology, aviation and scientific careers. Another related problem can be the discouragement of girls from vocational training in such areas as carpentry, plumbing, power supply trades, metalwork, auto maintenance etc. and can continue the stereotype that these are male-dominated industries.
Possible ways to address this include:
- Special programs in mathematics and science targeted at girls
- Vocational training targeted at girls, or with a quota for girls per class
- Use of the internet to show girls how girls in other parts of the world are studying these subjects; and also to show women who have excelled in these fields
- Self-esteem and confidence building exercises; removing any discouragements and obstacles to girls - attitudinal change that requires awareness raising campaigns and institutional makeovers
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