Quinn Ardastra, Samantha Dhali, Sarah Hefner, Tanya Nair
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Chris Marsicano
Literacy rates are an accessible indicator to measure education outcome. They allow us to draw comparisons with other countries and assess the education level of those countries. Literacy rates are not the only relevant indicator of education. However, they are linked to more economic development, since it is positively associated with a higher GDP. They are also related to better health outcomes, standards of living, and increased human capital. There is a worldwide disparity in female and male literacy rates, as well as educational attainment. Females can be important contributors to a country’s GDP, and their education and empowerment leads to better health outcomes and living standards for children. Thus, female literacy is important and the worldwide gender disparity highlights the need to address this problem and increase female literacy.
The research so far and the observed increase in female literacy rates in specific countries has led us to ask the following research question–Which government policy reduced the gender disparity in literacy rates in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malwai, and Zimbabwe? What are the similarities and differences in the policies and program components for the four countries? From specific legislation found in each country, we conducted comparative case studies to analyze what factors made legislation successful in increasing female literacy rates. We then drew conclusions about how unique socio-political contexts can account for the similarities and differences seen in each of the four pieces of legislation.
Our thesis statement is that the following policies are increasing female literacy rates in our countries of interest. The Bangladesh Primary Education Stipend Project (2008) and the Female Secondary School Assistance Program (1993) helped school enrollment increase from 1.1 million to 3.9 million. The FSAP also reduced the number of early marriages. In Cambodia, Education for All, 2003-2015 (2002) decentralized the education system, allocated more money towards the education budget, cut the cost of attendance by eliminating school fees, and increased enrollment for girls in rural areas. Girls’ Attainment in Basic Literacy and Education (GABLE) of 1991 in Malawi waived primary school fees for nonrepeating girls, abolished school uniforms requirement, provided scholarships for secondary education, and implemented strategies to increase girls’ persistence in school and reduce gender bias in schools. Zimbabwe’s Education Act of 1987 mandated that all schools could not deny enrollment to a student based on gender, as well as provided funding for the creation of new schools, addressing barriers of accessibility and infrastructure.
Stipends, making primary education free for all and allocating more government funding towards education, addressed certain barriers, increased girls’ enrollments, and thus, increased literacy rates. The quality of education and girls’ education attainment is still suffering. Therefore, in the future, we should note that while these policies positively impacted literacy rates, they are a rudimentary form of measuring educational outcomes. To increase girls’ education attainment and prepare them for life beyond school, policies need to be multi-pronged, focusing on improving the quality of education and on addressing social issues such as parental attitudes.