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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gender and Education in Cambodia

Although Cambodia has made good progress in education, gender inequality still remains a major challenge in this sector. Boys and girls start schooling on equal footing in primary school education but dropout rate among girl students starts to go up with their grade improvement, particularly after completion of secondary level.

Education is one of the sectors where gender issue might be profound. It has two prong effects with relation to gender. It can address gender equality through widening women’s life choices on one hand. On the other hand, gender blind education can reinforce gender inequality through constructing gender stereotypes.

Gender issues in education sector including high illiteracy rates among women, high dropout rates of girls, and teaching of Chbab Srey in textbooks have long term implications for women’s education independence, health, decision-making capacities and their overall empowerment.
Study reveals that poverty, distant location of school, son preference of family in schooling and societal expectation that daughters should be the caregivers in the households further limit girl’s education.
1. Status, Trends and Issues

Cambodia’s female literacy rate is only slightly higher than neighboring Laos, and mean years of schooling and gross secondary school enrollment rates are the lowest in the region. Poverty is highly associated with low education: Seventy-four percent of the poor live in households where the head of the household is illiterate or has less than a complete primary education. The low education of poor children will transmit poverty from one generation to the next.

The education of girls and women has a powerful trans-generation effect and is a key determinant of social development and women’s empowerment. There is increasing awareness globally that gender inequalities in education have a broad effect on household well-being as well as constrain the ability of women to contribute to economic growth and invest in human resource development, thus constraining overall macroeconomic outcomes. There are strong positive correlations between a mother’s schooling and her children’s birth weight, health and nutritional status. A positive relationship between mother’s schooling and child immunization rates is observed broadly across world regions (world Bank 2001). Also, the probability of children being enrolled in school increases with their mother’s educational level. Everything else being equal, countries in which the ratio of female to male enrollment in primary or secondary education is less than 0.75 can expect levels of GNP that are roughly 25 percent lower than countries in which there is less gender disparity in education.

Although improving, the female share of school enrollment declines at each level of education. The female share of enrollment drops at each higher level of education. At the primary school level girl comprised 47 percent of total enrollment in 2007 -91 percent of girls vs. 93 percent of boys aged 6 to 11 were enrolled in primary school. At the lower secondary school level, girls share of total enrollment declines slightly to 45 percent -33 percent of girls vs. 34 percent of boys age 12 to 14 were enrolled in lower secondary school. At the upper secondary school level, the rate falls further to 39 percent -11 percent of girls vs. 13 percent of boys age 15 to 17 were enrolled in upper secondary school in 2006. In higher education, 35 percent of students were women in 2007. The CMDGs seek to achieve gender parity in primary and lower secondary school enrollment, and a female to male ratio of 80 percent in upper secondary education, and 70 percent in tertiary education by 2010.

Gender equity in education is improving, however, gaps remain; improvement mostly in higher income groups. Progress is being achieved in increase net enrollment of both girls and boys and reducing the gender gap at all school levels, particularly at the lower secondary school level.
At the primary school level, total net enrollment rates increased from 87 percent in 2002 to 92 percent in 2007, and girls net enrollment increased from 84 percent to 91 percent. The ratio of girls to boys in primary school increased from 87 percent in 2002 to 92 percent in 2007. This has, however, still fallen short of the CMDG target of 98 percent set for 2005.
The distribution of net enrollment by wealth quintile shows a somewhat higher proportion of poor children enrolled in primary school- a reflection of the tendency for poor children to enter school at an older age and make slower progress through school. Girls comprise a lower proportion of primary school enrollment in all wealth quintiles.
While enrollment rates at the lower secondary school level have increased substantially in recent years, albeit from a very low level, and the gender gap is narrowing, total net enrollment in 2007 at 33.7 percent was still well below the CMDG target of 50 percent set for 2005 and the ratio of girls to boys in lower secondary school was only 84 percent also well below the CMDG target of 96 percent set for 2005. There is a consistent gap between enrollment of girls and boys across income groups. Poor girls are most seriously under represented in lower secondary education. As higher returns to education are only discernable above the primary school level, shortfalls in both overall enrollment rates and gender equity in enrollment at the lower secondary school level will tend to perpetuate both income and gender inequities.
At the upper secondary school level, the ratio of girls to boys slightly exceeded the target of 60 percent in 2005 and rose to 66 percent in 2007. net enrollment was, however, only 11.3 percent of the age group, and the vast majority of the students were from higher income groups (74 percent of upper secondary school students were from households in the highest two quintiles in 2004).
At the tertiary level, women are outnumbered by men 2.1 to 1. While this is improvement over the 3.3 to1 ratio in the current work force, it means that gender disparities in professional and management occupations will persist for many years to come.
Education outcomes among recent school leavers show much less gender inequality. Education attainment-as measured by age-specific median values of highest grade completed-is nearly equal for males and females in or recently leaving school. While inequalities emerge among those aged 20 or above, and the ratio of male to female median grades for the population as a whole is high at 3.6 to 2.3, female educational status in the next generation should be much higher than in their parents generation, and much closer to that of their male contemporaries(world bank 2007).
The vast majority of adult women is illiterate or has less than a complete primary school education. Forty percent of women age 25-44 are self-reported as illiterate (vs. 22 percent of men). Although improving in younger age groups, 23 percent of young women age 15-24 are reported as illiterate (vs. 16 percent of young men). An additional 35 percent of women age 25-44 and 33 percent of women age 15-24 have less than a complete primary school education (CSES 2004).

Education enhances a woman’s position through decision-making autonomy, control over resources, knowledge, exposure to the modern world and husband wife closeness, delays age at marriage, and increase her bargaining power and autonomy within the household and society. The access to education in Cambodia has traditionally a strong bias against girls’ schooling and literacy. Over the years, gender disparity at upper secondary and tertiary education has been declining. Cambodia was included among 63 countries reported to have achieved or nearly achieved universal primary enrolment in the 2008 Education for All (EFA) report published by UNESCO. But it was also listed among the worst performing countries with regard to literacy and was deemed at "serious risk" of not meeting the universal literacy target set for 2015.
The exposure to mass media is a factors or sources for empowerment. Media exposure had high impact on all the other aspect of empowerment. Access to information allows people to make informed decisions about their own lives. The exposure to mass media in rural areas has large effects on a wide range of day to day lifestyle behaviors, family hygiene, health and education. Apart from providing entertainment and drawing public attention to issues affecting the society, Mass media and in particularly TV vastly increases both the availability of information about the outside world, and exposure to other ways of life. This is especially true for remote rural villages; where television and radio is the primary channel through which households get information about life outside their villages. The popular TV programming features urban settings where lifestyles differ in prominent and salient ways from those in rural areas.
1.1 Early Childhood education
Early childhood development is an essential ingredient for the attainment of education for all. It is increasingly recognized that interventions to improve young children’s capacity to develop and learn can contribute to higher enrollment rates, less grade repetition, fewer dropouts, and higher intelligence (World Bank 2005). Expanding early childhood education opportunities in combination with parent education to support the early childhood classes is considered best practice in terms of potential of positive impact of children’s development in all areas.
Although slowly increasing access to preschool remains quite limited and most children enroll late. In 2004, the number of students aged 3 to 5 had increased by 11%, and students aged 5 increased by 20%. However, only 6% of children age were enrolled in public preschool students were older than 5, with some as old as 10 (CESE 2004).
1.2 Primary education (grade 1 to 6)
In primary school 78,4% of girls vs. 76,56% of boys were promoted to the next grade in 2006. Promotion rates have declined for both girls and boys since 2002-from 80% for girls and 81% for boys. The dropout rate was 11.9% for girlsvs.11.3% for boys, and 10.7% of girls vs. 13,1% of boys repeated grades.
The Cambodia Child Labor Survey (ILO\IPEC 2001) found that while boys and girls are equally likely to be enrolled in primary school, there is a 10% point difference in the probability of completing primary school. Gender differences emerge in grade 3, become much more marked in grade 5, and peak in the transitions to grade 6 and to lower secondary school. Kin the 12-17 age range, girls’ work is significantly more likely to interfere with schooling than boys (World Bank 2005).
Differences between the poorest and the wealthiest quintiles are even more pronounced: 89% of children in the richest quintile, but only 59% of children in the poorest quintile complete primary school.
Girls in the poorest income quintile are more likely to enter primary school late or not at all, and least likely to complete grade 6. Girls in remote areas are more likely to enter primary school late (52%), less likely to be promoted to the next grade (65% vs.77%), more likely to drop out (19% vs.12%), and therefore least likely to complete grade 6.
While the funding for education has improved, and dramatic changes are underway, a litany of problems remain. The overwhelming problems are still financial and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport admits that there is little likelihood of providing the opportunity for every child to have nine years of education in the very near future. There are still enormous problems with education service delivery, include a large gap in education quality between urban and rural or remote schools. Teachers face inadequate salaries and the need to charge students fees for services. Since they cannot live on such wages, they must supplement their income with other jobs, which often cuts into class times. In addition, the teachers must also charge students fees to attend their classes, or offer additional for fee classes outside the regular class times. This means that the poorest students are often locked out of classes where the real teaching occurs.
1.3 Lower secondary education (grade 7 to 9)
An additional 20% of girls and 28% of boys mostly older than 13 were enrolled in lower secondary school in 2006.

The survival rate from grade 1 to 9 declined from 31% in 2002 to 26.5% in 2005, and then fell further to 27% in 2006, well below the CMDG target of 52% set for 2005. Dropout rates for girls increased from 21% in 2002 to 24% in 2005, and for boys from 17%to 21%.

The reason they dropout because in the rural families who live by subsistence agriculture, education costs are the highest expense they face annually. They can not afford to educate all of their children and will have to choose certain children to attend. This is one reason why many more boys than girls attend school. Their parents would like to educate both, but if forced to choose, they choose to educate boys. Moreover, In the urban, they make with bad friends until use drug. When they addict, they do not want to go to school. Sometimes they have no money to buy drug, they rob others that why make them in the prison. They will have no future.

1.4 Upper secondary education (grade 9 to 12)
In 2007, 11.3% of girls vs. 13% of boys age 14 to 17 were enrolled in upper secondary school. An additional 6.3% of girls and 10.4% of boys, older than 17, were enrolled in upper secondary school in 2007.

Most girls can not able to attend the class because of the sexual disparity include the fact that girls are more likely to be kept at home to help with household work and to care for younger siblings. Furthermore, about personal security, girls are also not allowed to travel long because the schools are far from home and the road is bad they concerned their security.
1.5 Higher education
The number of girls and boys continuing their education to the tertiary level has increased significantly in recent years; however, significant gender and income disparities remain.
Recorded enrollment in higher education has greatly expanded from 9,228 in 2002 to 15,487 in 2005 for girls ( a 68% increase) and from 22,782 to 32,248 boys (42% increase). Ninety two percent of students enrolled in university are from households in the richest income quintile (96,5% of female and 90% of male students). Only 0.9% of female university students and 3% of male university students are from household in the three lowest income quintiles.
2. The Cause that girl enrolled in school less than boys
2.1 Access to education
Girls have extremely limited opportunities to receive education in rural areas, particularly among minority ethnic groups. Obstacles for girls going to school which arise from the gender stereotypes that girls need no education. Another obstacle is the lack of personal security in rural areas. Girls and women with disabilities are also often deprived of their right to education. The RGC’s report to the CEDAW Committee neglects to mention this problem. In rural areas, the distance girls have to travel to access lower secondary school and secondary school is also a barrier. There are not enough secondary schools for rural villages; therefore, most girls drop out of schools for fear of personal security, such as through rape and robbery, and because of high travel costs.

2.2 School drop out
The drop out rate for primary school for girls has been stable for the last eight years, between 13 % and 14%.Poverty, combined with the gender roles ascribed to girls, means that poor households often urge girls to drop out while boys can remain in school. Early marriage in rural areas also prevents girls from continuing schoolings. Unofficial payments to teachers at school for additional teaching also represent an obstacle. frequent migration makes it difficult for children to continue schooling after moving to a new place. The RGC’s report to the CEDAW Committee describes some root causes of the problem, but fails to take any action to eliminate the causes.
2.3 Curriculum
Gender stereotypes are deeply rooted in the education system in Cambodia. The Chbab Srey, which contains principles for living that bear discrimination against women, is still taught at school. Gender is not effectively mainstreamed in the curriculum; developing and reviewing the entire curriculum is one of the duties of a committee within the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and it appears the committee is not functioning effectively. As a result, within the nine years of compulsory schooling, subjects such as home skills and sewing are taught only to girls, whereas carpentry is taught only to boys. There is no comprehensive strategy and no mechanism in existence to eliminate gender discriminatory views in school textbooks.
3. Obstacles
  • Poverty puts pressure on poor households and deprives girls of the opportunity to go to school.
  • Poor security prevents girls from going to school.
  • Early marriage prevents girls from continuing schooling.
  • There is no law to reprimand or fine parents who do not comply with the principle that their children have rights to receive nine years of education.
  • Gender stereotypes among parents against girls and in society towards girls, that girls grow up to get married and take care of the household, still widely prevail. Girls themselves are also deeply influenced by gender based concepts and make no objections to dropping out of school.
  • The government does not allocate sufficient funds or budget for salaries and administrative costs. The budget for supporting quality education inputs, such as professional development of teachers and principals, is still limited.
  • Unofficial payments to school teachers put pressure on less wealthy households and force children, especially girls, to give up schooling.
  • Drug use among youth is high, which leads to boys and girls dropping out from school and joining gangs.
  • There is a lack of infrastructure such as roads and school buildings in rural areas.
  • Frequent migration from place to place makes it difficult for girls to continue schooling after moving to a new place.

4. Recommendations

  • Increase the number of awareness raising measures to overcome traditional attitudes that constitute obstacles to girls’ education, particularly targeting parents and communities, so that community pressure can encourage girls to continue schooling.
  • Design and implement comprehensive and gender sensitive educational programs to change stereotyped gender roles in society. Adequate materials also need to be designed and developed to achieve this goal.
  • Increase the number of comprehensive and uniform awareness raising measures to foster a better understanding of equality between women and men at all levels of society, especially targeting parents in rural areas.
  • Strengthen implementation of the law against trafficking and the law on drugs to reduce the number of girls dropping out of school.
  • Increase appropriate measures to keep girls in school and strengthen the implementation of reentry policies providing for girls’ return to school after dropping out.
  • Provide informal literacy education to adults, especially in rural areas. Sufficient children services must be provided for female workers at garment factories so that they can attend informal education.
  • Provide more security in rural areas so that girls can continue schooling.Provide more scholarships for girls in rural areas and build dormitories for girls from the provinces so they can continue higher education.
Written by Ngy Sreymom, Pannasastra University of Cambodia, 2009


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