The Puggle: August 2016 edition

Welcome to The Puggle…a space where we provide updates on emerging issues and new findings related to girls’ education that we have been exposed to in the last 30 days.

This August we couldn’t help but be inspired by the Olympics! Especially thedominance of the U.S. women thanks to Title IX (which demonstrates that one law can make a major difference for gender equality) and the way other female athletesbucked social norms.

We were also inspired by this story of Prerna, a school in India run by former Echidna Scholar and current grantee Urvashi Sahni, where students engage in critical dialogues about gender norms that help “girls to reflect on their lives and to develop strategies to stand up for themselves.”

Matunduzi Primary School in Malawi. Photo by Erik Törner.

Among the more sobering pieces on our summer reading list were three studies from Malawi that suggest limited effects from simply getting girls to complete more years of school. Baird, McIntosh, and Ozler find that “unconditional cash [to adolescent girls] caused a short-term delay of marriage, fertility, and HIV infection, but the ending of the program is immediately followed by a wave of marriages and pregnancies…[There is] no increase in employment rates, wages, or real-life capabilities, suggesting that schooling itself has not improved the medium-term labor market prospects of young women in this context.” Monica Grant finds that “Despite increases in female grade attainment over the past twenty years, the age at first birth has not changed…suggesting that the deterioration of school quality and shift in the age pattern of enrollment that accompanied educational expansion may have compromised the transformative potential of education.” And Chisamya et al. “found limited evidence that girls’ educational experiences [in primary and secondary school] modeled significantly different gender norms than the communities’, or that by being educated, girls experience a transformation in the gender inequalities they faced in their families or communities.”

The key to ensuring that investments in schooling continue to pay off for girls may hinge on confronting gender norms more explicitly, as Prerna does, and on investing in quality education. The latter is the argument Harry Patrinos makes in this more positive set of findings that schooling has a higher rate of return than alternative investments and that the rate of return is higher still for girls.

Patrinos also argues that expanding access to quality secondary education for the poor in rural areas will be costly, and may require alternative financing and partnerships. New delivery models may be increasingly possible: smartphone usehas doubled in Africa in two years and prices continue to fall.

Part of delivering high quality education means teaching students the skills they need to succeed. Rebecca Winthrop argues to NPR that a breadth of skills like communication, critical thinking, teamwork, and perseverance will enable students to be lifelong learners.

August brought more good news for promoting the messages from our Big Bets chapter: apparently gender data is now cool! Time to make good use of all that sexy data.

Speaking of cool, in August Barack Obama declared himself a feminist inGlamour magazine, arguing “It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too.” We agree!

We’ll be back early next month with another puggle. Have comments on what is and isn’t useful about these updates or content to suggest? Feel free to drop us a line or leave us a note in the comments!