Numbers are not enough: why gender inequality in education persists in Kenya

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The achievement of gender equality in education is an important development goal, endorsed primarily by the MDGs. Mainstream development literature promotes female education for its instrumental benefits and recommend policies designed to eliminate physical, economic, and cultural barriers that restrict girls’ access to school. In contrast, feminist development literature emphasizes education’s intrinsic value and its role in expanding girls’ capabilities, and argues that girls continue to face barriers even in the classroom; feminist scholars therefore advocate for policies to improve girls’ learning experience. In Kenya, policymakers have deliberately addressed physical and economic barriers to girls’ access to education, with impressive results, but have neglected cultural barriers. Kenyan policy has also largely ignored the findings of the feminist literature, focusing exclusively on achieving parity in enrollments. This paper concludes that the goal of gender equality in education must be expanded to encompass the pursuit of qualitative equality.
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