How Increased Basic Education Budgets Catalyse Inequality in STEM Careers
Gender-neutral education funding disenfranchises women from access to STEM career opportunities
This recent research based on a classroom model in Kenya, completed in 2019, found evidence that a girl at the critical transition stages from primary school to secondary school needs at least 1.8 times the budget allocation for a boy so as to ensure fairness and equal chances for accessing quality STEM education.
Equal budget shares for girls and boys, which is the historical gender-neutral per-learner allocation model, adds to the long-standing path dependence expressed through unfavourable socialisation of STEM among girls. This perpetuates the systemic elimination of girls from becoming future women STEM leaders.
On the surface, increased basic education funding is a welcome and empowering idea. In reality, increased basic education budgets that allocate equal shares to girls and boys can lead to unintended consequences and further catalyse gender inequalities in outcomes — a classic case of fuelling structural injustice.
Gender-responsive public expenditure management (GRPEM) matters more in modern education and career development, a critical means to achieving gender equality in STEM careers.
This study has important implications for post-pandemic public education budgeting decisions towards enhancing STEM education and relevant career development. This is even more urgent for countries that increase education budgets but without data-driven gender mainstreaming to cater fully for the extra gender-differentiated needs of learners.
Background to Gender Injustice in STEM Education
Before COVID-19, it was estimated that 129 million girls remained out of school. Malala Fund and the UN Girls’ Education Initiative’s joint research project has revisited the pre-existing gender bias in education funding, which raises the stakes for girls in career development. This situation has been discussed in detail in the 2021 report entitled Spending better for girls’ education: How can financing be targeted to improve gender equality in education? The case is more serious for the more demanding STEM specialisations. COVID-19 has only aggravated the gender gaps as girls have been more…