The occasion of International Literacy Day 2021 and its theme “Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide” gives the global community an opportunity to reflect on COVID-19’s impact on our goals of quality education and universal literacy—particularly for those facing intersecting disadvantages, such as girls. The generation of gender-integrated data can play a crucial role in revealing challenges to those goals and offering solutions to overcome them.1
The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities. UNESCO estimates that 11 million girls may never return to school.2 Nations have increasingly pursued technological solutions to the pandemic’s educational challenges. Despite recent data that some girls are more likely than boys to have access to digital devices for learning,3 the overwhelming evidence has shown that girls and women access and use digital technologies at lower rates than boys and men.4 Thus, this pursuit is likely to increase digital exclusion, and its cost, for one billion women who are currently not using the internet.5
With these challenges in mind, STS is actively working toward a gender-integrated approach to data collection and analysis that reveals and mitigates the digital divide to improve literacy outcomes.
The field of monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning (MEAL) prioritizes data disaggregation by gender to encourage inclusivity, a donor requirement STS supports in all its projects. STS does not stop at data disaggregation by gender. We also aim to improve traditional data collection and analysis practices that might obscure gender-specific results. As the external evaluator of the FCDO-funded Girls’ Education Challenge: Supporting Transition of Adolescent Girls through Enhancing Systems project in Ethiopia, STS led the development of the monitoring, evaluation, and learning framework and conducted a gender and social inclusion analysis. The baseline analysis showed that almost one in ten sampled girls were absent on the day of surveys, indicating a need to adjust data collection processes to ensure a more inclusive sample.
A gender-integrated approach to data collection and analysis should explicitly plan for the needs of girls and women, boys and men, and people with diverse gender identities.
As STS both employs technology to collect, analyze, and share data AND evaluates EdTech innovations, we aim to establish systems to ensure that those with less digital access, such as girls and women, are not left behind. Some of the practices we use include:
- Ensuring female enumerators are always involved in data collection but especially when gender-sensitive data is collected
- Recognizing that women and girls do not always have the same access to digital platforms and planning accommodations that ensure their participation in data collection activities, especially when done remotely.
- Working to identify those digital platforms that women and girls do have access to and are most comfortable using.
- Reporting data results by gender to key audiences, including stakeholders who advocate for gender equality and are best positioned to act on those results.
The global community needs to quickly respond to the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic to achieve quality education and universal literacy by 2030. Collecting and analyzing gender-integrated data that documents the impact of the pandemic on the literacy acquisition and development of all children—and especially those who face intersecting disadvantages—is instrumental to formulating effective solutions.
Today’s post was authored by Carol da Silva, STS’s Senior Director of Impact & Learning.