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GENDER AND EDUCATION IN THE CONTEXT OF MINORITIES

“The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate and individual, but if you educate a women you educate a family” – Dr. J. E. Kwegyir Aggrey, a visionary Ghanian educator (1875 – 1927) (cited by Tembon and Fort, 2008)

Gender is considered to be a development issue as women play a variety of roles in different societies and their positions within their societies are determined by legislation, religious norms, economic status or class, cultural values, ethnicity and types of productive activity of their country, community and household. In other words, according to the definition of USDAID (2003: 1), “gender refers to a set of qualities and behaviours expected from males and females by society. Gender roles are socially determined and can be affected by factors such as education or economics”. Addressing women’s inequality means reducing poverty, forcing economic growth and also helping break the “vicious circle of poverty” (Tembon and Fort, 2008: xvii). However, in each of these areas – reproduction, production and the community – according to Wallace and March (1991: 4), “women have often been adversely affected by the development process”. Despite the inequality towards women when underlining the role of men over women, statistics have shown that women in many cases have played an important role in the process of development and poverty eradication. Studies have revealed an increasing feminization of poverty. Alcock (1993: 122) points out that gender-blind development and the inequality between men and women reveal that women suffer poverty on a more widespread basis than men, and that their experience of poverty is quite different as a result of expectations about gender roles. The era of modernization and industrialization has been accompanied by a widening gap between the poor and the affluent. Understanding the needs and wants of the poor in general and the equal rights of women in particular, therefore, will lead to an effective approach to poverty issues.

It is necessary to understand that gender-blindness is one of the factors causing poverty. The inequality and lack of empowerment of women have worsened the poverty situation of the world. Gender is learnt through “a process of socialization and through the culture of the particular society concerned” (Wallace and March 1991: 2). As a product of the process of socialization, gender is one of the elements connecting social aspects so as to form social networks. Therefore, gender issues should not be ignored when doing analysis relating to development and poverty elimination. In order to address the existing problems of the world, to release people from the poverty trap, it is important to understand the concept and the causes and consequences of poverty clearly, in order to find more effective solutions to ease the poverty. Among the reasons causing poverty, gender is a problem which has been under-evaluated when looking at the main causes of poverty. The underestimation or the ignorance of and disregarded attitude towards gender perspectives may harm the development of the world and hinder its development speed. Moreover, taking gender perspective into consideration when dealing with development plans and projects is also necessary in order to understand how gender myths have changed from the past until now. The prejudice and the out-of-date information and theories on gender may create an obsolete mindset in terms of development and the current problems that the world is dealing with. In the Third World in particular, where women are coping with difficulties in integrating into society, gender perspective should be prioritized in addressing the poverty situation and the awareness of gender issues should be raised among society. Moreover, since poverty can be passed on generations to generations due to the limit of knowledge. The need to call for gender awareness is so urgent as it is not only help girls themselves overcome the traditional barriers but also get better with their lives. According to Agassi (1989: 175), aspects of live affecting girls in their future namely job choice, further training and study, unfortunately, are driven by “the current gender-role attitudes which may be very traditional”. The author discovers that the advance of male partner in his occupational partner may bring negative consequence to the carrier ladder of female partner in response.

Speaking of the importance of education, it is necessary to study the return of education the progress of development. According to McMahon (2002: 5), education and knowledge lead to the growth in the endogenous growth models. However, the need of allocation of time to human capital formation has constrained children, especially children in poor family, from gaining education. The author has blamed government for late response and lack of appropriate policy applied to these special groups such as upgrading school facility and hiring teachers in rural areas. Although economics problems may be one of the main issues which cause the low rate of educated children within the poor, the study has not mentioned the impact of gender matters which are controlled by engrained culture and vice verse. In the study, economic factor has been mentions as the key factor which can affect education. In return, education can help reduce poverty and inequality by increasing productivity at different level from doing households to working in firms. Greater productivity can lead to higher economic growth and more effective reduction of poverty (Tembon and Fort, 2008: xviii; Orazem, Glewwe & Patrinos, 2007: 5). In Chile, for instance, between one quarter and one third of household income differences can be explained by the level of education of household heads (Ferreira and Litchfield, 1998: 32). However, as economics and culture are the two main aspects which can have great influence of people’s lives, looking at economics only may give an inadequate view to the whole picture. According to McMahon (2002: 10), people can attain “social benefits” of education, but when looking deep down inside the nature of the matter, women actually need more than the given “social benefits”. They need the true respects for their rights, and the equality in gender awareness from the whole society, not for any purpose.

There are two main arguments on the efficiency of modernization and industrialisation discussing about gender equality. On the one hand, Marx and Engel blame the origin of all inequality for private ownership of means of production, class society and the form of family organization, and the separation of reproductive and productive work which make women’s participation in society more difficult and limited (Agassi, 1989: 162). However, when looking to the case of socialist developing countries, it can be seen that although causes to gender inequality in accordance to Marx and Engel have been addressed extremely, still there are other factors that are creating inequality to women’s lives, culture consisting gender inequity has been ingrained over generations, which is difficult to change the existing gender myth within these groups. On the other hand, the nationalization of the means of production does not guarantee better situation to equality between men and women (Heitlinger, 1979; Michal, 1975; Molyneux, 1984 and Scott, 1979, cited by Agassi, 1989: 1970). These arguments have raised a question of which has more responsibility on the persistent gender inequality, although enhancing women’s contribution to development is as much an economic as a social and cultural issue. In addition, the investment in the education of girls may well be the highest-return in investment available in the developing world (King and Hill, 1998: v). Besides traditional argument about women’s education that it can help girls have better health, increase productivity, there are other reasons for increasing educational chances for women. As being found by Khan (1998: 239), changes in economics and social communication may affect women’s education. For example, in Bangladesh, because of the need for second income, women seek higher education for being more acceptable to the labour market. In South India, education helps rural women have opportunities to find husbands in urban areas. In Pakistan, educated women find it easier than educated men to be employed due to being cheaper labours. However, it may easily become a fraud in development for developing countries when enforcing the social status of women, providing educational chances for women without seeing that women need not only equality to men in social benefits but also equality in awareness of the whole society. Examples mentioned above show the fact that women in many countries pursuing education are neither for their own shake nor because of better awareness on gender equity. Again, it is economic purpose which encourages them to attain higher education. However, to some extents, the thing that women’s education for economic purpose nowadays can be better than in the past where women in many countries encountered barriers in following education which was considered making them less fit for their natural roles. Gender and education, nevertheless, are two among main factors in improving development progress. They should not only be addressed individually but also at the same time with the understanding of these two issues in affecting development.

Vietnam is a multicultural country with more than 54 ethnic minorities. Although in comparison to the total population, ethnic minorities only accounts for 13.5% of the population, in 2006, 44.4% of the poor in Vietnam is from ethnic minorities (World Bank, 2008: 5). Moreover, Leslie and Drinkwater (1999: 63) also show that individuals from ethnic minorities have a greater tendency to stay on in full-time education beyond the compulsory age.Ethnic minorities’ poverty remains a persistent problem in the development progress of Vietnam. Looking at ethnic issues, withdrawing the lessons and finding the way out are necessary to keep Vietnam on the right track of poverty eradication strategy. Education can be the way forward to reduce poverty in the long term, which may have positive effect not only on the poor groups, but also on the whole population. In which, ethnicity – which is linked to culture, values and social position appears to be an important determinant of educational participation (Tilak, 1998: 270).

The outcome of studies and surveys mostly show the current situation of daughter schooling which is different between urban and rural areas. The stories of ethnic girls’ education have not been told in detail to get the thorough understanding of what control all the things behind, which is the culture and the social norms. As being found by Baulch et al (2007: 2836), the same ethnic groups whose living standards have risen fastest are those that have the highest school enrollment rates, are most likely to intermarry with King partners, and are the least likely to practice a religion. Integrating economic and culture with the King-Hoa majority or integrating economic only and retain the culture identity is the question to study. This study ends up with the demand for diversity in the policy interventions due to diversity in the socioeconomic development experiences. It mainly focuses on consequences of the assimilation and intermarriage particularly with Kinh partners or other ethnic groups’ partners. With this study linear, Baulch et al. (2007) converges his study to the migrant issues among ethnic minorities’ people. In fact, it has been successful in showing the fact that which ethnic minorities managed to follow the economic and social development pathway as the Kinh have done may get better achievement during the renovation period Doi Moi. However, the study does not discuss in detail whether or not it is necessary to retain the culture and practical customs or it is better scarify them to compensate for economics’ achievements; as well as which way the policy should follow. Economic considerations and socioeconomic background, as well as ethnicity effect can influence their choice of education. In addition, it is necessary to discuss gender within the context of culture as gender can be considered to be the core of culture identity. Meanwhile education is related to culture, which is a measurement indicator of social development. According to Muller (2007: 640), education is considered to be a tool for “personal, cultural and societal emancipation”. These topics should have been discussed further to see the linkage among gender, education and development.

Indeed, there should be more policies and studies focusing on women in education, especially ethnic women due to the urgent demand of women in confirming their positions in equal to men in development progress.. Biases against females, in fact, have influenced their socialization during their childhood and youth, their education and occupational aspirations and the general freedom of choice women exercise (Hollins, 2008:29). The low status of women in the society has made policy makers forget the ethnic minority populations. As women from ethnic minority even get more disadvantages than other, they should join the struggle for women’s rights in order to improve their own status (Hollins, 2008:29). According to this argument, women from ethnic minorities may be among the groups that need to have attention the most.

Moreover, a research taken by Truong (2009) shows that the gender gaps in education are not only between the majority and minority students, but also within minority groups. The disparity can be witnesses between lowlanders and highlanders, and between those who are the direct beneficiaries of socio-development aid and those who are not. For example, the H'Roi in Phu Yen receives fewer benefits from government policies. Their experience of marginalisation in education is so much different from that of their Hmong counterparts who have the highest enrolment rate among ethnic minorities (Truong, 2009: 21). Therefore, it can be seen that the role of the government with effective agenda, to some extents, can successfully address the problems. However, the question is that whether or not financial support from the government can be the main method and be the fastest way; and if not, what else should be done.

In the “Vietnam poverty analysis 2008”, the report lists a number of factors associated with the persistent high levels of poverty amongst ethnic minority groups. Although it mentions the reason due to limited education which is including limited Vietnamese language and literacy skills, it does not go deep into investigate the reason which cause this situation. However, among the reasons mentioned, the study also fails to show the linkage between culture identities of ethnic minorities with its outdated culture ingrained and its consequence as poverty increased (Vietnam poverty analysis, 2008: 22).. Although not mentioning women’s lack of educational opportunities, the analysis also points out that many of Vietnam’ poor, especially women, rural people and ethnic minority groups, are not able to access education (Vietnam poverty analysis, 2008: 37). Furthermore, it also demonstrates that ethnic women are often excluded from educational opportunities, such as attending classes and community meetings, because of their heavy workloads (Vietnam poverty analysis, 2008: 38).

However, according to Le et al. (2008: 35), there is no evidence of gender bias enrolment. For example, the enrolment rate of H’Mong boys was 76.9 percent while it was 72.2 percent which is an insignificant gap (Le et al., 2008: 34). Moreover, the finding of Le et al. (2008: 35) shows that parental education has a positive effect on enrolment and has impact on learning outcomes. With these studies, it can be seen that although policies have focused on the enrolment rate and narrow this gap between major and ethnic minorities, the culture ingrained which affected ethnic parents are again affecting ethnic daughters.

However, the increasing drop-out rate of ethnic minorities also raised the concern about the efficiency of education policy amended by the government, as according to Woodside (1983: 414, cited by Muller, 2007: 640), education is a tool of the government “for the sake of a state-building utilitarianism”. Moreover, one of the main reasons that cause the problems to ethnic minorities may be the failure of public policies and programs to take into account their specific needs and behavioral differences, as the cultural differences between ethnic minority groups are significant (Vietnam Development Report, 2008: 15). Truong (2009: 21) sees that government policies try to tackle income inequality, administrative dysfunction, and the burden of geography, among others, and need to work with the local political economy to produce appropriate solutions to different groups’ problems, which may cause overlapping influences. Truong (2009) also points out that education outcomes are heavily influenced by factors that may have little to do with education-specific policies. Porter and Judd (1999: 10) recommend an approach of Buvinic (1982) and Moser (1989) in which they developed a five-stage description of policy approaches applied to women. The five stages are the welfare approach, the equity approach, the anti-poverty approach, the efficiency approach, and the empowerment approach. To the case of Vietnam, this can be an efficient way to apply together with the “utilitarianism” strategy. However, it is necessary to carefully consider whether or not these policies also have positive effects on ethnic minorities’ education.

Kang (2009:23) mentions a conflict that the higher educational status is the more likely household members can decrease the likelihood of poverty. However, the higher female ratio and dependency burden, the higher probability of poverty for both majority and minority groups. Therefore, it is vital to look at and find out solutions for educational issues and gender issues at the same time to have the best result of poverty reduction.

Both gender and race serve as status variables which provide cues to our experiences and social standing. Psychologists have demonstrated that each of these factors clearly influences a number of attitudes and behaviors. Issues of gender significantly affect the study of ethnic minority groups, while simultaneously, ethnic and racial variables interact with individuals’ sex roles. This multileveled framework attests to the complex effects of the gender ethnicity interaction among ethnic minority populations (Reid and Comas – Diaz, 1990: 402). Education is one aspect that is determined by these variables especially in ethnic minority society.

Gender disparities. A gender imbalance in educational attainment still exists. There are

fewer girls than boys enrolled at all levels of the education system except for PSE. A small but

significant gender gap in enrolments at both primary education and LSE level has not improved

significantly over the last five years.13 Mean years of schooling starkly illustrate this gap; on

average, girls complete only 5.6 years of schooling as compared to 6.8 years for boys. This gap

widens dramatically when ethnicity is factored in: Kinh boys achieve 8.5 mean years of

schooling, compared with just 4.5 years for ethnic minority girls. Improved girl-friendly school

facilities and awareness-raising of parents on the benefits of educating their daughters will help

to reduce this imbalance. (ADB, 2007: 5)

This study is going to find the answers and explanations for the problems below:

Why is gender inequality persistent among ethnic minorities in Vietnam?

How does government policy aim to address gender inequality of Vietnamese ethnic women?

Is the government successful in tackling this problem?

Methodology: recommend page 23 (unicef 2009 Children in Vietnam)

The data for this study will be based on statistics collected from the recent Vietnam Household Living standards surveys 1997/1998, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. These simultaneous surveys will show the situation on a general base and make a quick grasp of how problems are changing by years. However, the disadvantage of using these surveys is that they lack showing in detail the gender gap in literacy rate for different ethnic minorities. Therefore, it may cause difficulty when looking into details to make a comparison among ethnic minority group and with the ethnic majority Kinh/Hoa as figures are the best tool to explain in this case.

Hence, besides using the data from the five round VHLSS, the study will do research based on other secondary sources which were recently published by Unicef, Ministry of Education and ADB. The pros of taking advantage of data from these organization research is of the

Some groups (e.g. Tay, Thai, Muong and Nung), tend to live in the more accessible and fertile

valleys and are relatively advantaged. Others, such as Hmong and Dao, rank among the poorest, living at higher elevations with difficult access and low land productivity.

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