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Centre for Education and International Development (CEID), UCL Institute of Education


A forum for staff, students, alumni and guests to write about and around CEID's five thematic areas of engagement.


Archive for the 'CEID' Category

What do we mean by gender equality in education, and how can we measure it?

CEID Blogger18 May 2021

By Helen Longlands

Gender equality in education is a matter of social justice, concerned with rights, opportunities and freedoms. Gender equality in education is crucial for sustainable development, for peaceful societies and for individual wellbeing. At local, national and global levels, gender equality in education remains a priority area for governments, civil society and multilateral organisations. The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and 2020-2030 Decade of Action commit the global community to achieving quality education (Goal 4) and gender equality (Goal 5) by 2030. The G7 Foreign and Development Ministers, meeting this summer in the UK, have made fresh commitments to supporting gender equality and girls’ education, which build on those they made in 2018 and 2019. Yet fulfilling these agendas and promises not only depends on galvanising sufficient support and resourcing but also on developing sufficient means of measuring and evaluating progress.


Alternative Histories of Education and International Development #006 – Solaiman & Corbishley

utnvmab26 April 2021

Critical Thinking and Safe Spaces: A Dialogue  

by: Haya Solaiman and Rachael Corbishley

During the first session of the CEID Alternative Histories of Education and International Development Discussion Café, we shared some thoughts and reflections around ‘decolonising education.’ When it was suggested afterward that we write a blog to share some of these thoughts we had such mixed feelings.

On one hand, “I’m white, I grew up in the UK, only speak English, and am increasingly aware of my privilege. I’m not sure I felt comfortable writing about decolonising the curriculum as a white student. I am still not sure whether I feel comfortable about this” (Rachael).

On the other hand, “I come from Syria, a country in conflict, yet I consider myself ‘privileged’ as I can continue my education, and even pursue my studies abroad when many of my compatriots are enduring hardships back home and in the diaspora as refugees. However, when asked about decolonising education I also felt uncomfortable as the idea of censorship haunts me whenever I want to express my thoughts” (Haya).

Our contrasting backgrounds made our perspectives on decolonising education rather different. However, we both felt the need for space where we can share our critical thoughts freely and safely. Previously, our peers, Shola and Albina, talked about “creating a safe space”. They reflect that the safe space of the Discussion Café was enabled through “placing everyone at the same level … where everyone’s voices can be heard…” Here we decided to share some of our dialogue; some of our reflections, positionalities, and definitions of safe spaces in academic settings. The following text captures our conversation. We hope that these reflections will enable us to contribute to a wider discussion on safe spaces in academic settings and the hierarchies of knowledge production.

Reflecting on our own backgrounds and positions on safe spaces:

he Art of Conversation by René Magritte 1963

The Art of Conversation by René Magritte 1963


Alternative Histories of Education and International Development #005 – Hajir, Kurian & McInerney

ztnvcnu8 February 2021

Decolonial work: Moving Beyond Simplistic Approaches to ‘alternative knowledges’

by Basma Hajir, Nomisha Kurian and William McInerney, University of Cambridge

The pervasive, systemic, and fortified configurations of coloniality within contemporary education contexts necessitates that decolonial resistance remains a deeply challenging practice. As a result, we believe it is important to acknowledge and unpack the many ways engaging in decolonization work can be complex, nuanced, and possibly even counterproductive if done uncritically. Specifically, we are concerned about the ways some decolonial work engages in overly-simplistic approaches to ‘alternative knowledges’ in resistance to colonized curricula and pedagogy. We fear uncritical work here, even that which is well-intentioned, can produce a dangerous context for binary thinking and cultural essentialism that might ultimately reinforce colonialism in education rather than deconstruct it. To unpack this challenge, we discuss three problematic aspects that we see emanating from uncritical glorification of alternative knowledges. 

Uncritical Glorification: Erasure, Relativism, and Difference  

First, uncritical glorification of alternative knowledges can unintentionally contribute to erasing history. For example, prompted by a desire to unpack western domination in education, to remain attentive to the limitations of grand narratives, and to point out what has been silenced, some postcolonial and decolonial scholars engage in critiquing the pre-eminence of what they refer to as ‘western metaphysics’, ‘western modernity’ or ‘western rationality’. We applaud their efforts and we wholeheartedly agree with the premise of their pursuit. Ultimately, interrogating western domination as a symptom of the alliance between power and knowledge is the core of decolonial work. 


Alternative Histories of Education and International Development #003 – Ejegi & Torbayeva

utnvmab3 December 2020

‘Can the subaltern speak?’

Decolonising Education and International Development Event launched by staff and students at UCL’s Centre for Education and International Development (CEID) 

by Shola Ejegi & Albina Tortbayeva

Dr Laila Kadiwal from CEID opened the event with this famous postcolonial question ‘Can the subaltern speak?’. In answer, she shared the words of her Dalit academic-activist friend, Mahitosh, who is the first Dalit lecturer/professor of English literature in India, who responded: ‘They can, but their voice remains under represented even in the Subaltern Studies literature’. Laila also told us that she grew up in a rural conflict-affected periphery of postcolonial India. Albina remembers her words that were powerful for her in both their openness and boldness: “I’m here because the East India Company and the Queen Victoria were there.  Of course, my class privileges also made it possible for me to be here”. In this very statement, she highlighted the continuing colonial legacies in the present through the university setting, and its intersections with issues of class.  Coloniality continues to echo in our society, and particularly in the education field which needs to work to transform and not to reproduce social inequalities.

Stories both personal and impressive came from other participants too –  professors, students and activists interested in researching the colonial entanglements underpinning the field of education and development joined this online event from a range of global locations. Professors Elaine Unterhalter and Moses Oketch – co-directors of the Centre for Education and International Development at UCL – shared their perspectives on the significance of decolonising the field of education and even the centre itself, inviting us on a brave journey to start questioning and naming colonial logics and uneven power dynamics in the field. We particularly felt brave being a part of the discussion cafe as it is a direct rejection of the ‘status quo.’ It felt eye opening to intentionally explore the meanings and history of discourses and practices that have been deemed universal, which are in fact are a reflection of Eurocentric norms at the expense of the voice and cultures of former colonised populations.


Alternative Histories of Education and International Development #001- Unterhalter & Oketch

utnvmab12 November 2020

Alternative Histories of Education and International Development: An Invitation 

by Elaine Unterhalter and Moses Oketch 

Like many who work in international development, we are acutely aware of the ways in which this field of policy, research and practice links with a colonial past which continues to resonate in the present. In CEID (Centre for Education and International Development) this is a history we feel we need to understand and critique, in order to support thinking better about education and a future which overturns colonial relationships of hierarchy, dispossession, exclusion and subordination.

The early links with colonialism at the Institution of Education (IoE) are clear and this is a history we need to acknowledge in order to think how to change our current forms of practice. IoE was initially founded in 1902 as the London Day Training College for teachers. In 1927 the Director accepted appointment to a body with clear links with a number of colonial projects, the British Advisory Committee on Native Education in Tropical Africa. As part of the work for this committee, he was invited by the Colonial Office to establish a course at IoE to prepare students for work as education officers in Africa, and to support missionaries preparing to work in teacher training colleges in what was then Tanganyika (now Tanzania). A Colonial Department was established at IoE in 1934, with a lecturer appointed to specialize in the comparative education of ‘primitive peoples’. Thus institutionally the teaching and research of IoE were clearly bound in with colonial education projects. In the 1950s there was a change of name, when the Colonial Department at IoE became the Department of Education in Tropical Areas (ETA). Only in 1973 was some distance from colonialism signaled in a new name, the Department of Education in Developing Countries (EDC). In 1995 this became the Department of Education and International Development (EID).


Constructing a Decolonial Space #002- Kadiwal, et al.

utnvmab12 November 2020

Constructing a Decolonial Space

by Laila Kadiwal, Mai Abu Moghli, Colleen Howell, Charlotte Nussey and Lynsey Robinson

In this post, we lay out our emerging thoughts on how a decolonial space looks, sounds or feels to us. The aim of the initiative, ‘Alternative Histories of Education and International Development’, is, as our co-directors explain, ‘to support thinking better about education and a future which overturns colonial relationships of hierarchy, dispossession, exclusion and subordination’ (Unterhalter & Oketch). Doing so requires asking ourselves challenging questions about our work and position within the academy, as well as about how to ensure this initiative contributes to deepening decolonial thinking and practices that reflect it. (more…)

Making gender equality a reality in education: what will it take?

CEID Admin8 March 2019

By Elaine Unterhalter, Professor of Education and International Development and Nicole Bella, Global Education Monitoring Report and Jane Davies, Global Partnership for Education Secretariat, March 2019.

This piece was originally published on the Global Partnership for Education blog, March 6th 2019. Reproduced here with the Authors’ permission.

In focus: Girls’ education and gender equality

To get more accurate and usable information on the multiple barriers that girls face in education, several projects are under way to measure discriminatory practices and norms and use that information to build education systems that don’t hold any children back.

Achieving gender equality is at the heart of the SDG agenda, and a core principle of GPE 2020, the strategy of the Global Partnership for Education up to 2020. SDG 5 (gender equality) explicitly targets key areas of inequality, and SDG 4 (education) outlines a number of gender equality related-targets. The General Recommendation 36 by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women brings these two sets of targets together, setting out the ambition to achieve gender equality not only in but also through education.

But what does gender equality in and through education look like? How would it be measured? These are questions we and other organizations are grappling with. Let’s review a concrete example.

More girls in school in Malawi, but low completion

Malawi was one of the first countries in Africa to introduce free primary education in 1994. This move led to an enormous expansion of opportunities for all children, most notably the poorest. The policy is credited with a reduction in some marked gender inequalities associated with girls dropping out of primary school and lacking support to enroll at the secondary level.

Statistics now show more girls than boys enrolling in primary school. The Malawi Education Sector Plan has been praised for highlighting issues concerning girls’ access, progression and achievement.

But commentators also note that many girls, particularly from the poorest socio-economic groups, drop out of the higher grades in primary school and do not progress to secondary school.

Only 66 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in secondary education actually complete and graduate. The reasons for drop out are complex, associated with family income and high levels of domestic responsibility.

It’s clear that statistics for gender parity in enrollment or completion do not tell us enough about the inequalities that girls face and that must be addressed.

Discriminatory gender norms remain strong

For example, researchers note authoritarian and often highly gender discriminatory school cultures, with teachers using discipline and ad-hoc guidelines that reflect and reinforce discriminatory gender norms in the society.

Similarly, while National Statistical Office figures indicate that the number of child marriages is decreasing, possibly as a result of the recent Marriage Act (which strengthens legislation to reduce marriage under the age of 18), the practice of child marriage still remains pervasive.

In 2015, almost a quarter (23.5%) of girls and women aged 15-19 years were married in Malawi, and 42% of women aged 20-24 reported they were married before the age of 18. Child marriage is often associated with conservative social, gender and religious norms, which give little scope for the autonomy and decision-making power of adolescent girls.

All of this indicates that a coherent education sector plan should take into account many aspects of gender inequality that may appear beyond the remit of the ministry of education, and require coordinated efforts between different ministries, civil society groups and communities to bring about change.

What information, resources and approaches to measuring gender inequality and equality in education can those involved in education planning draw on?

If gender parity figures do not give us the full picture, what else should we be looking at? Areas in which richer information is needed include, for example, entrenched discriminatory gender and social norms that limit girls’ and women’s right to education, families’ approach in households to organizing work and managing budgets with regard to girls and boys, teachers’ attitudes and dispositions, which may pre-date any formal education they received, issues of school-based gender violence, sexual harassment and coercion, and lack of reproductive rights, which are associated with teenage pregnancy and early marriage.

One project looking into measurement of these broader facets of gender inequality which affect education outcomes is the AGEE (Accountability for Gender Equality in Education) project, an innovative collaboration between academics at universities in the UK, Malawi and South Africa.

The project recognizes how important it is to improve the measuring and monitoring of gender equality in education and to develop a range of tools to document practices that may appear unmeasurable. These, if described, even by proxy measures, may allow for richer insights and better coordination of research to inform sector planning.

The project team is working with UNESCO and other organizations, and through these consultations and discussions has developed two indicator frameworks that look beyond parity in numbers and try to measure gender equality more broadly, both in and through education, for use at the national and international levels.

At the national level, it is consulting with key partners in Malawi and South Africa on a dashboard of measures that speak to local conditions. In current drafts, the national dashboard comprises information on:

  • gender and resources – financial, infrastructural, staff, ideas about planning
  • constraints to converting resources into opportunities; for example difficulties in implementing policies, distributing finance or understanding gender and other inequalities
  • attitudes of teachers, parents and students to gender inequality and gender equality that affect schooling
  • gender outcomes of education (progression, learning outcomes) and beyond education, for example political and cultural participation and connections with health, employment, earning and leisure.

National statistical offices in Malawi and South Africa, academics and activist organizations are reviewing the dashboard and seeing how it can be used to draw out key gender issues to inform more gender-responsive education sector planning.

At the international level, in partnership with a team at the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEMR), a framework has been developed to monitor gender equality across countries. This uses the national level dashboard, but also draws on data that is already routinely collected across countries.

A range of multilateral and bilateral organizations (eg. UNESCO, UNGEI, UN Women, FAWE, GPE, DFID), key NGOs, academics and activists are being consulted to refine this cross-national measurement framework and consider its links to national processes.

The GEMR’s framework uses a three-pronged rights-based approach to gender equality:  assembling information on the right to education, rights in education and rights through education. Six domains are monitored:

  • educational opportunities (gender parity indices across all level of education and different educational aspects)
  • gender norms, values, attitudes and practices
  • institutions outside education or legislation forbidding gender-based discrimination
  • laws and policies guaranteeing the right to education for girls and women, and gender-responsive planning and budgeting within the education systems
  • education system institutions and the extent to which they are gender sensitive and responsive (resource distribution -finance and teaching profession; teaching and learning practices and learning environments)
  • Outcomes of education (e.g. access to labor market, sexual and reproductive health rights and decisions, political participation, etc.).

Both the AGEE and the GEMR frameworks are aiming to help build education systems that take account of broader gendered barriers holding children back, especially girls, that identify strategies to address them, and then measure progress towards closing these critical gender gaps.

Similarly, GPE in partnership with UNGEI have been supporting developing country partners to apply a gender lens to education sector planning to advance this aim. Based on the Guidance for developing gender-responsive education sector plans prepared by UNGEI and GPE, with support from UNICEF, Plan International, UNESCO IIEP/Pole de Dakar, AU/CIEFFA, FAWE and ANCEFA, four regional workshops, reaching 25 countries so far, have helped governments, development partners and civil society representatives to take a deeper look at how gender equality needs to be considered at each stage of the planning cycle, including preparatory sector analysis.

This work will help improve how gender equality results are framed, monitored and reflected in education sector plans, strengthen accountability for gender equality results, and ultimately help achieve gender equality both in and through education – a positive transformation from which all girls, boys and our societies will benefit.

School violence – what works to address the global challenge?

CEID Admin25 February 2019

School violence – what works to address the global challenge?

Professor Jenny Parkes, Professor of Gender, Education and International Development at the UCL Institute of Education, speaks in this video from DFID’s Research and Evidence Division.

To read the IOE study authored by Prof Parkes and referenced at 01:31 by DFID in this video, visit: https://www.globalpartnership.org/content/rigorous-review-global-research-evidence-policy-and-practice-school-related-gender-based

The review is an output from the ‘End Gender Violence in Schools’ research project undertaken at the IOE. For further details see www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe-egvs

CEID Seminar Series 2018/19

CEID Admin8 November 2018

CEID Seminar Series 2018/19

The CEID Seminar series is hosted by the Centre for Education and International Development (CEID) at the UCL Institute of Education. Initiated in the 2017/18 academic year, following the launch of the Centre in June 2017, the CEID seminar series is a forum for academics, doctoral students, practitioners and invited speakers to present and open discussion on issues, ideas and debates in the field of Education and International Development. See the full series listing here.


Seminar 7: Gender and Teacher Education in Nigeria, October 18th 2018

Speakers – Professor Elaine Unterhalter, UCL Institute of Education, Dr Amy North, UCL Institute of Education and Yvette Hutchinson, British Council

Chair – Professor Moses Oketch, UCL Institute of Education

Abstract – In the first CEID seminar in the 2018/19 academic year, Elaine Unterhalter and Amy North will present findings from their research in Nigeria on Gender and Teacher education in five Nigerian states. The research took place between 2014 and 2016, and was funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the British Council Nigeria. Yvette Hutchinson, British Council, completes the panel and will present on the British Council’s involvement with the project, its work in Nigeria and in teacher capacity development and gender in particular. Following the panel presentations and discussion, questions will be invited from the audience.

Watch the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okupVsuv1WM


Seminar 8: Violent extremism and the political economy of education in Afghanista, November 8th 2018

Speaker: Dr Tejendra Pherali, UCL Institute of Education

Chair: Professor Moses Oketch, UCL Institute of Education


As global attention is concentrated on Islamic State (IS) activities in Syria and Iraq, IS fighters seem to be exploiting the conditions of state fragility in Afghanistan to expand their influence in several districts. It has been reported that IS has a significant dominance in 11 out of 24 districts in the eastern province of Nangarhar where, they control all aspects of community life including, education. Drawing upon qualitative interviews and focus group discussions (N=31) in Kabul and Nagarhar which is considered the IS headquarters in the region, this paper explores the multitude of ways IS is controlling educational processes in Afghanistan. We find that both state and non-state actors compete for control over education, both formal institutions as well as social and cultural discourses about learning. Unlike Taliban who have the nationalist agenda against Western interventions (of all kinds including, education), the IS approach to radicalisation seems to be much more strategic, ideologically broad and aimed at long term political gains in the form of a ‘Caliphate’. Through their brutal tactics, IS fighters influence access, contents and pedagogies to establish their Jihadist ideology, which underpins a wider religious and political justification of the ‘struggle’ against the West and production of a new generation of jihadists. Our research finds that rural communities in Afghanistan play a critical role in shaping the political terrain such as, establishing the conditions under which state sovereignty is contested, negotiated and challenged. As such, they serve the dual purpose: strengthening state authority by sustaining public services including, education; and creating a space for non-state actors to promote alternative ideologies. Finally, we argue that understanding the latter can contribute to critical reflection of the existing education policies and reclaim educational spaces for Afghanistan’s peaceful future.

Livestreaming – This session will be livestreamed via this link: https://youtu.be/wCs8cL9idcI

Access the seminar slides here: Violent extremism and political economy of education in Afghanistan – CEID Seminar 8 slides.


CEID Seminar 9: In service of dominant elites? Nation, Education and Peacebuilding in Post (civil) War Tajikistan, January 16th 2019

Speaker: Dr Laila Kadiwal, Fellow in Education and International Development, UCL Institute of Education

Chair: Professor Moses Oketch, UCL Institute of Education

Following the cessation of the Soviet Union over two decades ago, Tajikistan grapples with ramifications of the civil war, global geopolitics, Soviet legacies and the revival of religious and ethnolinguistic identities– all of which influence identity formation and peacebuilding through contemporary discourses around education and development in Tajikistan. This seminar presents on the ways global and local political, economic, military, social and cultural agendas intersect with people’s identities, and the ways in which these are mirrored in education, fuelling conflict. The seminar draws upon the theories of ‘discourse,’ ‘global governmentality’ and ‘new imperialism’ concerning education, to explore dominant conceptions of national identity and peacebuilding and what implications these have for normalising unequal power relations and social cohesion. With reference to Gorno-Badakhshan, an ethnolinguistic and religious minority province, the session also investigates how local communities are responding to the interrelationships of the local, national and global. The paper argues that global-national-local discourses cast populations as politically compliant and polarised global market-based citizens in a globalised authoritarian state that serves dominant global and local elite interests. Recommendations include ways forward for challenging dominant discourses and for rethinking  issues of inequities, social cohesion and sustainable peacebuilding in education policy.

Livestream – This session will be livestreamed via this link:: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3zeD7KaUH8&feature=youtu.be Join the discussion with #CEIDSeminars

Access the seminar slides here: CEID Seminar_Jan 16_2019_Tajikistan

Dr. Tejendra Pherali gives keynote address at the Universidad Industrial de Santander, Colombia

CEID Admin12 January 2018

Tejendra Pherali, Senior Lecturer in Education and International Development and the research theme leader for Education, Conflict and Peacebuilding in CEID delivered a keynote adress on 15th November at the Universidad Industrial de Santander, Colombia.

Dr. Pherali at the Universidad Industrial de Santander, Colombia, 15th Nov 2017.

His presentation – ‘Understanding the nexus between education and peace in conflict-affected societies’ focused on the role of education in promoting peace with social justice in conflict-affected societies. He argued that universities in conflict-affected societies such as Colombia could play a civic role by connecting communities with academic research and knowledge production and by creating access for young people who have been left out of higher education because of violent conflict. His presentation further argued that education could support sustainable peace by promoting equitable access to quality education; through curriculum reforms, reflecting diverse identities of learners; educational decisions that involve inclusive processes; and educational policies, learning and teaching are that geared towards bringing people together from across dividing lines. Drawing upon his research in Nepal, Lebanon and Somalia, he proposed pathways to impact for higher education and peace which could be of relevance for Colombian universities as the country undergoes the peace process.

Dr. Pherali presents at the Faculty of Human Sciences at the Universidad Industrial de Santander, Colombia, 15th Nov 2017.