Global Resources

Training teachers and gender equality in Nigeria: Reflections on measurement and policy

Author: Elaine Unterhalter
Publisher: ResearchGate
Publication Date: May 2015

Questions regarding how best to measure and track gender inequalities in education, identify interventions for equality, and evaluate and monitor such interventions, are all central to much of the contemporary debate in policy and academic circles. The challenges therein have been discussed by a number of commentators, including the imperfect nature of and limits to existing measures, such as gender ratios in enrolment, attendance, progression, and examination of attainment in the different educational phases. This paper addresses some of these challenges through a multi-layered analysis, first by reviewing the theoretical discourse in-depth, and second by analysing primary data collected from a survey of Nigerian students in their final year of study in teacher education. This data was collected from 4,500 student teachers in 16 teacher education institutions across 5 Nigerian states. The survey, included here in the appendix to the paper, examined how students viewed their training, the extent to which they and their teachers considered gender equality, and how ideas of inclusion were being taught.

The survey data concluded that the intuition of many critics regarding the limited use of gender parity as an adequate proxy measure for gender equality in education are valid. Additionally, simply counting the number of mentions of gender in policy documents is not enough; there must also be engagement with how policy is actually understood and enacted. In some states, gender parity in educational enrollment and teacher demographic have been reached or even exceeded, while there has also been a concerted effort to include gender in policy documents. Yet the survey data conclusively reveals that these are inadequate measures of gender equality in education, with student teachers reporting a lack of in-depth coverage of gender-related topics. The responses of students show that highly gender inequitable views are still widespread, particularly with regard to women’s political leadership, knowledge about contraception, joint decision-making in families, and vulnerability to sexual harassment. Additionally, discriminatory views persist among a large proportion of male students, and are even articulated amongst a sizeable minority of female students.


The data suggests that it is important to focus on both attitudes and revealed preferences, as well as highlighting objective, quantitative measures. Respectively, this means using the survey data to help construct activities to generate and examine aspects of gender equality in education and social justice that could be workshopped with student teachers and educators, and creating gender equality and education indices looking at gender-disaggregated views of students within institutions. The authors acknowledge the need to account for the distribution of resources, but there is still much work to be done on a fundamental level to build insight into why gender equality in education is important, and how it is connected with other forms of inequality and injustice.