On 10th October a hybrid ‘webinar-seminar’ on gender equality in HE and VET was organised by CAEP in the lead up to the Regional Seminar on Social Inclusion in Tashkent; representatives from Ministries of Education and Labour, HE and VET academic staff and education and gender experts from Central Asia and several EU Member States physically attended, while other experts from the Central Asia countries and ETF participated online.
This webinar followed on from previous web-based seminars organised by CAEP on Quality Assurance and Accreditation and National Qualifications Frameworks. Gender Equality was a priority area that was highlighted at the Second Meeting for Ministers of Education (MIN) in Astana in 2017; with all ministers welcoming the exchange on how education can contribute to addressing gender inequalities. The aims of the webinar were to raise awareness of gender equality as a factor for sustainable socio-economic development, discuss the main aspects of persisting gender inequality in education, familiarise participants with the EU Gender Action Plan 2016-2020 (EU GAP II) and share good practice for gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting activities from the EU and Central Asia.
The webinar kicked off with an introduction to the preliminary findings of a recent CAEP report on gender equality in education by expert Ms. Dilbar Turakhanova. The objectives of the review were to study the current situation in both Central Asia and the EU, identify good practices for policies, methods and instruments supporting gender equality, and establish a common basis for knowledge and understanding of gender relevant issues in HE and VET. Ms Turakhanova presented an overview of EU policy to support gender equality in education and the use of gender equality plans at institutional level and then shared the main findings of the first round of the review, which has been implemented in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to be added at a later date). She concluded with some examples of good practice in the Central Asia region and some recommendations for future approaches in the region. The full report will be published on the CAEP website shortly.
Case studies from Latvia, Poland and Romania were then presented, looking at challenges and good practice in gender equality in education in each of these three EU member states, and with the opportunity for questions from participants. Ms. Zarina Chikibayeva from the Bologna Centre in Kazakhstan also outlined some of the tools being used to strengthen gender equality in her country, and the Chairman of the Women’s Committee of the Khokimiyat of the Chilanzar District of Tashkent, Ms. Ganieva Galnora, put forward case studies from Uzbekistan.
The discussions showed that although much has been achieved in terms of gender equality, significant inequalities still exist in Central Asia. While women make up the majority of academic staff in education, they are still largely under-represented in the top positions (rectors, school directors, leading roles in ministries) and a strong gender bias also exists with women choosing “female” professions in social areas and education, rather than in technical subjects. This gender segregation is highly visible in the labour market, where a pay-gap can also be seen. Finally, the collection and processing of gender data in education has room for improvement. The commitment of Central Asian countries to the topic varies and it is generally either not understood or perceived as important, or not addressed properly due to a lack of human and financial resources.
In EU countries, particularly the new member states from Central Eastern Europe, women’s position in society is generally different, and gender equality in education, politics and the labour market is formally guaranteed to a much larger extent. However, many challenges are similar to those observed in Central Asia, such as the persistence of gender stereotypes affecting girls’ and boys’ educational and professional choices, and persisting inequalities in social roles in the family, the labour market and public life.
The discussions made it clear that the delegates were well aware of these challenges and actively welcomed the steps currently being undertaken to contribute to more gender equality in education both in the EU and Central Asia.
The agenda and downloadable presentations from the webinar can be found on the event page.