Gender Equality and Quality Education

Gender Equality and Quality Education

Gender Equality

The research will directly address gender equality, one of the four priorities of Irish Aid as outlined in ‘A Better World, Ireland’s Policy for International Development.’ A Better World notes that:

the proven social and economic return of investing in women and girls also makes a strong case for prioritising gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in all facets of life. 

The research also supports Sustainable Development Goal 5, gender equality and empowering girls and women, as well as SDG 4 for quality education. Stronger representation of women in educational related school leadership roles will build capacity in the system and ultimately improve outcomes.

Empowering women to be involved in societal and leadership positions begins with education. Cambodia has much ground to make up in this regard.  Its Gender Inequality Index value of 0.474, ranks 117 out of 162 countries in the 2019 index[9]. Just 15.1 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education. By comparison nearly twice as many men (28.2 percent) have reached secondary education. The mean years of schooling for Cambodian females is just 4.2 years compared to 5.8 years for males. The mean years of schooling for Cambodian women is lower than neighbouring Lao (4.9 years), Myanmar (5.0 years) and Vietnam (8.0 years).

Despite improved access to school, high dropouts for all children (including girls) remain an issue:

Of this entire student population, 190,148 children are enrolled in preschools; 2,022,061 are in primary schools. The number of students in lower and upper secondary schools is, however, considerably smaller. In lower secondary education, only 585,971 students remain in schools; while the upper secondary education comprised merely 279,480 students. High dropout rates during transition to lower and upper secondary education remain a lingering issue in Cambodia’s education system. [10]

The data from Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport show that, as of 2016, 43% of girls are able to attend lower secondary school and only 20% attend upper higher school. Girls acquiring an interest in learning and completing high school can be instigative in the lives they go on to lead.

The second critical aspect of gender inequality relates directly to the teaching workforce itself. Through existing research we know traditional gender role stereotypes prevail in Cambodia and create challenges for women’s participation in society[11]. The vast majority of teachers in early grades are women. In SeeBeyondBorders programs for instance, 82% of the teachers of early grades are female yet nationally only 20% of school principals are female. Cambodia needs strong female teachers and female leaders to create education reform. The high proportion of women in the workforce as teachers provides a basis for progress. This research will support and strengthen women’s voices in decision making. Many of the teacher participants will be women. It will address how the female teachers view themselves as professional educators (teacher identity). It will also examine the promotional leadership routes for women in the teaching profession including barriers encountered and how to overcome these barriers.  

Find out more about Cambodian National Development

Find out more about the Overarching Research Goal

This project is funded by the Irish Research Council.

Irish Research Council


[9] UNDP, Briefing Note for Countries on the 2020 Human Development Report Cambodia (United Nations Development Programme, 2020).

[10] MoEYS. p 2

[11] Thomas W Maxwell et al., “Becoming and Being Academic Women in Cambodia: Cultural and Other Understandings,” Cogent Education 2, no. 1 (2015)