Education matters

With the exception of Papua New Guinea, the largest Pacific country, the region has achieved the benchmark for gender parity in education. Several countries however, are below the developing country average for gender parity in primary (Tonga, Nauru and Vanuatu) and secondary (Niue and Solomon Islands) education. Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are also below the developing country average for gender parity in tertiary education. In a number of countries there are also issues about how gender is addressed in the curriculum as well as the balance between male and female teachers. This impacts on how children and young people view their options for employment and how they consider the relationship between men and women in society and their ability to take action to address inequality.

The 2012 World Development Report “Gender Equality and Development”, argues that to reduce gender inequality, action is required to shrink persisting education gaps by improving access to education for girls and young women when poverty, ethnicity or remoteness excludes them .[1]

In the Pacific region, access for women to further skills development, and to obtain internationally recognised Australian qualifications in targeted industry sectors, is being addressed by the Australian Pacific Technical College (APTC). The APTC continues to address occupational gender discrimination through the proactive recruitment of women to study in traditionally male-dominated trade areas (e.g. electrical, plumbing, carpentry etc.), and consistently promotes gender equality through all its services and functions. The course profile sets enrollment targets for gender (especially in non-traditional disciplines) and under-represented locations.

The successful recruitment, retention and graduation of women into non-traditional courses, has continued to be positive as can be seen in table below.

% of female participation at APTC                April 2009 October 2011 September 2012
Course applications 30% 39% 40%
Graduates 49% 39% 40%
Scholarships awarded or offered 35% 41% 47%
School of Trades and Technology April 2009 October 2011 September 2012
Course applications 3.47% 4.11% 4.35%
Graduates 0.32% 4.10% 4.12%
Scholarships awarded or offered 2.16% 3.14% 3.36%

Improvements in education outcomes, alongside improvement in health outcomes, for women and girls will provide the foundational human capital for women to participate more fully in development opportunities.

Underlying interventions in positive social change, women’s advocacy, health and education are necessary to buttress direct interventions in the areas of women’s decision making, economic opportunity and reducing violence.

1. World Bank (2012). World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development, World Bank, Washington D.C., pp. xxii-xxiii.