8. Education, masculinities and gender norm change

There is a strong association between education, particularly secondary education, and changing masculinities. This section brings together some of the references to education and changing masculinities highlighted in the previous section as well as some additional material. Barker et al. (2012) suggest key ways in which secondary education contributes to more equitable gender norms:

  • Secondary class sizes are usually smaller, which reduces teacher stress and is probably more conducive to building the critical thinking skills associated with justice-based reasoning and more gender-equitable attitudes.
  • Boys who reach secondary school generally have longer periods of interaction with girls as equals in the classroom over longer periods. The enforcement of rules and collective solutions to problems probably also contributes to a greater awareness and practical experience of  social justice and fairness, which spills over into notions of gender equality. 
  • Secondary school teachers often have higher levels of education themselves, which makes it more likely that they will promote and support gender equality.

The impact of schooling may vary from issue to issue. For example, none of the men in the Promundo and ICRW study of Men Who Care identified their education as a key factor in them taking up non-traditional gender roles – in this case, professional caring roles or doing most of the care for their own children. This contrasts with the findings on general attitudes to gender equality, and on issues such as gender-based violence, son preference and child marriage. 

As the role of boys and men as potential change agents has been increasingly recognised, there have been more attempts to promote gender-equitable masculinities through formal and informal education. A review (in progress) by the Overseas Development Institute is examining the impact of programmes that aim to promote gender equality and gender-egalitarian masculinities among adolescent boys through the school curriculum, through school-based clubs and through informal community-based education programmes. 

Marcus, R. 2017 Education and gender norm change, ALIGN, London, UK