Evaluation of the Transformative Potential of Positive Gender Socialization in Education for Peacebuilding
The Gender Socialization in Schools program pilot training was conceived to provide teachers with useful skills to foster change in gender norms, which would then enable the greater potential for gender equality and peacebuilding in the conflict-affected Karamoja region. The training aimed to empower primary school teachers to promote positive models of masculinity and femininity, redress teachers’ gender biases and engage in social norm questioning. The program provided teachers with materials offering guidance on the use of alternative classroom practices that promoted gender equality and peaceful conflict resolution. Using teachers as agents of change seemed an appropriate way to increase the capacity of schools to provide conflict-sensitive education, as trained teachers seemed empowered to resolve problems related to girls’ unequal opportunities in education.
The Gender Socialization in Schools program pilot was developed by UNICEF and MoESTS under the umbrella of the Learning for Peace program and implemented in partnership with the non-governmental organizations Development Research and Training (DRT) and the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE). The Karamoja pilot included three training sessions between March and November 2015 to build teachers’ capacity as important agents of change and to foster a transformation of the negative gender norms and social norms that can contribute to the perpetuation of conflict in primary schools. The training specifically aimed to:
- empower primary school teachers to promote positive models of masculinity and femininity.
- question social norms and redress teachers’ gender biases.
- create awareness of alternative norms and practices related to gender equality.
- build teachers’ skills to engage pupils in constructive dialogue.
- provide teachers with materials to foster a shift in gender- and conflict-related attitudes and beliefs.
A teacher training manual and handbook on gender, conflict and peacebuilding were developed for the training. In addition, a subset of trained teachers received biweekly reinforcing SMS text messages from May to November 2015, to remind them about certain content covered in the training and to provide examples of good practices.
To evaluate the short-term impact of the teacher training and the complementary effects of the SMS messages, AIR conducted a mixed-methods cluster randomized controlled trial. Schools within the catchment area of a coordinating center tutor (CCT)5 were randomly assigned to receive one of the following:
- teacher training plus reinforcing text messages (complete intervention group)
- teacher training only (limited intervention group)
- no intervention at all (control, or business-as-usual, group).
The quantitative component of the evaluation used a culturally validated teacher survey to determine the impact of the two program components (teacher training and text messages) on teachers’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices. The evaluation compared teacher outcomes for the same individuals at the baseline and endline point, among teachers whose schools were randomly assigned to the complete intervention, limited intervention or control group. The qualitative component of the evaluation used interviews with key stakeholders, focus group discussions (FGDs) with teachers and students, and case studies of three schools to elaborate the quantitative impact findings. The qualitative data highlighted teachers’ construction of lessons learned from the intervention, teachers’ approaches to gender equality and social cohesion in their schools and the community, and the support and challenges that teachers encountered when applying what they had learned. The sample for the quantitative component included 105 schools (35 schools in each group) from eight CCT catchment areas in the districts of Abim, Kaabong and Napak. All teachers working in the selected schools were invited to participate in the study. Baseline data were collected in March 2015 and endline data in November 2015 from the same schools, with 650 teachers responding to both surveys. The sample for the qualitative component included data gathered from 15 CCTs, 8 randomly selected schools via interviews with their head teachers (n = 8), and FGDs with teachers (n = 40) and with Primary 4 students (n = 122). The qualitative data also included case studies from three schools perceived as high implementers by implementing partners. Data were gathered in these three schools via interviews with head teachers (n = 3), FGDs with teachers (n = 28) and with Primary 4 students (n = 46), and classroom observations (n = 3). Qualitative data were collected in September and November 2015.
Impact on Knowledge and Attitudes:
The results provide evidence for positive effects of the program on teachers’ knowledge and attitudes towards gender equality issues. The quantitative results show evidence for positive and statistically significant effects on various elements of teachers’ knowledge and attitudes, as measured by the index on knowledge about the difference between gender and sex, the three indexes of attitudes towards gender roles and the index on attitudes towards gender identity.
Impact on Practices:
Teachers reported having changed their classroom seating arrangement to mix girls and boys. Teachers also recognized that such practices were a way to increase girls’ classroom performance and unity among students. Teachers did not, however, adopt more complex ideas or practices from the training such as tailoring lessons to female and male needs or connecting gender equitable practices to peacebuilding. The short-term nature of the program may have limited its positive effects on more complex ideas and practices associated with gender equality, however. Future research may be required to determine the longer-term effects of the program on teacher practices.
Impact of reinforcing text messages:
We also found no clear evidence for positive complementary effects of the SMS text messaging component of the program.
Possibly, however, messages about gender equality are too complex to communicate via SMS messaging. It seems important to reconsider the content of these messages, how they are delivered and any limitations on teachers’ ability to access them.
The fact that the program focused on the gender attitudes of both women and men increased its long-term sustainability, but the potential of the program was limited, at least in the short term, by the limited exposure of teachers to the program and by community members’ lack of involvement.