El Salvador has announced that it will use the $15 million grant to tackle gender norms from an early age and support gender-equitable learning assessment from early childhood to secondary school.
Through this action, El Salvador becomes the first country to access the GPE Girls’ Education Accelerator. The $15 million grant combines $5 million from the Girls’ Education Accelerator and a $10 million Multiplier grant.
The grant furthers the girls’ education component of the Growing Together early childhood education policy, endorsed by the local education group through their Partnership Compact and selected as a policy priority to transform the education system.
The priority is supported by the homonymous World Bank programme “Growing Up and Learning Together: Comprehensive Early Childhood Development”, the Inter-American Development Bank programme Be Born, Grow Up and Learn and other interventions by partners.
As part of the joint sector review in November 2022, members of the local education group and the Ministry of Education discussed progress in the implementation of the 2022-2030 Sector Plan and the Compact. The discussion included potential monitoring indicators, as well as alternatives to strengthen planning and monitoring with an equity approach.
Understanding how the GEA will be used in El Salvador and how it made a difference in the country policy dialogue is particularly important as we learn from the early implementation of the GPE 2025 operating model.
Girls’ education at the center of El Salvador’s priorities
Commitment to gender equality and girls’ education is not new to El Salvador. However, it was often conceptualized as just one of multiple priorities. Engaging in a discussion centered on system transformation meant selecting policy priorities and re-assessing the role of gender equality in sector discussion.
The first noticeable difference was a growing interest in seeing gender equality fully integrated within the wider set of sector priorities, not simply tackled in parallel.
This led to the second change. When gender equality is seen as a separate priority, it is only natural to understand dialogue on gender equality to be more less independent of other priorities.
A transversal approach to gender equality in El Salvador meant that the expert in gender equality from the Ministry of Education team became involved in the wider dialogue around system transformation.
System transformation meant engaging in the dialogue and clearly identifying the gaps when it came to gender equality. Furthermore, it meant identifying the potential solutions with an agreed priority.
Here the country decided to engage in early childhood and learning, with a strong focus on gender equality within its Partnership Compact.
How is the Girls’ Education Accelerator being used in El Salvador?
In El Salvador, girls face substantial challenges around social norms within education, which continue as they get older, particularly as they reach adolescence. Bias associated to gender norms permeates into learning materials and assessments.
To address this challenge, the government and its partners plan to use the GEA to tackle gender norms from an early age and support gender-equitable learning assessment through two groups of activities:
Gender-sensitive texts and learning materials: The grant is being used to develop gender-sensitive literacy materials for children and their families. The added emphasis on gender will address harmful social norms that affect girls’ educational outcomes in the higher grades and labor outcomes in future years.
Gender-equitable learning assessment: The grant supports the revision of the “Know my Achievements” national standardized assessment and the “Achievements” assessment to ensure gender-equitable learning assessment frameworks (including a pilot early childhood education assessment and primary and secondary assessments). Learning assessment results will be disaggregated by gender, encouraging the use of these data for improved teaching and learning.
Reviewing the gender bias in learning assessments
As part of the preparations for developing a gender-responsive curriculum, the government of El Salvador conducted a review of the national test “Knowing my Achievements”. The review has shown that the test design reinforces misleading gender stereotypes on girls’ abilities and potential.
70% of test booklets analyzed in the four basic subjects (language, mathematics, science and social studies) included androcentric (centered or focused on men) items that suggested domestic and family care roles for girls, and overlooked women in, for example, employment in science careers.
An example of the gender bias came in the form of the illustrations used (example above), with women often represented engaging in household chores, and significantly underrepresented in historical scenes. Other examples come in the texts selected for analysis.
Stories like the kidnaping of Helen of Troy, from ancient Greek mythology, could be seen as normalizing kidnaping and a passive nature of women if not framed in the appropriate discussion.
Targeting the most vulnerable populations
The activities financed by the GPE grant build on existing public services and the work from other partners. For example, the gender-sensitive literacy materials support the national roll out of Family Circles by the government within the national Crecer Juntos policy. This material is also a component of the implementation of the early learning curriculum nationwide, with additional material distributed to teachers.
The materials will be targeted at municipalities identified based on poverty and enrollment rates to support the most vulnerable households. Guides for caregivers encourage reading at home as a means of improving pre-literacy skills as well as school readiness.
In addition, these activities focus on combatting gender stereotypes and harmful social norms to promote better gender equity and support girls’ future learning outcomes.
Through the deployment of the first Girls’ Education Accelerator grant, together with the Multiplier, GPE as a partnership supports El Salvador’s ambitious efforts to establish a gender-transformative education system.