These stereotypes are projected onto young girls and often undermine their self-confidence, setting them up for failure, UNICEF says.
Ingrained within these standards, the agency says there needs to be a commitment to assess learning regularly, improving the delivery of instructions, prioritizing teaching the fundamentals and caring for mental wellbeing. “We need to dispel the gender stereotypes and norms that hold girls back – and do more to help every child learn the foundational skills they need to succeed in school and in life.”— UNICEF (@UNICEF) September 14, 2022
Household wealth is also a determining factor. The report notes that schoolchildren from the richest households have 1.8 times the odds of acquiring numeracy skills by the time they reach fourth grade, than children from the poorest households.
Data from 79 middle and high-income countries show more than a third of 15-year-olds have yet to achieve minimum proficiency in mathematics. These statistics reveal the depth of educational issues plaguing all genders.
“Girls have an equal ability to learn mathematics as boys – what they lack is an equal opportunity to acquire these critical skills,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
Opportunity fails to knock
The report further recognizes the long-term effects of sustained gender disparities, specifically noting how boys are more likely to step up and apply for jobs in mathematics. The finding represents a stark gender gap, depriving the entire world of talent in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Ahead of next week’s crucial Transforming Education Summit, UNICEF warns that children who do not master basic maths and other foundational learning, may struggle to perform critical tasks in the future.
Similarly, mass disruptions to education systems worldwide have delayed progress for all students. In countries where girls are more likely to be out of school than boys, the overall disparities in mathematics proficiency have been growing since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figures tell the story
Negative gender norms and stereotypes often held by teachers, parents, and peers regarding girls’ innate inability to understand mathematics, are contributing to this disparity.
The report further also notes the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on further entrenching gender disparities.
The report features new data analyses covering more than 100 countries and territories, which reveal in headline terms, that boys are up to 1.3 times likely to get the maths skills they need, compared to girls.
In her concluding comments Ms. Russell said: “With the learning of an entire generation of children at risk, this is not the time for empty promises. To transform education for every child, we need action and we need it now.”
An analysis of data from 34 low and middle-income countries featured in the report, shows that while girls lag behind boys, three-quarters of schoolchildren in grade 4 elementary classes, are not obtaining foundational numeracy skills.