Girls' Education

What works in girls’ education

At Education Development Trust, we generate, disseminate and apply evidence on what works in ensuring girls’ learning. Through investment in public research, commissioned research for clients, and research into our own programmes, we aim to understand the elements of programming that are most effective. We then share evidence of what works and use data to help our partners to target resources and develop and scale good practices.

Over the years, we have built a wealth of research, consultancy and delivery experience and expertise in girls’ learning, giving us a strong understanding of the challenges and how to overcome them. We closely monitor and evaluate our work, so that the most effective approaches can be scaled, and disseminate evidence to inform decision-making at all levels of the system – from parents to ministers.  

Building on the wealth of evidence on the power of girls' education to transform the lives of girls themselves, their communities and their countries, our research also explores how girls' education can address pressing global challenges, such as climate change – see our Emerging Issue Report on Education, Girls’ Education, and Climate Change (March 2021). 


Our research provides vital information on how to build support around girls 

We research initiatives which support girls holistically in their learning. We recently investigated the power of girls’ reading camps (June 2021) exploring the impact of radio lessons, peer learning, and targeted paper-based resources on girls’ remote learning in Kenya. The research highlighted how technology is not a silver-bullet, instead pointing to the enormous potential of community co-operation in supporting girls’ learning. Similarly, a Helpdesk Report for UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on lessons learned from girls’ clubs (August 2020), identified a number of recommendations for the implementation and outcomes of these initiatives, including the importance of who facilitates and leads the clubs. 

Last year, to maximise the impact of a new pilot in Rwanda, we worked with Building Learning Foundations to conduct a baseline study called ‘Designing and Delivering Girls’ Clubs in Rwanda’ (Nov 2021) – this girl-centred situational analysis revealed important context for the pilot’s design, shedding a light on the attitudes, behaviours, knowledge and aspirations of girls, boys, caregivers and teachers. 

Recognising that teachers are among the most critical actors in ensuring meaningful change in education systems, a central focus of our research is how to ensure buy-in from teachers to gender-responsive pedagogy. We know the importance of ensuring teachers have the skills to deliver foundational learning for girls and boys, but we also know that teachers have a vital role in promoting gender equity, in and through their teaching. Our recent teachers as agents of change report, commissioned by the British Council in 2021, looked into how teachers are working in schools to improve girls’ education and gender equity in two states of Nigeria.


We deploy timely, rapid research responsive to policymakers’ needs  

In crises, we support governments by conducting rapid research into issues including girls’ participation and learning. We employ a ‘bright spots’ approach to this research – an extension of our public research approach – which ensures an emphasis on generating solutions rather than just highlighting the problem. 

At the start of the pandemic, we completed a helpdesk report for FCDO looking at girl-focussed remote life skills interventions (April 2020) and published a report on the links between girls’ life skills intervention in emergencies and their return to education post-crisis and prevention of unwanted pregnancies and early marriage (April 2020). Our evidence showed that life skills interventions can lead to improvements in self-esteem, social, emotional and psychological wellbeing, progressive gender norms and knowledge of sexual and productive health, all of which hold potential to contribute to broader social and educational outcomes – even in crisis settings. 

In addition, we conducted rapid response research to investigate the impact of school closures on girls and the potential mitigation strategies, based on existing evidence. We asked, ‘What are the lessons learned from supporting education for marginalised girls that could be relevant for EdTech responses to COVID-19 in lower- and middle-income countries?’ (May 2020). We found that addressing the cost of education can support girls’ participation in education through period of crisis, and that gender considerations are a vital component of the design and production of content for distance education. 


We continue to shine a light on those left furthest behind 

There are huge gaps in education for girls, but the gender gap interacts with multiple other disadvantages as well. In a report for the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) on the State of Girls’ Education in Crisis and Conflict (June 2021), we point to both the lack of education received by girls affected by crisis, including displaced and refugee children, and the comparative disadvantage female students face over their male counterparts. We recommend that sustainable solutions involve making mainstream schools and lessons accessible and responsive to the needs of girls. But to reach the most marginalised girls during a crisis, girl-focused interventions are also needed, such as provision of safe, girl-only learning spaces close to where girls live.  

In our research report on ‘Disadvantaged girls in Kenyan schools’ (2016), we aimed to identify in-school factors that might positively or negatively affect the participation and learning of marginalised girls in Arid and Semi-Arid Land and slum areas. The report suggests that schools should consider how they collect fees, build positive relationships between female pupils and teachers, and encourage active and professional leadership in order to build better learning environments in which girls are more likely to complete schooling and do well. 

Following Covid-19-related school closures across Rwanda, our Building Learning Foundations team commissioned an inequity impact assessment (Nov 2020) of primary-age school children to inform plans for school reopening – the study highlighted particular dangers for pre-adolescent and adolescent girls in terms of learning loss, as well as children for with either disabilities or chronic diseases. 


Research in the pipeline 

The powerful story told by existing evidence means girls' education remains a policy and strategic priority for governments around the world. We are committed to ongoing research into the complex barriers to girls’ education and the multitude of interventions and approaches which can advance progress for girls’ learning. Our forthcoming research includes: 

  1. Understanding what pedagogic approaches are most effective in helping girls learn and the impacts of gender responsive pedagogy on girls’ learning, both cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes; 

  1. Developing new metrics to measure gender responsive pedagogy; and 

  1. Studying how schools can impact girls’ aspirations and career choices.

To explore more of our insights and evidence on what works in education, visit our research page.