2019 International Women’s Day: Toward gender equality in education

The 8th of March is celebrated around the world as International Women’s Day. It is a day to reflect on how far we have come and how far we still have to go to truly achieve gender equality.

The United Nations (UN) Women’s global theme for IWD 2019 is ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’. In Australia, the UN Women’s IWD 2019 theme is ‘More Powerful Together’ which recognises the important role that we all play – as women, men, non-binary and gender diverse people. It takes all of us, working in collaboration and across that which sometimes divides us, breaking down stereotypes and gendered roles to create a world where women and girls everywhere have equal rights and opportunities. ‘More Powerful Together’ is a clarion call to stand in unison for gender equality.

Gender equality is a global priority for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and it is inextricably linked to its efforts to promote the right to education and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through the Education 2030 Framework for Action, SDG 4 aims to ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ and SDG 5 to ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.’

According to UNESCO, there are large gender gaps that still exist in access, learning achievement and continuation in education in many settings, most often at the expense of girls, although in some regions boys are at a disadvantage. Despite progress, more girls than boys still remain out of school – 16 million girls will never set foot in a classroom, and women account for two thirds of the 750 million adults without basic literacy skills (UNESCO Institute for Statistics).

In recognition of International Women’s Day, there is an importance in reflecting on our discipline, our professional practice and our participation in discussions, various boards, committees, causes or community events. It should allow us to step back and examine what it is that we are currently producing or raising an awareness about that can contribute to supporting the rights that girls and women have to participate in, complete and benefit from education. This ties in well with the IWD themes for this year ‘think equal, build smart, innovate for change’ and ‘more powerful together’.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, I am delighted to share a list of academic publications from female academics whom I have had the privilege in working alongside here in Melbourne, Australia. These women are actively engaging in teaching, research, service and leadership in academia, higher education, across industries and communities. Each academic has a vast range of experiences within the education sector which I have found to be inspiring. In addition, I have included a recent publication of mine in the list below for your reference.

Title:  Fairies in the Bush: The Emergence of a National Identity in Australian Fairy Tales

Abstract:  The outpouring of national sentiment as the colonies moved towards Federation heralded a quest for the ‘Australianising’ of children’s books: fairy tales were no exception. European fairy folk were placed in, or perhaps transported to, bush settings as authors re-imagined the ways in which the emigrant old-world creatures could claim a place in the Australian environment. This paper explores efforts of the early writers to locate an Australian fairyland in the ‘bush’ and contribute to the transmission of national identity.

Floyd, R.K. (2017). Fairies in the bush: The emergence of a national identity in Australian fairy tales, TEXT Special Issue 43, October 2017. Eds Nike Sulway, Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario, Belinda Calderone.  Full Text

Author Profile: Dr. Robyn Kellock Floyd


Title:  Principals’ Views on the Importance of Numeracy as Children Start Primary School

Abstract:  This paper addresses data arising form initial discussions with school principals convening the implementation of a doctoral project in their schools. The doctoral project involved the prep teacher working with the preschool teacher to support children’s numeracy practises as they made the transition to school. The findings presented in this paper suggest that numeracy might not be a key priority for schools as children make the transition from preschool to primary school, despite government policy, frameworks and curriculum documentation advocating the otherwise.

Goff, W., Dockett, S., Perry, B. (2013). Principals’ views on the importance of numeracy as children start primary school. In. V. Steinle, L. Ball & C. Bardini (Eds.), Mathematics education: Yesterday, today and tomorrow (Proceedings of the 36th annual conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia). Melbourne, VIC: MERGA. Full Text

Author Profile: Dr. Wendy Goff


Title:  Interrogating the promise of a whole school approach to intercultural education: an Australian investigation

Abstract:  Intercultural education (ICE) is a priority for schools and schooling systems worldwide. While extensive policy and academic literature exists that describes how ICE should be done in schools, relatively little has been published about the pragmatics of implementing and enacting ICE, despite evidence that principals, teachers and schools feel ill equipped to teach and engage in ICE. This article investigates how schools implementing ICE are confronted with distinctive challenges. Engaging methodological tools of social constructivism (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005) and an analytical lens supported by social cultural theories of identity and representation (Hall, 1997; Gee, 2004), we argue that the everyday experiences and practices of teachers need be explored, but also interrogated and understood otherwise (Lather, 1991). We draw on qualitative data from a large scale study conducted in schools in Victoria, Australia. We present three vignettes that elucidate how ICE was enacted at the principal, curriculum and teacher levels. Each vignette is based upon a key challenge confronted by schools and illustrates the processes different schools used to tackle these issues and to embed ICE into the daily schooling practice.

Ohi, S. , O’Mara, J., Arber, R., Hartung, C., Shaw, G., Halse, C. (2018). Interrogating the promise of a whole school approach to intercultural education: an Australian investigation. European Educational Research Journal, 1-14, August 2018. DOI: 10.1177/1474904118796908  Full Text

Author Profile:  Dr. Sarah Ohi


Title:  The Ako Conceptual Framework:  Toward a Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Pedagogy

Abstract:  This article offers a new model, the Ako Conceptual Framework (ACF), as a theoretical proposition to add to the critical discourse and development of culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogies within the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. By drawing on the socio-cultural theory and the concept of Zone of Proximal Development, the ACF conceptualises the intersection of culture and pedagogy using a Tongan epistemology. The ACF positions the vā (a space that is relational which enables authentic relationships to be established, nurtured and maintained) and tauhi vaha`a/vā (a responsibility that teachers, schools, educational leaders and practitioners have to establish, nurture and maintain authentic relationships) as the fundamental concepts in the development of culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogies. It is theorised that by recognising Tongan strengths-based principles, values and educational concepts, the taumu`a `oe ako (the purpose for teaching and learning), founga ako (the concepts of teaching), and feinga ako (the concepts of learning) can be aligned. Thereby, recognising and acknowledging the various knowledge systems that the students from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds arrive at school with. The concepts and implications of the ACF are discussed in this this article.

Pale, M. (2019). The Ako Conceptual Framework: toward a culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogy. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, DOI: 10.1080/1359866X.2019.1575945  Full Text

Author Profile: Dr. Maryanne Pale


Title: One-To-One Learning and Self-Determination Theory

Abstract: One-to-one learning refers to an instructional environment where all students have their own personal computer and relevant software available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This qualitative phenomenological study was conducted with 11 Year Six classroom teachers who were conducting one-to-one learning programs. Through this study’s analysis made using the lens of self-determination theory, it was found that teachers could use the affordances of one-to-one learning classroom environments to support students’ autonomy, competence and relatedness needs, enhancing student motivation. These findings may be applicable in other similar contexts. The findings of this study provide a unique contribution to knowledge around one-to-one learning and student motivation through the lens of self determination theory. This study will enable educators to recognise the affordances of one-to-one learning environments in optimising student motivation.

Turner, K. (2019). One-To-One Learning and Self-Determination Theory, International Journal of Instruction, 12(2). Full Text

Author Profile: Dr. Kristina Turner


Title: The Relationship Between Student Attitude to School Survey Results and NAPLAN Results

Abstract: In recent years many policy and curriculum reforms aimed at improving Australian students’ literacy and numeracy levels have been introduced into schools and in initial teacher education. Despite this, the Australian National Assessment Plan, Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) data indicates that there has been little or no improvement in Australian students’ literacy and numeracy levels over recent years. Some researchers propose that there is a correlation between students’ positive affect, engagement and relationships and their academic outcomes. Using correlation analysis this study set out to identify if there was a statistically significant relationship between the Victorian Department of Education and Training’s student Attitudes to School Survey and academic outcomes as measured by NAPLAN standardised testing. This study finds some statistically significant relationships between student Attitudes to School Survey results and NAPLAN scores. This paper presents a study that provides a unique contribution to the current knowledge base around the correlation between student Attitudes to School Survey results and NAPLAN academic outcomes. These findings may have applicability in similar contexts.

Turner, K., & Pale, M. (2019). The Relationship Between Student Attitude to School Survey Results and NAPLAN Results. Issues in Educational Research Journal, 29(1), 282-300. Full Text


Title:  Emerging into Authentic Academic Life: Anxiety, Masks of Selves, Mindful Observation and Perfectionist Performance

Abstract: This chapter describes experiences associated with the demands of a doctoral program, which is known to pose personal and professional risks for candidates and sees low attrition and completion rates. Current studies suggest that problems in areas of supervision, finance and academic performance increase candidates’ feeling of isolation, anxiety and emotional exhaustion. Perfectionist tendencies, anxiety and the very real risk of non-completion are discussed in this chapter as triggers for negative self-preservation behaviours. Drawing on my personal narrative of the candidature years, I explore my lived experience of the disintegration of the self through the use of dramaturgy framework. I highlight the complexities of the academic setting and the grappling with appearance and performance. I trace the shifts in my personal capacity to see and regulate masking of self through describing the struggles of an eating disorder towards an experience of an authentic Aware Self. Extracts from my personal journals are used to share some strategies based on yoga and mindful practice that have helped to break free from measured perfectionism. The chapter offers ways of knowing the self(s) in a Ph.D. candidature and may help doctoral candidates and supervisors to identify points of need to support those who seem to have it all under control.

Wilson A. (2018). Emerging into Authentic Academic Life: Anxiety, Masks of Selves, Mindful Observation and Perfectionist Performance. In: Lemon N., McDonough S. (eds) Mindfulness in the Academy. Springer, Singapore DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-2143-6_3  Full Text

Author Profile: Dr. Anat Wilson 


Title: Self-cultivation and the legitimation of power: Governing China through education

Abstract: A revival of Confucianism in post-Mao China helped the government legitimate its power in the face of a new socio-political and economic situation. This paper specifically explores the role of Confucian self-cultivation in China’s governance. Drawing on Beetham’s theory of legitimation of power and Weber’s tri-typology of authority, we argue that self-cultivation, appealing to ingrained cultural values and traditions, fulfils the criteria of legitimation of power through two principles, namely, differentiation and community interest. In the context of suzhi education (education for quality) and China’s national university entrance exam (gaokao), we interrogate tensions and paradoxes between the need for a presentation of modern and liberal authority and the CCP’s one-party rule. The paper illustrates the complexity of China’s authoritarianism and the intricacies and intrinsic  relevance of self-cultivation in current practice.

Wu, B., & Devine, N. (2018). Self-cultivation and the legitimation of power: Governing China through education. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 50:13, 11921202 DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2017.1395737  Full Text

Author Profile:  Dr. Bin Wu


Title: Cheng (誠) as ecological self-understanding: Realistic or impossible? 

Abstract: Recent studies have recognised the Confucian holistic perspective as transformative in addressing the ecological concerns. This article complements and complicates this line of argument. The aforementioned literature has seldom examined whether or not the Confucian ideal is attainable. Centring on cheng, a Confucian metaphysical concept, this article highlights the struggle between the ideal and the real. The discussion is based on the premise that essential to the current ecological crisis is a need to reconfigure the meaning and purpose of humanity on the planet; utopianism, evoking images of a society radically different from the existing one, has the potential to instigate transformations. Utopias of all kinds encounter the tension between ideal and practice. Webb proposes an analytical framework of utopia-as-system and utopiaas-process. The former stresses an idealised blueprint and the latter attends to localised practice. For any radical change to occur, it is imperative to adopt both. Drawing on the research of ecotopia and edutopia, this article argues that Confucianism has a utopian impetus. As ecological self-understanding, cheng challenges modern assumptions regarding humanity and ecology. The concept represents a model of both utopia-as-system and utopia-as-process, and it has the potential to inspire change. It is, however, not without complication.

Wu, B. (2019). Cheng (誠) as ecological self-understanding: Realistic or impossible? Educational Philosophy and Theory. DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2018.1564662  Full Text


I hope that the academic publications in the list above will encourage readers, particularly girls and women, to pursue a career in the field of teacher education and higher education, to advocate for changes to be made so that education is accessible for all, and to work towards empowering all to benefit from having an education. Furthermore, may we take on board the IWD themes for this year and apply it to what we choose to contribute towards so that we will continue to ‘think equal, build smart, innovate for change’ and recognise that our work is ‘more powerful together’.

To conclude, the following statement rings true and it is a timely reminder for us all:

“The ability to read, write, and analyze; the confidence to stand up and demand justice and equality; the qualifications and connections to get your foot in that door and take your seat at that table – all of that starts with education.  And trust me, girls around the world, they understand this.  They feel it in their bones, and they will do whatever it takes to get that education.”Michelle Obama

Happy International Women’s Day!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s