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About the Author

Daniel Nylin Nilsson
Teacher (Lund, Sweden)

I am a dyed-in-the-wool blogger from Sweden, with a few years of experience from Southeastern Europe. I have no journalistic training per se, but on the other hand blogging for me has as much to do with creative writing as it has to do with journalism. I love to write, but live from other things, like care-taking, teaching, translating etc. And maybe this is the way I want it - as a blogger nothing is more dear to me than my independence.


E4 E-conference - First keynote

Published 14th April 2010 - 3 comments - 5801 views -

The good news are that more girls than ever are educated. The bad news are that roughly two thirds of all who get less than five years of education are girls. That number has changed only insignificantly since the beginning of this century.

The E4 e-conference discusses education and how it intersects with issues of gender equality and poverty. The conference set out this Monday, and during this first week the topic will be a fairly general introducion, named as: "Poverty, intersecting inequalities and girls’ rights to education".

You can watch the slides and listen to the keynote speech at the week's page. The slides are presented through Elluminate Live!, a solution that does not require any installation on your computer, only the ability to run javascript. Slides can also be shared and embedded, as I have done here. There is also an option to download the presentation as a MPEG4 file, all avaliable on the site.

Elaine Unterhalter and Amy North, both from the Institute of Education, University of London, take us through the slides. The situation they describe for girls in education is not rosy, but hopeful and problematic, depending on your point of view. Do you celebrate that the Gender Parity Index in Ethiopia improved from 0.69 to 0.92 between 1999 and 2006, which means that today almost as many Ethiopian girls as Ethiopian boys have acces to education? Or do you lament the fact that 83.2% of Pakistan's poorest girls get no education at all, which is almost as many as in Ethiopia (84.1%), even though Pakistan's GNI is roughly six times bigger than that of Ethiopia? These numbers can all be found on slide 5-6 in the presentation.

Universal education will remain a dream as long as girls are kept at home to do house work, or children are too poor to go to school. One of the most interesting parts of the presentation is the discussion about different perceptions of poverty on slide 7.

Poverty can be percieved as an absolute line. E.g. if you consume less than 1.25$ per day, you are considered poor. Such a definition of poverty is easy to measure and monitor, but it neglects important sides of reality, that avoid being measured.

Poverty can also be conceived as something relative and relational. A human being is only poor in comparison with another human being. Poverty is less about the resources at hand, and more about the power that these resources can buy.

Besides the dicotomy between absoute- and relative poverty, two other visions of poverty are presented - "poverty as a trap" and "poverty as fuel". These could be read as attempts at better describing the intriguing curse that poverty is.

Poverty is absolute and relative in the same time. The weakness that comes from being poorer than the human being next to you is visible on every school yard, or in any square in the richest of cities. It is relative, since your poverty would be a luxury in a different part of the world, but the burning shame you feel on your skin is a very absolute phenomenon.

Then there is the poverty that means lack of clean drinking water or unneccesary deaths in treatable diseases. That poverty is often something you share with your neighbouring slum dwellers, but nonetheless it is relative, as much data on development shows. The poor in Rio de Janeiro are much more likely to have access to clean drinking water than the poor in sub-Saharan Africa.

(Mexican slums, cc, Unkonwn Author)

And finally, poverty is a fuel, a prime mover. There is not one social problem that is not fuelled by poverty, be it international conflicts, alcoholism or domestic violence. Poverty is an evil on the social scale, an it ruins millions of individual lives. But it also holds the potential of change. As Andrei Tuch mentioned in a very interesting blog post, poverty can make people innovative about the little resources they have at hand.

When education becomes universal, what impact will it have on all of this? The impact wil probably be immense, and definitely unpredictable. The way we understand poverty will also affect what factors we choose to focus on in educational reforms - this week's E4 keynote suggest that a focus on attainment and adaptibility is as important as enrollment numbers. That is, it is not only important that kids go to school, but also what they get out of school. And how they can contribute to the environment they are put in.

The keynote comes with additional papers that can be found at the program site. I hope I will manage to sum them up in a blog post ahead.

The main attraction will neither be the keynote in itself, nor these papers. It will be the discussion that follows on the homepage. It is open for all, and easy to use - you comment on what was said in the keynote, or on other peoples' comments in a blog-like manner. To give the discussion a structure, the E4 conference team presented a set of questions, that follow here:

Understanding poverty & intersecting inequalities: What are the links between poverty, social division and discrimination against girls with regard to schooling in contexts you know well? What avenues exist to hear the voices of poor girls with regard to schooling and what actions result? How are partnerships across social sectors working with regard to girls’ rights to schooling? Addressing intersecting inequalities: iv) What intergenerational strategies to address gender inequalities in education exist in contexts you know well and what do evaluations show ? v) What advocacy for girls’ rights in education is taking place and with what outcomes? vi) What more could be done to enhance policy and practice


Do follow the discussion, and do take part in it! The world deserves that everyone that has an informed opinion voices it, and that anyone with a human heart listens.


  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 15th April 2010:

    I will get back to the homepage on the conference, but offhand, I agree that the lack of education is a sad reality for most people in the world. The problem is prevalent, too in the Philippines.

  • Daniel Nylin Nilsson on 15th April 2010:

    Check it out, it is a very interesting project. I have a teacher education, and I really lack this kind of global discussion about pedagogics.

    I hope to read more posts about the Phillipines, as I don’t know too much about this part of the world smile

  • Sylwia Presley on 25th July 2010:

    Brilliant, thx for sharing!:)

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