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The power of women’s education

by Natalie Leung

The 2007 Statistical Yearbook of Macau showed that the majority of legislative members, top officials and leading executives from companies were males, whilst the non-skilled labour sector was dominated by females.
The Women's General Association of Macau (AGMM) held a seminar about women's education at the Macau Tower yesterday. Five guest speakers from Macau and mainland China were invited to talk about how crucial it was for women to receive education and the challenges they were facing in a traditional Chinese society.
One of the speakers, president of the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT), Fanny Vong Chuk Kwan, quoted the UNESCO statistics that from 1970 to 2007, male university students jumped four times from 17.7 million to 75.1 million.
The increase in female university students was even more prominent, from 10.8 million to 77.4 million during the same period.
Yet, the IFT president said in some places especially in South Asia and West Asia, females were still facing certain restrictions in receiving tertiary education.
Ms Vong also said that based on the information from 10 countries in East Asia and Pacific Ocean, half of them reported a senior high school graduation rate of over 66 percent, in which Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Korea even exceeded 80 percent.
In contrast, China and Indonesia's senior high school graduation rates were below 60 percent.
However, Ms Vong said a high secondary graduation rate did not necessarily mean a high university enrollment rate.
For example in Malaysia, only 20 percent of graduates were eligible to enter universities, whilst in mainland China, two thirds of graduates were able to go to universities despite having just 53 percent of senior high school graduation rate.
Nevertheless, Ms Vong said in countries such as China, Chile and Japan, the university enrollment rate was not restricted by the secondary education graduation rate, but other factors namely tuition fees, living expenses or admission exams.
When looking at Macau's employment population, according to the 2007 Statistical Yearbook, nearly 75 percent of lawmakers, principal government officials, leading personnel from community organisations and enterprises and also managers were dominated by males, and only around 25 percent of the jobs were taken up by females.
In regard to non-skilled labour, females accounted for almost 61 percent, while males for 39 percent.
Ms Vong hence suggested the government reinforcing cooperation with associations to offer more diversified and flexible opportunities of continuing education for women, and said that families and employers should also support women to pursue further studies.
However, she pointed out that the traditional gender roles in a Chinese society – women have the responsibility to take care of family members and handle housework – were creating pressure and challenges for women nowadays.
On the other hand, another speaker, associate professor of the Faculty of Education from the University of Macau, Sylvia Ieong Sao Leng, said that Macau women's education qualification was on a rise over the recent years.
Yet, following the development of the gaming and tourism industries, Ms Ieong said "prostitution, gambling and drug problems" entered the community, and women and children were "most vulnerable to the influences".
Because of "ignorance or greed", she said women could become victims of the "sins" or even criminals.
Thus the associate professor urged families, schools, the community and the government to jointly promote women's awareness of the law so as to strengthen their "self-protection ability".
In addition, she said parenting education, sex education, moral and civic education were the "key" to prevent problems arisen from gaming-related illegal activities.