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English-Medium Education in Low and Middle Income Contexts: Enabler or Barrier to Gender Equality?

Principal Investigator: Anna Kristina Hultgren

Co-Investigators: Freda Wolfenden, Lorena Lombardozzi

Funding body: British Council

Funding scheme: Gender and English-medium education research grant

Award: £100,000

Period: 1 April 2022 – 31 March 2024

Girls’ education is a global development priority and part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The EMEGen project explored the impact of the rapid rise of English as a Medium of Education on gender equality in low- and middle-income countries.

The research found that girls, particularly those from poorer families and minority communities, are significantly underrepresented in English-medium education at secondary level compared to boys. English-medium polices thus create gender- and class-based educational inequalities.

While English-medium education is not inherently superior to local-medium education, girls’ comparatively lesser access to it can limit their opportunities and restrict their onwards educational and professional options, many of which require English.

The research

The research was conducted by The Open University’s Centre for the Study of Global Development and funded by the British Council. It was carried out over two months in three government schools in Birgunj, Nepal, and Kano, Nigeria, with the help of local researchers in order to build trust and understanding. Across the two sites, we conducted in-depth ethnographic research to give voice to students, parents, teachers, principals and policymakers through observations, questionnaires, interviews and diary accounts.


The research has produced a report, a policy brief and a set of Open Educational Resources.

  • The report describes the research and the findings in greater detail.
  • The policy brief offers recommendations to policy makers in low- and middle-income countries on how to implement English-medium education in ways that do not counteract priorities to get girls into education.
  • The Open Educational Resources offer activities for school leaders, teachers and educational facilitators to include girls in English-medium education.

For more information, please contact the Principal Investigator, Professor Anna Kristina Hultgren.

Principal Investigator, Kristina Hultgren, surrounded by students in a school in Nepal.