Exploring the gender differences in selection of subjects at higher education levels


  • Aishath Shafina


Higher Education, Gender, Equality, Subjects, Discipline


This paper sheds light on the higher education system of the Maldives from the perspective of gender equality between men and women. The findings presented in the paper are based on the results of a survey conducted among students enrolled in higher education institutions and on desk-research of relevant policy documents. The study explores the reasons for patterns of enrolment, reasons for selection of a particular study field and influence over the decision for selecting a discipline to study in higher education. Choices of whether they are simply down to the interest of the individuals or a matter of availability and affordability are explored in the research. Pressure from family, peers, work environment, stereotypes of masculine and feminine ideology, and availability of employment opportunities associated with particular disciplines are also discussed within the framework of this study in order to understand their relevance to deciding subject choice in higher education. The research shows that students’ decision are affected by reasons beyond subject or discipline The study shows that gender dichotomy is very much prevalent in the higher education system of the Maldives.

Author Biography

Aishath Shafina

Aishath Shafina is currently working as the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Higher Education in the Maldives. Prior to her appointment at the Ministry of Higher Education, she worked as the Dean (Humanities and Social Sciences) and the Acting Chairperson at one of the longest-serving colleges in the Maldives, Mandhu College. She has completed PhD in Sociology from the University of Peradeniya. Her thesis focused on Gender Differentials in Enrollment, Retention and Completion of Higher Education in the Maldives. She completed Masters in Socioeconomic Development from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. She has also served in several academic and project management positions, in academia, INGOs and central government. She has worked as a Research Officer in the Parliament of the Maldives and the Ministry of Environment, Maldives. And as the Project Director at Office of the President, Maldives. In addition to being a Research Fellow at the SAARC Cultural Centre, she has provided consultancy services to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Global Partnership for Education (GPE), and the Education First (EF). Her research interests are equity, morality, and education. She is passionate about sustainable socio-economic development and educational transformation. 






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