WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, marking the 40th anniversary of landmark legislation that lifted barriers to girls and women in education and school sports, said on Saturday the law had achieved far-reaching gains in improving equality between the sexes.
In an op-ed piece published in Newsweek magazine, Obama said the legislation known as Title IX, signed in 1972 by President Richard Nixon, fostered a spirit of competition that has also helped girls and women succeed off the sports fields.
"Today, thanks in no small part to the confidence and determination they developed through competitive sports and the work ethic they learned with their teammates, girls who play sports are more likely to excel in school," he wrote.
Noting the growing self-confidence he has witnessed in his own 11 year old daughter, Sasha, and her school teammates as he coached them in basketball, Obama said that Title IX had opened the door by banning gender discrimination in public schools.
Title IX, part of a major amendment by Congress to U.S. education laws to improve equal opportunities, stated that no one should be barred from taking part in any education program or activity on the basis of their sex.
"Title IX ensures equality for our young people in every aspect of their education. It's a springboard for success," Obama said. "As president, I'll do my part to keep Title IX strong and vibrant, and maintain our schools as doorways of opportunity so every child has a fair shot at success."
Obama, campaigning in what polls show will be a tight race for re-election on Nov. 6, has made boosting public education and ensuring everyone gets a "fair shot" a central part of his appeal to voters.
As part of its commemoration of the law, the administration on Wednesday announced measures aimed at further boosting the number of women in science, math and technology fields.
In 1972, when the law was passed, 43 percent of students enrolling in degree-granting institutions were women, compared with 57 percent of new students in 2010.
(Reporting By Alister Bull; Additional reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Vicki Allen)