International Baccalaureate Extended Essay 2017 Subject Area: World Studies - Politics and Human Rights Topic: Social Barriers Preventing Gender Equality in Education Research Question: How have social attitudes in India limited the efficacy of initiatives designed to achieve gender equality in education? Word Count: 3,406
Abstract The purpose of this research is to show the underlying impact of patriarchal norms on gender inequality in education in India’s modern society. Although many policies have been enacted, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), there is still gender disparity within the nation’s education system. This disparity is caused by traditional social norms that halt progression towards gender equality including outdated ideas of women’s health and safety, marriage rights, and their roles in the household and the workplace. It is these patriarchal mindsets that prevent legislation from fully working in every Indian state.
Table of Contents A. Introduction…………………………………………………………………..……………1 B. Investigation a. History of Education in India…….………..………………....……….……….…..2 b. Government Interventions Addressing Education and Gender Inequality i.
Millennium Development Goals...…………………………………...…....5
Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act…...…….…......6
c. Current State of Gender Parity in Education………….………………………..…8 d. Traditional Social Attitudes and Failure to Meet Initiatives…....….………....….10 C. Conclusion……………………………………………………………………….…..…..14 D. Works Cited……………………...…………………………………………………....…15
A. Introduction Throughout the 21st century in India, there have been many changes made in an attempt to improve gender equality in education. Recognizing this issue of rising global importance is necessary for future development of the country, not only in achieving equality of women but for progressing the nation as a whole. India has made progress towards considerable change by enacting multiple policies that have directly addressed education as well as gender inequality. Two of the most influential policies are the United Nations Development Programme’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE). The MDGs, specifically sections 2 (Achieve Universal Primary Education) and 3 (Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women), explain in depth the need for gender parity and nationwide education in today’s rapidly changing world and how to accomplish these goals. Much like the MDGs, the RTE lays out a detailed plan that creates mandatory primary education for all children ages 6 to 14. Together, these policies have generated alterations on the current state of gender equality in education. Despite these gains, there are factors within Indian society that prevent this change from occurring. Traditional social norms that have existed throughout the country’s history hinder the advancement towards gender parity. Within this evaluation, I will discuss the impacts of the MDGs and the RTE on gender equality in education and how patriarchal attitudes have limited change in India.
B. Investigation a. History of Education in India India’s education system contains three levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary education supports children in grades one through eight and is split into two subcategories; lower primary and upper primary. Secondary level education, grades nine through twelve, is also broken into the lower secondary and senior secondary sections. Finally, tertiary, or higher education, is the choice to pursue a degree or any level of education past secondary school. The early history of Indian education, before Indian independence in 1947, is well detailed by James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden, editors of India: A Country Study: Historically, Indian education has been elitist. Traditional Hindu education was tailored to the needs of Brahman (members of the highest Hindu caste) boys who were taught to read and write by a Brahman teacher. During Mughal rule (1526-1858), Muslim education was similarly elitist, although its orientation reflected economic factors rather than those of caste background. Under British company and crown rule (1757-1947), official education policies reinforced the pre-existing elitist tendencies of South Asian education. By tying entrance and advancement in government service to academic education, colonial rule contributed to the legacy of an education system geared to preserving the position and prerogatives of the more privileged. Education served as a “gatekeeper,” permitting an avenue of upward mobility to those few able to muster sufficient resources. Indian education was historically not only elitist, but also deeply-rooted in strict patriarchal norms. The underprivileged population, including a majority of women and girls, were left to
operate within these harsh cultural perspectives. At the turn of the millennium, a little more than half a century after Indian independence, there was still great disparity in educational achievements and a growing need for awareness and action on these issues. One study, the Public Report of Basic Education (PROBE), in 1999 collected results from a household survey of villages selected randomly in five states across India. About 40% of the population was questioned as well as about half of all children not in school. It was found that only one of each of the five states questioned had made notable progress towards the goal of achieving universal elementary level education. The remaining four states still had a great disparity. In a separate report by the National Center on Education and the Economy, at the primary and secondary levels of education, students took achievement level tests that showed progress of learning. The results from 2001 showed extremely low levels of achievement in many basic skills of literacy within the curriculum. The Government of Indiaâ€™s Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) Department of School Education and Literacy produces yearly statistics as an overview of accomplishments within the education system. The MHRD released the Human Development Report based on the results of a census conducted in 2001. This report stated that approximately 58 million of the children in India in the age group 6 to 14 were out of school. Out of the students attending school, 73% of girls dropped out before their last year. The census also produced gross enrollment rates that showed a great gender disparity in primary education with 90.3% of boys and just 72.4% of girls enrolled. Also at this time, over 34% of the adult population did not know how to read or write which meant that almost a third of the entire non-literate adult population in the world lived in India. Out of Indiaâ€™s adult female population, over half (52.2%) were illiterate compared to just over a quarter (26.6%) of
adult males. It wasnâ€™t until the new millennium that the Indian government prioritized attempts to alter the current state of gender equality in education.
b. Government Interventions Addressing Education and Gender Inequality i. Millennium Development Goals The United Nations Millennium Declaration was created in 2000 as a method of eradicating extreme poverty and other deprivations across the world. Each of the 189 UN member states agreed to 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were created shortly after the declaration. India was one of the countries that agreed to accomplish the MDGs in an attempt to fix major issues within their developing nation. The goals were used as a mode of tracking each country’s progress towards eliminating all forms of poverty by 2015. Progress reports were sent yearly to the United Nations headquarters as a method of checking the rate of development. The two goals that focused primarily on equality and education are the second and third. The second goal, to achieve universal primary education, called for countries to, “Ensure that by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary education”. The third MDG goal was created to promote gender equality and empower women and urged member states to, “Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015”. The adoption of these goals was evidence that the government of India was beginning to recognize a greater need for gender equality in education.
ii. Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act After the introduction of the MDGs, the United Nations tracked progress of achievements in its focus countries. In 2005, a UN study found that, “It is estimated that for every 100 girls that enroll in school in rural India, 40 will reach grade four, 18 will reach grade eight, 9 will reach grade nine, and only 1 will make it to grade twelve.” In response to their findings, the Indian Government recognized a need for further interventions to address this disparity. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) was adopted in 2009. The RTE was introduced to drive implementation of the 86th Amendment to the Constitution of India, which states the need for the fundamental right to education. The law came into effect on April 1st, 2010 and was the first time in the history of India that a law was enacted through a public speech by the Prime Minister. Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister, stated, "We are committed to ensuring that all children, irrespective of gender and social category, have access to education. An education that enables them to acquire the skills, knowledge, values and attitudes necessary to become responsible and active citizens of India”. The goal of the RTE, to create free education for all children ages 6 to 14, states that no child within these age limits who attends a government owned and supported primary school should be liable for any expenses that could prevent him or her from receiving this full education. Compulsory education requires providing admissions services, accounts for student attendance, and ensures the completion of the primary level of education for all children within this age group. Besides the free and compulsory components of this act, there are many other elements that set the stage for change within the school systems. Each school, private or public, sets minimum standards for all children that include student-teacher ratios, number of school
days per year, separate toilet facilities for boys and girls, etc. Along with these new standards, there are policies to prevent discrimination, harassment, and detentions in an effort to provide full student involvement. Finally, an increase in the quantity and quality of teachers, the creation of local School Management Committees (SMCs), and the Grievance Redressal (GR) system provide all around development for students and hold each community accountable for non-compliance. Each goal of the RTE was designed with the hope of building human potential and talent useful to every childâ€™s future. With the enactment of the RTE, the government set the stage for improvements within the education system and the current state of parity in India.
c. Current State of Gender Equality in Education How have these initiatives changed the current landscape of Indian education? At first glance, huge strides have been made towards lowering the number of children out of school in India. The number of children not attending school ages 6-13 has dropped from 58 million in 2001 to 38 million as of the 2011 census. Although 20 million more children now attending school is a large step in the right direction, 38 million children out of school remains a grave issue for Indian society. Illiteracy rates have also dropped. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook in 2015, 28.8% of the Indian adult population is illiterate (compared to 34% in 2001). The number of adult females who did not know how to read or write dropped from 52.2% to 39.4% and the same measure for males dropped from 26.6% to 18.7%. In an article, titled "India Will Be Late by 50 Years in Achieving Education Goals: UNESCO", from The Indian Express, overall progress has been made towards achieving these goals but improvements are further behind than expected: Going by the current trend, India will be half a century late in achieving its global education commitments and the country needs fundamental changes in the education system… UNESCO’s new Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report says that based on current trends… India is expected to achieve universal primary education in 2050, universal lower secondary education in 2060 and universal upper secondary education in 2085. Additionally, enrollment numbers can be significantly higher than actual daily attendance rates and dropout rates are often not accounted for in the total enrollment figures. Reaching the targets may be even further than the UNESCO predictions. While notable improvements
occurred after implementing the second MDG and the goals laid out in the RTE, a huge gender gap still remains. In the article, "Why Girls in India Are Still Missing out on the Education They Need”, by Rachel Williams from The Guardian mentions that, “It is girls, and marginalised groups such as the very poor and the disabled, who are often left behind...Of the out-of-school children in 2008, 62% were girls; they make up two-thirds of illiterate 15- to 24-year-olds.” Even though these initiatives have been introduced, why are there still children, primarily girls, not in school? The reason lies within traditional Indian culture and the social attitudes towards educating girls.
d. Traditional Social Attitudes and Failure to Meet Initiatives One of the biggest issues in India’s modern society that prevents gender equality in education is the patriarchal system that has been firmly rooted in Indian culture for centuries. Traditional values about the role of men and women in society have not adapted even as India has emerged as a major global economy. Some of these ideas include outdated perspectives of women’s health and safety, their roles in the household, as well as in marriage and the workplace. According to Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Director of the Center for Social Research in New Delhi, these ideas have been present throughout India’s history: “We’ve been featuring at the bottom of the gender equity pyramid for years. So what’s new? Though the gender agenda has higher visibility in India now, that positive momentum hasn’t really translated into higher investment for women in different sectors due to continued discrimination and ineffectual laws and policies.” To set the stage for gender attitudes in the country, one can look to significant imbalances in the number of boys born compared to girls. The uneven sex ratio at birth points to the existence of female infanticide, also known as gender selective killing, which occurs when the gender of the child is revealed. Today because of years of high rates of female infanticide, there are roughly 44 million fewer females than males in India. A female child can be seen as a financial burden for families due to both a lower lifetime earning potential (compared to males), and the potential loss of family assets through the dowry tradition. It is important to mention gender selective killing and some of the reasons behind it, because for families that do have a girl, these same social attitudes persist and affect the girl’s education. There is less parent
motivation to send a girl to school due to many of these same pre-existing attitudes. The Indian Education Report states: Educating girls is a particular challenge. India’s high fertility rates promote a social bias against educating young girls. Parents lack the resources to provide a quality education for all of their children, and therefore invest scarce resources in boys, for whom the market returns to the investment in education are perceived to be higher. The PROBE study did find, however, that 98 percent of parents surveyed felt that education was necessary for boys, and 89 percent of parents felt it necessary for girls. Some studies suggest that parents are more likely to incur private expenditure for sons than daughters. It is not only the prioritization of male children that impacts female access to education. Health and safety issues, such as a girl’s menstrual cycle and the risk of abduction or rape on the way to school, play a huge role as well. It is believed that when a girl begins her cycle she should stay home because feminine products are either scarce or too expensive. There is also a huge lack of toilet facilities, which ends up being a large issue for girls’ attendance rates. And still today, women can be seen as “impure” during their cycle and there is some level of shame when it comes to the topic of menstruation during school. According to a 2017 article from The Wire, “In rural India, 23% of girls have listed menstruation as the chief reason for dropping out of school. As many as 28% of them said they do not go to school during their period because they lack clean and affordable protection…” Additionally, parents fear for their daughter’s safety on their usual routes to and from school. When there are long walks to and from school, mixed gender classes, and male teachers, parents see multiple threats to their daughter’s
virginity, which in addition to being a horrific event for their child, would also be a threat to the family’s honor. Another patriarchal attitude that holds firm within traditional Indian society is the belief that women and girls should remain at home while the men receive an education and enter the workforce. Although it seems that the number of girls in school compared to boys has increased, the actual picture is much more complex. Some primary school enrollment figures show the ratio of girls to boys is almost equal. However, there are underlying factors that prevent girls from coming to school on a given day. For example, if a family member is sick or there are chores to be done, the girl is more likely to be told to stay home to take care of the issue. The statistics that show gender parity in education do not portray everyday attendance. In the same article by Rachel Williams featured on The Guardian better portrays this social attitude, “Meena, who comes from a Dalit family – the caste formerly known as ‘untouchables’– had imagined herself working for the police, or becoming a teacher. ‘My parents are looking for a boy for me,’ she says. ‘They say I can get married and then I can study. But I know that once I get married, it will become very difficult. My dream will never come true.’” It is this mindset that has been passed down from generation to generation that keeps the country from progressing. There are also many cultural ideologies that support child marriage, which is yet another factor that keeps young girls out of school. In some cases, it is seen as more beneficial to marry off a daughter at a young age to reduce expenses, or as a proactive measure to protect the girl’s and family’s honor, but marriage is often the end of a girl’s education. Young wives are supposed to stay at home to cook, clean and perform household chores while the husband is at work. Also, once they are married, they are expected to have children, adding to the workload at
home. Additionally, the experiences of the mother reflect onto any daughters she has, and the cycle of inequality continues. In 2006, The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act banned marriage for girls below 18 and boys below 21, but according to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children 2009” report, “47% of India’s women aged 20-24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% in rural areas.” The pre-existing social norms not only exist throughout communities in India, but also in the education systems. According to a report titled “An Analysis of the Indian Further Education System Regarding Gender Inequality”, the issues remaining in Indian society exist because of pre-existing cultural ideologies, “The variety of obstacles that girls’ face in accessing even the lower levels of education mean that a multi-disciplinary, inclusive approach is needed to improve the situation in India.” This quote refers directly to the issue presented in Indian culture. If the government was able to spur a change in some of the social attitudes that stop progression of the country towards parity, true gender equality could be achieved. However, it is difficult to change the mindset of many individuals that have carried the same beliefs for their entire lives.
C. Conclusion Many Indian citizens live in communities where social pressures are far more effective than any legislation. With these attitudes in place, it is difficult to enforce legislation in an attempt to solve the issue of girls’ equality in education. Although the enactment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act have spurred changes in the education systems, there still remains an underlying gap. These attitudes range from outdated points of view on the health and safety of women, women’s roles throughout the household, marriage, and the workplace. Because these ideas are so deeply rooted in Indian culture, the new legislation enacted does not fit in. This ignorance can harm the society, causing little economic and social growth and no improvement through governmental actions. Ultimately, this legislation cannot be denied if the country wishes to grow and prosper. In an article, titled "'Court of Sex' Is the Bollywood Show Trying to Confront the Patriarchy in India” from The Sydney Morning Herald, India is beginning to bring these discussions of equality to the forefront, in an attempt to progress the nation: Topics that are not discussed openly, we want to bring them into the open, in a space where normally there is a silence. That's the idea, to challenge old mindsets. Because unless gender equality, gender sensitivity, becomes a very important part of a conversation in our society, India cannot progress. In conclusion, the power to progress Indian society lies completely in the hands of the people. Without a change sometime in the near future, there will never be complete gender equality in education as well as in the country as a whole.
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