Gender Based Dimensions of Education

The phenomenon of Gender encompasses a socially constructed category (as against natural and biological differentiation on the lines of ‘sex’) that assigns specific characteristics, socially  acceptable attributes and norms, behavior, and practices, as well as the allocation of resources and responsibilities to both men and women, thereby highlighting the need for a thorough examination of what we can increasingly refer to as the ‘gendered economy’. 

Nevertheless, this article on Gender-Based identities tends to place women at an inherently inferior status, especially disadvantaged relative to men when it comes to the distribution of employment opportunities, employment levels as well as wealth, social resources. For example, land, credit, productive inputs, health and education. Gender based differences in a society are then compounded by other social stratification, such as class, age, race and ethnicity. A gendered  dimension according to the concept of education encompasses gender differences in educational outcomes such as achievement, attainment, and experiences within the education system. 

The following words by Jean Piaget are undoubtedly a vivid testament of, and showcase a complete conformity to the argument that it is in fact, we humans ourselves who have incorporated a gendered based differentiation to the concept of Education- “The principal goal of Education is to create men and women capable of doing new things; not simply repeating what other generations have done.” 

The central tenet of Education as per a report of UNESCO’S International Commission on the Development of Education has been categorized as ‘to know, to possess and to be’ where ‘to be’  refers to the holistically inclusive development of an individual’s personality. Indeed, it won’t be wrong to imply at any moment that Education is fundamental for achieving full human potential, developing an equitable and just society and promoting national development at the same time.  Indubitably, access to quality education is a natural right for all of us, irrespective of gender (as specified) social standing, caste, colour, race, financial capability or the level of cognitive understanding. The provision of high-quality education to all sections of its population is regarded as a core element of public policy as well as the principal responsibility of the government in most  countries, including India. In the post-independence era in India, Education came under the purview of both the central as well as the state governments. In consideration of the importance of  education, India enacted the Right to Education Act (or specifically, the Right of Children to free and compulsory Education Act) in 2009 envisaged under Article 21-A of the constitution, which makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms that need to ascribed in elementary schools. 

Education and training are crucial indications within modern society and involve a major task in advancement which affects the whole interpersonal economic development milieu. Increased degree of literacy leads to a much more efficient fulfilment of health and nutrition, population control, economic growth, and development of the poorer sections of society entirely. 

Within this context, Goal 4 of Sustainable development goals (SDGs) laid down by the United Nations require ensuring equitable and inclusive quality learning as well as long-term training chances for all by 2030.  

State wise, Rajasthan is the worst performer in terms of the literacy gender gap. The education based gender gap in Rajasthan is four times the 2016 international average gap. On the other end-of degree, Kerala as well as North eastern states like Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Assam possess a literacy gender gap below 9 percentage points, which makes them the best performers amongst many of India’s states. There is no denying the fact that even though statistics on gender differentiated literacy figures have registered an improvement as we have progressed further, there’s still a long way that India needs to chart out in terms of integrating men and women  on to the same pedestal in every possible domain and move forward towards achieving gender equity goals. The World Bank in a multitude of its studies has highlighted that the widening gender gap across the social fabric of our society is affected more by social and cultural factors and less by incidence of absolute poverty. Rightfully so, this extent of gender disparities in the attainment and access to education and literacy is driven by a host of economic and cultural factors that are in play in and all around us in differing degrees owing to the inherent and innate characteristics of each country.  

Extending the female populace of the country access to an enhanced and equitably high quality of education stands to benefit the economy in multiple ways / means – by way of generating a workforce thatis more productive and efficient, by lowering the fertility rate as well as bringing  down the infant mortality rate. However, people in general tend to weigh these macro level benefits against the costs (both direct as well as indirect, including the opportunity costs) that they incur on availing educational services for women in their families with a microscopic lens in hand and the ultimate result is an absolute under investment in women’s education. Accentuating the  disadvantage for women are the social restrictions on their mobility that prevent an educated woman from entering the labour force and offering support to her household. The educational gender gap, therefore, is not only a reflection of the low economic returns to female education but is also a symptom of the entrenched biases that discourage the aspirations of women and other marginalized communities.  

India wise data figures and statistics are a clear indication of the point that the gender gaps in education, occupation and wages have shrunk sharply between 1983 and 2010 in most indicators; the gaps have narrowed most sharply for the youngest cohorts in the workforce. As of 2016, there were 186 million females in India who could not even read and write a simple sentence in any language. A deep insight into the literacy dynamics in India shows that the literacy gender gap in children has been successfully closed, possibly reflecting a change in attitudes and mindset and is mainly attributed to the spirited literacy efforts by government and non-governmental  organizations to get more girls, in particular, to attend school. Similarly, even among Indian youth, female literacy is catching up fast with male literacy as indicated by various government estimates. Nevertheless, gender disproportion within education skill-sets tends to be bigger for older people,  plus the seniors are getting better much less as opposed to the techniques for children.

We can find no two hoots relating to this about how the improvement which India makes within the realms of children & youth education generally gets counterbalanced by the low performance within the literacy of elderly. This’s among the main reasons why India now ranks lower in the  majority of the International human capital disparities in education. We would not be wrong in effectively concluding that India has successfully broken out of the “low literacy trap” in which the illiteracy of parents leads to poor literacy outcomes for the successive generation. 

Programs such as NPGEL (National Program of Education for Girls at Elementary level, 2003) have played an important role in improving female literacy, alongside cash-incentive schemes such as Dhanlakshmi (2008) and campaigns such as ‘Beti-Bachao-Beti-Padhao. These interpositions had been created to recognize as well as conquer many problems related with the education of women and if we look at the current scenario, many girls/women are literate as compared to their mothers. There are multiple barriers that have to be overcome to ensure participation in adult literacy programs, including institutional roadblocks (lack of night schools or high entry fees); situational hurdles (related to family); and dispositional as well. There’s a necessity for awareness strategies to concentrate on bursting cultural stereotypes which avoid elderly and women specifically from getting literate. Education for young women will be India’s goal, policymakers should keep in mind that the education for adult women should be India’s topmost priority as well.


The views expressed in this article are the author's own.

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