NEP 2020: A New Dawn for Gender Inclusive Learning
From millennia, India is the land of iconic women who played a unique role in governance, policymaking, defense, religion, etc. and brought many drastic reforms in society. But 800 years of colonization by foreign invaders has deteriorated the core moral, cultural, and educational values of the country. The sultanate and Mughal rulers were incredibly against women’s education, and Britishers had no interest in it. After independence, the communist grown education structure never focused on female literacy except making it an on-placard affair with subverting Indian civilizational knowledge.
According to the India Census, 2011, the overall literacy rate in India is 73%. But, women’s literacy rate is only 65%. There is a gender gap of around 16% between male and female literacy rates. This gender split is higher in rural areas. The rural female literacy rate is only 57%, while the rural male literacy rate is higher at 77%. However, according to the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report 2018-19, the gender gap in the country narrowed as compared to the previous years after several new policy interventions by current govt. The female students constituted almost half (approx. 48.6%) of the total enrolment in higher education. Nevertheless, there is a long way to go.
In an Indian family, the sons’ education is always prioritized over the daughters’ schooling. Girls are more likely to be engaged in family activities to provide economic support, such as childcare and household work. This is more pronounced in low-income households, rural families, and households where both parents work. The presence of younger siblings affects a girl’s education negatively, in terms of gross attendance, time spent on learning activities, learning performance, etc.. Early marriage is one of the chief reasons for adolescent girls dropping out of schools and prevents their access to education and development. Expenditure on girl’s education is lower than boys within the family. More boys are enrolled in private schools and tuitions than girls. Also, parents anticipate relying on their sons during their old age. This leads to differential treatment in their school enrollment, educational expenditure, and access to learning resources.
A gender-responsive educational curriculum will reverse gender bias and discrimination within the educational system and society. This requires a transformation of traditional methods of teaching, learning discourse, and resources. Textbook’s pictures for students still depict only men playing certain games, activities, and work, while girls are shown doing traditional activities only. Students are taught more about male leaders than women leaders in history, and women’s achievements are marginalized. Even stories portray women engaged mainly in traditional female roles such as housework, childcare, while male characters are shown earning tor the family. Teachers reinforce gender bias by expecting girls to do better in crafts activities while boys are expected to perform well in science and math.
In India, girls enroll late and drop out early. The progress of girls from primary to upper primary level is also lower than boys. Foremost reasons are lack of upper primary schools nearby; girls forced to support the family’s economic survival by childcare and household work and the gender cultural attitude towards girl’s education. The dropout rate for girls in upper primary level is very high at 18%, according to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Girls are not permitted to travel long distances for schools for fear of safety, lack of toilets, and public facilities in schools.
According to International Labor Organization data, the female labor participation rate in 2017 was 27%, which was a 7% decrease from 34% in 2001. There are more than 50 million women in India, neither going for study nor work. Monster Salary Survey, 2016, shows that women in India earn 25% less than global women. The gender pay gap is highest in the manufacturing sector. The gender gap is considerable in other areas such as banking, IT, etc. Even though more women enter the IT sector, they leave soon. 60% of women have the only 1-3-year experience, while women with more than ten years’ experience are only 2.7%. Gender diversity is needed in the workspace across all sectors of the economy. Though female enrollment in engineering and medicine colleges is high, women entering IITs, postgraduate research, and elite institutions is low. This might be a reflection of parents’ bias in higher education expenditure. It results in less number of women in the R&D sector and senior management levels.
Discrimination of women from marginalized sectors of the society is reflected in denied educational access, socio-economic opportunities, and political power. This discrimination is multilayered in the case of marginalized women such as Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, migrant children, Dalits and poor Muslim women and women of other minority groups. Girl children who are not part of the mainstream society face social exclusion in schools, and weak monitoring system prevents accountability and grievance redress. Due to the scattered nature of the Scheduled Tribes, their geographical access to schools is difficult. Dropouts among children of migrant workers are very high.
To tackle the above subjects and articulate an India-centric educational system, the new National Education Policy – 2020 has been designed by the scientist K. Kasturirangan committee. The policy prescribed to approach gender as a cross-cutting priority to achieve gender equality in education with the partnership of states and local community organizations. The GOI will constitute a “Gender Inclusion Fund” to provide quality and equitable education for all girls. The fund will focus on ensuring 100% enrollment of girls in schooling and a record participation rate in higher education, decrease gender gaps at all levels, practice gender equity and inclusion in society, and improve the leadership capacity of girls through positive civil dialogues.
The policy will emphasize the number of women on leading positions of the institution, including principals, teachers, wardens, physical instructors, and other staff. To decrease the gender imbalance among teachers (especially in some rural areas), alternate pathways for female teacher recruitment will be introduced without compromising on merit and qualification, both educational and professional. NEP 2020 will focus on the safety and security of school-going girls both inside and outside of the campus. The schools have to ensure harassment, discrimination, and domineer free campus before enlisting for yearly accreditation. This will increase the attendance number of girl children in the class. The policy will identify social mores and gender stereotypes that prevent girls from accessing education and causing regular dropouts. The teachers, Anganwadi workers, and local social entrepreneurs will be trained to deliver proper counseling to girl children’s families.
All educational institutions will be mandated to conduct awareness sessions on gender issues to break stereotyped gender roles, on the importance of harassment-free environments and equal treatment of genders, and on legal protections and entitlements for girls and women including the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO), the Maternity Benefit Act, and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act. This training will aim to raise teachers’ and educational administrators’ awareness of gender-sensitive and inclusive classroom management. The policy will specifically concentrate on the educational upliftment of underrepresented socio-economic and socio-cultural groups and facilitate additional scholarships and fellowships.
The curriculum will be gender-neutral, technology-oriented, and more adjunct to sustainable employment. It also recommended vocational training inside the school campus to acquaint with the first-hand experience of the workplace. In the end, NEP 2020 has a straight vision to reconstruct the nation’s learning methodology and build a vibrant Bharat.
By Omm Priyadarshi
(The writer is a Development Studies Scholar from NIT Rourkela.)