Gender Education and Equity in India
In many countries and in India, in particular, the impact of political, economic, social, institutional changes on the status of women and their role as objects and participants of social development has always been a very complex and even contradictory. India has very strong ancient cultural traditions as well as social and ethical norms that clearly define society. Therefore, Indian women cannot be considered in isolation from certain socio-demographic characteristics, such as marital status, age, education level, etc. Nowadays, there are often seen fundamental changes in the status of women, reflecting the convergence of social and economic roles of men and women. The purpose of the paper is to analyze the scope of gender inequality issue in India, to investigate the progress of gender education in the country and define the consequences of governmental activities towards eliminating gender gap through gender education. Therefore, the research will explain what is the role of education in shaping the image of a woman in India and how to overcome the gender inequality issue with the help of education, specifically, gender education.
The Scope of Gender Inequality
India is notorious for its scope of gender inequality due to aspects of mentality, culture, religion and other factors. First, gender gap is visible in working activity of Indian women who does not receive proper recognition. However, it so happened historically that a huge amount of housework, which is traditionally the responsibility of women is not considered an economic activity. Only officially, registered women’s work may serve as a source of employment assessment. This raises the question of implicit influence of demographic factors on the employment of Indian women. They exert their influence both on the inside, defining a behavior of women in the labor market, as well as from the outside, affecting employers’ decisions on women’s employment. A comprehensive study of all these factors will help to reveal how much the employment of Indian women is based on their age, level of education, place of residence, etc.
The greatest interest is the dependence of employment on the level of education of women. Being a patriarchal society, the Indian nation has always put a man in the first place that has always led to discriminations against women and scope of education is no exception. There are different reasons why young people do not attend schools. The table 1 shows that the most popular reasons are distance to school, domestic chores, supporting the income, seeing education as unnecessary among others. It is obvious that urban girls choose chores instead of education. Additionally, more girls than boys believe that education is not necessary, specifically, in rural areas. The distance to school is important in the rural areas and supporting the household income is boy’s responsibility.
Table 1. Reasons for not attending educational institutions in boys and girls who live in rural or urban areas. Age 5-11 (2004-2005).
Second, gender inequality leads to low literacy rates among Indian women. Historically, Indian girls did not go to school; therefore, many of them are still illiterate. However, with the onset of the 21st century the situation is gradually beginning to change for the better. Literacy in India is the key to the socio-economic progress of the country. The literacy rate in India in 2011 amounted to 74.04%, compared with 12% at the end of British rule in 1947. Although this figure has increased by almost six times, the literacy rate in India is still below the world average, which is 84%. Accelerated growth of literacy in the 1990s may serve as confirmation of the success of the state demographic policy. Between 1980 and 1990, the literacy rate in India rose by only 8.63% (7.72% – among the male population and 9.54% – among women), while from 1990 to 2000 the literacy increased by 13.18% (at 11.75% – among the male population and 14.86% – among women). The literacy rate (percentage of people older than 7 years, with the skills of reading and writing) for female population rises faster than men’s, but that, nevertheless, does not improve the situation of women in the issue of literacy. In 2000, 75.85% of males were literate, and only 54.16% of women were literate. Nowadays, illiterate women take a great share among India illiterate people totaling 70%. The rapid increase in literacy level on the edge between 20th and 21st centuries can be explained by the processes of globalization and emancipation, westernization of Indian culture and its transformation into one of the world economy leaders. For now, globalization is the main engine shaping India approach to changing the approach to solving gender issue. At many new schools, particularly, in rural areas, girls have access to primary and higher education. However, one should not forget that mostly, the Indian women’s literacy is reduced only to the basic knowledge, the ability to read and write, but no more. It is obvious that this inequality also affects the Indian women’s employment level.
Taking the “illiterate” as a starting point, the level of employment among women is growing rapidly for those who graduated from elementary school and has several years of education. However, then the employment rate decreases with increasing levels of education. This phenomenon is surprising. One of the obvious reasons for this is the involvement of an increasing number of young people (potential labor force) in education. While studying at school or university, they will automatically fall out of the category of “workers.” Another possible reason is called “working demotivation.” That is, the rise of an educated person needs, and it is more difficult to find a job that would suit him or her.
In many parts of the world, illiteracy among adult women continues to remain high due to lack of access to education as a child; strategies to combat illiteracy among women should pay attention to ensuring equal access for girls to primary education. In addition, adult women need to be involved in the ongoing mass literacy campaign, using all modern means. The modern means include trainings, programs, foreign exchanges, workshops, campaigns, collaborations, education, improving the freedom to express the personality and freedom to be involved in working activities.
Third, gender inequality is interconnected with the notion of castes and traditional attitudes that still dominate in many cultures, which leads to a reluctance of parents to send their daughters to school. At the high school level, gender inequality in education is enhanced, since a large number of girls, especially in rural or poor areas, no longer go to school comparing to boys. Among the reasons that lead them to drop out of school are early marriage, teenage pregnancy and the need to help family, learning practical skills that will be useful for the housework.
Surprisingly, the high level of education does not necessarily mean a good position for women. The rich and educated families educate girls, but then girls behave in accordance with cultural traditions. For them, higher education is not a way to earn money but the prestige of the family or “dowry” the girl for marriage. That situation shows that it is important to make influence on mental aspects of Indian families.
In the caste, the hierarchy is critical subordination of women to men. The higher the status of their caste, the constraints women have, the more noticeable the gender inequality or “gender asymmetry” is. In the lower castes, a woman was considered ritually impure from birth. In Indian society, there is a deeply rooted representation that a woman cannot be economically independent. Tradition firmly binds woman to the family, to the giving birth to children and their education.
In sum, the gender gap is a great problem for Indian women. It influences economic activity, literacy rates of girls, and the stereotypes of women’s role. For women in India, the higher education does not provide guaranteed employment. Many of them continue to work at home, especially in rural areas, without having any basic education. Therefore, it is impossible to assess the impact of education on women’s employment. Indeed, the level of education determines the behavior of women in the labor market, making them more demanding and discriminating in choosing a job. As education crucially defines women’s position in society, it is necessary that both men and women have access to education and get gender education as well.
Gender Education in India and Governmental Actions
The gender approach is regarded as the direction of research, according to which all aspects of social and culture can have a gender dimension. The basis of the gender approach is an idea that almost all traditionally considered “natural” differences between the sexes are have not only biological but also social grounds. Gender education in the narrow sense is primarily educational programs on gender issues, which are taught in a variety of options for students of, as a rule, social and humanitarian fields.
In a wider sense, gender education denotes the one that contributes to the formation of gender equality and helps to overcome negative gender stereotypes. In this sense, gender education does not have to be expressed in some specific educational programs, as it is present in the processes of training and education and is part of the ideology of higher education. In India, gender education should be involved in all stages of education starting from kindergarten and up to higher educational institutions.
Gender education in India is necessary as the gender stereotypes continue to dominate in technical and professional fields. Even where women have the opportunity to get any profession, the vast majority of them seeks to master the traditionally “female” profession. At the same time, the number of women attending classes held in the framework of vocational training programs remains small. Governments are becoming more aware and realize that education continues to be a constant bias, reflected in textbooks and training programs, as well as for the teachers to the students. In addition, there are numerous examples of changing this situation with education related to gender issues. The level of education in India is low compared to the world standard. Most of the educated has a few years of education. For men, the highest level of education gives them an opportunity to get high positions. Nevertheless, for women, the connection between education and the position of the work is not directly proportional.
Since 2008, there were first attempts to establish classes that had to explain the new view on gender positions in society for Indian students. The most important point is that classes taught students to treat men and women equally both in private and working environment. The classes teach gender approach that is generic objective sign of political culture inherent in the active representative democracy, the essence of which is taking into account the interests of both gender groups of society. The essence of this approach is to find the specific measures to achieve gender equality. The experience of other countries such as the United States, Brazil, China, Russia, showed that India requires private schooling for girls. Private schooling would help girls to concentrate on studying without being compared to boys that take the higher position in Indian society because of specific mentality of patriarchy.
As for the governmental initiatives, the most effective was participation of women in such movements as Hindu Right, the Women’s Movement, Democratic Women’s Movement. The government has a special ministry called Ministry of Women & Child Development such project initiatives such as Women in Development (WID) or Gender and Development (GAD) that were in the Millennium Development Goals. Moreover, there were different programs such as The Young Women Social Entrepreneurship Development Programme that aimed at improving social entrepreneurship qualities and skills of 1,500 Indian women.
Therefore, despite of the fact that the government of India tries to take some measures such as programs and initiatives to lessen the gender gap, the most successful are the methods of changing the way students are schooled. It is difficult to make root changes and make them visible in a short perspective as the family plays an important role in outlook formation. Gender education is important not only as trial versions but as indivisible parts of every school’s program. Classes on gender equality will help to democratize the minds of modern Indians: to show men that women must be equal and to show women that they have wide opportunities. Of course, the lack of schools and low popularity of private schooling are negative tendencies, but government is gradually making positive amendments in this sphere.
Traditionally, in India, women have a subordinate role in society, which has social, cultural, and economic terms. For women, in India, a husband and children are always in the first place. First of all, a woman is a wife and mother that represents purity and goodness of family. Inequalities related to gender are deeply rooted, but, in general, since independence is regarded as a form of injustice, which should be mandatory liquidated. The growth of the level of education among women gives positive changes in the country and improves the status of women in terms of gender inequality. The main features, which show the scope of gender inequality issue in India, are low literacy rate, low employment, and caste system. There were attempts as gender classes, initiatives, programs, trainings and home schooling that showed positive tendencies.
Gender education in India, contrary to the bias that it could infringe legal values of equality of the individual and lead to discrimination against a person based on gender, is basically aimed at the formation of the idea that gender is not a basis for discrimination and promotes the best use of personal aptitudes and abilities in relation to gender, as well as outside it. The goal of gender education in India is deconstruction of traditional cultural limitations of personality development based on gender and creation of conditions for the maximum fulfillment and disclosure abilities of boys and girls. Moreover, gender education requires not just change, but the development of new methods of teaching, excellent in quality, methods of organization of educational process and pace other from the traditional. Although there is no instant response to this trend on the part of the economic success of Indian women in the future, it will undoubtedly manifest themselves as virtuous and productive process of female self-assertion. The equalizing men and women with the help of gender education in India is the most diplomatic and effective way with promising long perspective.