The Role of Education Sector in Removing Gender Inequality
This paper with an aim of sensitizing everyone on an important concern relating to gender inequality, analyses the international conventions and constitutional mandate along with statutory mechanism to tackle the discrimination based on sex in the most significant matter that is education. It also touches incidentally the socio-economic aspects of gender inequality. Educators should foster in student equality, promote and strengthen the constitutional culture and stability. To promote equality, it will be necessary to provide for equal opportunity to all not only in access to education, but also in the conditions for success. Everyone has to be reminded of the inherent equality of all through the education. The purpose is to remove prejudices and complexes transmitted through the social environment and the accident of birth. It is important to ensure in the context of the Indian reality that all the educational programmes are carried out in strict conformity with the secular values. The education system must play a positive role in the empowerment of people and removal of all kinds of biases which are basically man made. Creation of a citizenry conscious of their rights and duties and committed to the principles embodied in our constitution is a pre requisite to social advancement, economic development and political progress of our country. The Constitution of India visualizes development of a pluralistic, open society, based on the principles of equality and social justice. Discrimination may be latent, patent, open or subtle. It is a mind set that operates within a given situation. All the efforts should be directed towards influencing this mend set with the awareness of principles of equality and justice enumerated under various international conventions and other statutory provisions.
The gender discrimination is the result of human practice. It is in vogue since time immemorial. The degree of discrimination varies according to the development stage of a particular society. The efforts to eliminate gender discrimination are continued. In this direction, various provisions under the constitution and statutes have been incorporated and implemented with little success.
We observe many differences among boys and girls in the family, the street, inside the classroom, in the play field. For instance, in general, boys are active, playful, confident, bold, loud, and difficult to control. Girls are passive, gentle, quiet, accepting, more complacent and easy to control. It is important for those who are in the education sector to appreciate how infants and toddlers learn to see themselves as girls and boys in the adult images of women and men in their cultures. It is equally important to understand how this process of sex role identity formation based on differential and discriminatory treatment, which leads to the formation of low self–concept in girls. This low self-concept among girls inhibits self expression and achievement. It is also transmitted intergenerationally. There are some general perceptions regarding gender roles. One, we not only observe the differences among girls and boys and also believe that these are natural and inherent in two sexes. We come to the conclusion that they are biological and hence unchangeable. Two, the social roles of men and women, being cultural artifacts, vary across space and time. Three, these differences are a result of ages of social experiences of the two sexes – are socially created and determined, and, therefore changeable. Four, the present day human civilization both demands and creates new possibilities for the social roles of the two sexes as complementary and equal, globally. Now it is beyond doubt that the women have proved to be equally competent in all the fields.
Educators should know about Self-Concept and Self-Esteem. Self-concept is how an individual views oneself. It is an individual’s feelings and attitudes, perceptions and knowledge about one’s own attributes. Self-concept could be negative or inadequate or positive and adequate. Self- esteem is the dynamic aspect of self- concept through which an individual constantly evaluates one’s self in relation to society, the amount of value we ascribe to ourselves. High self-esteem and high achievement motivation go hand in hand. Human organism has a need to be loved or to receive attention if unmet, can lead to pathological symptoms, even death. Five groups of needs have been identified-physiological, safety, love, esteem and self –actualization. All these needs require interaction with other groups, whose membership gives us a sense of identity. This is a significant and core element of the structure of self as it begins to form. In the perceptual field of the child, the family serves as the primary social unit, the parents, within the family structure, act as socializing agents to provide goals and values from which the child develops the patterns of behaviour. This tells the child who he is and how others feel about him. The more positive responses provide input for a favourable concept of self and results in self-actualisation i.e. realizing one’s full potential. When the child is placed in a positive, accepting environment, the process of self actualization occurs. When an individual grows in an environment in which they learn negative self regarding attitudes, they are likely to retain these concepts in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Sometimes we learn certain attitudes about ourselves which may not be valid and also get to know how others are trying to get us to unlearn these attitudes. Roles are the learnt expectations prescribed for the standardized forms of behaviour. Gender roles are learnt in the family, from parents, older siblings, and other members who provide role models appropriate to the sex of a person. Child rearing practices have marked effect on the development of self –concept among children. In our culture, experiences given to children are on the basis of their sex. Girls are valued little, often seen as a liability to be got rid off- the lesser child. Special value accorded to male children comes home to girls very early.
Gender equality through curriculum
It is important to deal with the concern that even though India has a clear policy on undifferentiated curricula for both sexes, biases and stereotypes creep through the learning materials as well as through those who handle them. One should spell out the concerns that are to be addressed by the teachers and administrators for eliminating sex biases in an endeavour to promote gender equality and positive self-concept through curriculum and life skills approach. It should be brought home to every one through curriculum that biological sex and social gender are separable concepts from a development point of view.
National Policy on Education (NPE)
The NPE emphasizes the core values such as equality between sexes, ending social evils and practices derogatory to women, small family norm, etc. The NPE and Programme of Action (PoA) highlight the need to improve the social, nutritional, and health status of the girls and also to strengthen support services such as drinking water, fodder, fuel, and Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) as an integral component of the Universal Elementary Education (UEE). The PoA emphasizes the need to revise textbooks to remove gender bias and gender sensitize all educational personnel so that equality between sexes could be internalized through gender sensitive, gender inclusive curriculum and its transaction.
Some suggestions for gender-sensitive curriculum transactions may be given. One, effective pictures and illustrations should shown to the children that a woman is not merely a mother, but she can be a teacher, a doctor, a professor, an engineer, etc. It should be included in the textbook and reading materials. Two, depicting men and women in shared roles. Three, one can display the talent of women. Fourth, one can counter, prejudicial references in textbooks, if noticed. The textbooks are to be made free of gender bias and sex stereotypes. A gender sensitive life skills approach to curriculum transaction includes all the skills necessary for day today functioning and covers areas such as family life education, legal literacy and life saving skills, etc. This approach could be a bid to alter the unequal gender relations and empower both boys and girls for a shared future by breaking down gender stereotyping and gender barriers in skill development.
Gender scenario in school education
India has the second largest educational system in the world after China with a total enrolment of 191.63 million out of whom 80.54 million (42%) are girls (MHRD, 2000-01). Due to the strong gender focus of the government initiatives during the 1990s as also the pro-girl child, pro-women policies, and programmes during this decade, girls’ education has progressed and the gender gaps have narrowed.
Women’s educational and occupational choices
It was suggested that although expectations for success and personal efficacy predict occupational choice, they are not the only predictors. A survey suggests that positive expectations are a necessary, but not sufficient, predictor of occupational choice. Believing that one can succeed at an occupation is critical to one’s decision to enter that occupational field. The particular occupation selected also believed to depend on the value attached to various occupational characteristics.
This analysis has a number of important implications for our understanding of gender differences in the educational and vocational choices. Because socialization shapes both individuals’ self-perceptions and their goals and values, women and men should acquire different self-concepts, different patterns of expectations for success across various activities, and different values and goals through the processes associated with gender role socialization. Through their potential impact on both expectations for success and subjective task value, these socialization experiences can affect educational and vocational choices in several ways. First, gender role socialization could lead women and men to have different hierarchies of core personal values. Secondly, gender role socialization also could lead females and males to place different values on various long-range goals and adult activities. Thirdly, gender roles can influence the definition one has of successful performance of those activities considered to be central to one’s identity. Fourth, women and men could differ in the density of their goals and values.
In a particular survey, it was found that parents and teachers distort their perception of the competencies of particular girls and boys in various domains in a gender role stereotypic fashion. That is, when parents who endorse the traditional gender role stereotypes regarding the distribution of talent and interests among girls and boys are asked to rate their children’s competencies in a male-typed activity like athletics or physics; they underestimate their daughters’ talent and overestimate their sons’ talent.
Both gender differences and individual differences within each gender in educational and occupational choices are linked to differences in individuals’ expectations for success and subjective task value. With regard to the gender difference in the occupations linked to math and physical science in particular, women are less likely to enter these fields than men, both because they have less confidence in their abilities and because they place less subjective value on these fields than on other possible occupational niches. Furthermore, gendered socialization practices at home, in the schools, and among peers play a major role in shaping these individual differences in self-perceptions and subjective task values.
Understanding women’s occupational choices requires a broad view of the options and roles available to women. Occupational choices are not made in isolation of other life choices, such as the decision to marry and have children, and the decision to balance one’s occupational behaviors with one’s other life roles. It is clear that many high-achieving girls and women experience a conflict between traditionally feminine values and goals and the demands of traditionally male-typed highly competitive achievement activities. But many women resolve these conflicts in ways that appear to benefit both their physical health and the quality of their lives. The cost they pay for this resolution is often seen in their wages, their rate of advancement, and the stress they experience because society does not provide the types of services, supports, and employment policies that recognize and support the importance of their dual roles and that reward their accomplishments and competencies appropriately.
Most women know that women in male dominated occupations often face discrimination and harassment on their jobs, as well as more subtle forms of disapproval from their colleagues, friends, and relatives. The anticipation of these kinds of negative experiences can also deter women from selecting male-dominated and excessively time-consuming occupations. More equitable treatment and more family-sensitive social policies and supports would likely facilitate women’s willingness to consider a wide variety of occupational choices.
Gender inequality in academic employment
Gender is embedded in the structure of academic careers. It is important to understand gender inequality in academia by identifying and attempting to explain differential time allocation preferences, behaviours, and mismatches. It was observed that women faculty report preferring to spend a larger percentage of their workweek on teaching and a smaller percentage on research, although these preferences are themselves shaped by gendered opportunities. A study also indicate that research and teaching time allocation preferences are shaped by the features of the institutions in which men and women are located. This suggests that gender-differentiated preferences may in part reflect the constraints women face in obtaining positions comparable to those of men.
The percentage of time one spends on research is positively associated with research productivity, while the percentage of time spent on teaching is negatively related to research productivity. Since research time is linked to research productivity and research productivity remains a key component in employment reviews, gender differences in research time allocations may contribute to gender-differentiated patterns of tenure and promotion. At the same time, women may be more likely than men to exit academia. It was found that women are more likely than men to exit an employment situation when their preferences and actual behavior do not match—a position in which women are disproportionately likely to find themselves. It was suggested that women faculty may be less marketable than their male colleagues. Since women bear a disproportionate responsibility for labour that is institution specific, their investments are less likely to be portable across institutions. This stands in stark contrast to men, whose investments in research make them more highly desirable candidates should they choose to leave their own institutions. Faced with institutionalized expectations for their behavior and the prospect of disproportionately constrained time allocations, these women may pursue employment outside academia.
Gender Equality is the responsibility of all
Achieving gender equality is not a 'women's concern' but the responsibility of all in society. Empowering women and girls towards greater participation in development means working towards more balanced and equal power relations between the sexes. Sometimes a fear exists that advancing the position of women means that something is taken away from men. However, the promotion of gender equality does not imply giving more power to women and taking away power from men. The promotion of equality between women and men is empowering for all. It allows both men and women to take part fully in social and economic life and leads to a win-win situation for both. 'Power-over' which refers to a situation of subordination on the one hand and domination on the other, is unjust and detrimental to development because of the unequal exchange it entails. Gender equality needs to be addressed in all development programmes and at all stages of the programming cycle. It is sometimes thought that the promotion of equality between men and women is only relevant in the 'soft sectors' such as education, health, welfare and other care- and service-based jobs, and not in 'hard sectors' such as macro-economic policies, engineering, construction and other infrastructural development, or in decision making in politics. Gender equality is an issue which needs to be addressed in all development fields and at all stages of the programming cycle, in other words, at the planning and design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages. The advancement of women and girls is a necessary strategy whenever they are in a disadvantaged position as compared to men and boys. As current inequalities are often quite large, equal treatment of men and women from now on is therefore not sufficient because existing inequalities could remain or might even become larger. Gender-specific measures are usually needed to redress existing imbalances between the position of men and women until women can participate in, and benefit from, development on an equal footing with men.
Legal system and gender discrimination in India
The role of constitution in ensuring gender justice is being recognized in modern times. It is most appropriate that the supreme law of the land should meaningfully address the woman question and respond to the challenges by stimulating the whole legal system towards a greater concern for, and protection of women. But law cannot change a society overnight, but it can certainly ensure that the disadvantaged are not given a raw deal. However the courts can certainly go beyond mere legality insulating women against injustice suffered due to biological and sociological factors. Indian judiciary has been very sensitive to women and women related issues. The Apex Court of India took special interest in discharging its legal and constitutional obligations and safeguarding the interests of women in changing situation and societal demands. Article 14 of the Constitution of India ensures to Women the right to equality and Article 15(1) specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and article 15(3) provides for affirmative and positive action in favour of women by empowering the state to make special provisions for them. Article 16 of the Constitution provides for equality of opportunity to all, in matters relating to public employment or appointment to any office and specifically forbids discrimination inter-alia on the ground of sex. These articles are all justiciable and form the basis of our legal-constitutional edifice.
Our natural obligation to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women has been elevated to the status of fundamental duty by Article 51-A. The directive principles of State policy contained in Part IV of the Constitution direct the State to protect human rights of women including right to equal pay for equal work, the right to health and work in hygienic conditions, right to maternity benefits, and respect for international conventions have significant value in building the corpus of constitutional feminism.. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994, the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 are some of the enactments which owe their existence to those provisions of the Indian Constitution.
Although these principles are strictly not justiciable, the Supreme Court of India, through its judicial activism, has infused dynamism into these non-justiciable provisions and issued directions to the state to implement them. The 73rd and 74th Amendments (1993) to the Indian Constitution have served as a major breakthrough towards enhancing the women’s participation in democratic process.
The Supreme Court in Muthamma v. Union of India and Air India v Nargesh Mirza struck down discriminatory service conditions requiring female employees to obtain government permission before marriage and denying married and pregnant women the right to be employed. In Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court observed that Equality in employment can be seriously impaired when women are subjected to gender-specific violence, such as sexual harassment in the workplace. And therefore issued guidelines to ensure women have equal working conditions and are protected from sexual harassment. In Mackinnon Mackenzie & Co. Ltd v. Audrey D'Costa the Court observed that there was discrimination in payment of wages to lady stenographers and such discrimination was being perpetuated under the garb of a settlement between the employees and the employer. The Court finally not only made it mandatory to pay equal remuneration to lady stenographers as their male counterparts but also observed that the ground of financial incapability of the management cannot be a ground to seek exemption from the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005 is a piece of central legislation that was brought into force in all our states. The Act confers equal rights of inheritance to Hindu women along with men, thus achieving the constitutional mandate of equality. Interpretation of the Guardianship law in the light of Article 15 by the Supreme Court in Githal Hariharan v. Reserev Bank of India could equate the position of mother to that of father in the matter of guardianship.
International treaties and conventions
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) reaffirming faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women, contemplated the entitlement of all cherished freedoms to all human beings without any distinction of any kind, including discrimination based on sex. The International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 and the International Covenant of Social and Political Rights, 1966 lay stress on equality between men and women. The Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 1979 is the United Nations' landmark treaty marking the struggle for women's rights. Described as the Bill of Rights for women, it spells out what constitutes discrimination against women and propagates strategies based on "non-discriminatory" model, so that women's rights are seen to be violated, if women are denied the same rights as men. The Covenant prohibits all distinctions and restrictions and the exclusion of the enjoyment and exercise of empowering women, her rights and freedom—civil, political, economic and cultural. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993) is a comprehensive statement of international standards with regard to the protection of women from violence. The Declaration sets out the international norms which States have recognised as being fundamental in the struggle to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Any "grave or systematic violations" are liable to be inquired into and penalised ever since the Optional Protocol of December 2000.But law cannot remedy the inequalities and bring about justice, development and empowerment. It can act as a springboard no doubt but much executive initiative, change in social mindset and involvement of all sections of society is required to achieve the ends. All the legal provisions and international conventions should be made part of the curriculum of all courses.
It is beyond doubt that the gender discrimination is existence for long time. The education sector could certainly play a pivotal role in eliminating this gender inequality. It is very much essential to bring awareness among people about the benefit of gender equality. It is important to know that the inclusion of the concept of gender equality in the curriculum and making of laws to remove gender inequality have significant impact on the need to achieve constitutional goal of establishing egalitarian society. Ultimately, it is the change in social mindset and involvement of all sections of society is required to achieve the ends.
1 NCTE (2003).Discrimination Based on Sex, Caste, Religion and Disability: National Council for Teacher Education.
2 Jacquelynne S.Eccles, Understanding Women’s Educational and Occupational Choices, Psychology of Women Quarterly,18(1994),585.
3 Sarah Winslow (2010). Gender Iequality and Time Allocations Among Academic Faculty, Gender & Society.
*** Dr.Rajendrakumar Hittanagi, Asst Prof, Govt Law College,Hassan,Karnatak, email@example.com
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org