Pune: The recently released Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 points towards significant gender differences in certain aspects of education.
According to one of the key findings of the survey carried out by NGO Pratham across 28 rural districts in the country, the enrollment gap between males and females in the formal education system increases with age. There is hardly any difference between boys’ and girls’ enrollment at age 14; but at age 18, 32 per cent females are not enrolled as compared to 28 per cent males.
One of the reasons for this, as the report specifies, could be the drop in the number of schools at higher stages, in rural areas.
“Distance from the girl's house to school is a major factor here. While there are primary schools in almost all the villages, for higher classes, the children usually have to travel long distances to go to school. At this stage, the girls also come of age, raising the question of their safety. Also, this is approximately the time when the girls' menstrual cycles begin, which is another reason for their dropping out of school,” Vidya Bal, feminist and social activist, said.
She also added that many times, in rural areas, in families where both parents are working throughout the day, the responsibility of looking after the home and siblings are often imposed on the girl child of the house once she comes of age.
According to ASER findings, the professional aspirations of youth are clearly gendered, with males aiming to join the Army or police or becoming engineers and females showing a preference for teaching or nursing careers.
Speaking about this, Manisha Gupte of Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (MASUM) said, “Girls are brought up in such a way that they tend to think of the service providing occupations as the best for them. Another factor that dictates that choice of employment is the working hours. They tend to take up jobs with fixed working hours, as the women of the house are supposed to be home at certain hours. If you just look into the field of medicine alone, a lesser number of women opt for surgeries or other emergency services, and more go into dentistry, paediatry, etc.”
Girls and young women have far lower access to computers and Internet as compared to boys. While 49 per cent of males have never used the Internet, close to 76 per cent of females have never surfed the net.
“This difference also has a lot to do with the fact that many girls drop out of school in higher classes when actually the computer education is given. Also, if the computer to child ratio in schools is low, the male students are preferred over the girls for computer literacy, as this is still considered to be a male-dominant field. Also, many times, even in the same family, the sons are sent to better considered private schools with more facilities, while the girls are sent to the government schools,” Gupte said.
Application of knowledge
The report also indicated that not all youths who have completed at least 8 years of schooling and who have the foundational skills like reading and arithmetic can correctly complete the everyday tasks based on them. Even here, females perform worse than males on almost all tasks.