Saturday, May 19, 2007

India's Schoolgirls: Our unlamented children

The ISC/ICSE examination results have been just announced and the results show that girls have done much better than the boys. In a month or so, the CBSE results will be declared and the likelihood is that the same trends will be observed there too. At least, such has been the case for the last many years that I have been tracking them.

This is an interesting social phenomenon for every one in India knows that boys are in general the privileged class and gender. Girls are unlikely to be getting special opportunities in terms of coaching, tuitions and personalized attention at the cost of their male siblings. On the contrary , in most homes , grown up girls of the age that appear in class X and XII examinations are typically expected to help out with domestic chores in the home and studies are some thing they would need to make time for after fulfilling these duties.

Data from several studies show that 7 out of 10 Indian women are anemic; their priority in the household budget for food, clothing, health care and practically every thing is rock bottom. Besides this, the generally unsafe social environment in our towns ad villages also ensure that girls have far less mobility – be it to attend school, attend tuitions or simply study together with friends. In spite of battling limitations on innumerable fronts, how girls can mange to do better in these board examinations year after year is a mystery to me. Is it that girls are more aware of the privilege and opportunity for an education that has come their way and make the best of it?

In contrast, boys are a favored lot. Their examinations are the progress they make in their preparation for it are tracked at home by parents as meticulously as the BSE Sensex. Their food, sleep, play and recreation all get monitored and regulated. Tutors – one or many as the need may be are appointed. No money is spared for boys to enroll in coaching classes for IIT or medicine or whatever. Boys have a lot more opportunity to study, as they are not usually expected to help out in house hold work and they are not house bound the way the girls are often forced to be which means that they have a lot more flexibility with what they do with their time.

Though girls are consistently doing better academically, society has not taken much note of it. The prospects available to them to match their academic feats are not proportionate. Decades ago, girls were educated only to increase their worth in the marriage market. We may have moved on from there today as a country but not too many doors have opened and we have still not arrived any where yet in utilizing for the nation’s good, all these bright girls that the examination system is telling us exist. This is indeed a pity. Every one knows the situation in which most girls pursue their education in India, with out frills and trappings. If in spite of all this, the results are so tilted in favor of the girls, then by not providing those with the right environment for them to nurture their gifts; we as a nation are losing out.

On the contrary, we are taking retrogressive steps. For instance, look at the Karnataka government’s decision to ban night shifts for women (since withdrawn under pressure). In a really perverse act, instead of trying to clean up the security situation in the state, they say that that women should be back home by so and so time, much like a college hostel warden. Or the recent report published in the CNN-IBN web site, which says that the Army after an internal study has suggested to the Defense Ministry that the policy to offer short service commissions or extended short service commissions to women should be revisited as women do not fit into the overall masculine culture of the army and that their role should remain restricted to those of doctors and nurses. Clearly the picture on the wall is clear. India might produce a Kalpana Chawla or a Indira Nooyi here and there once in a while but for the rest of the time , India’s bright girls will remain dry statistic in the CBSE filing cabinets and computers. And that is a pity and a gross injustice

1 comment:

Biby Cletus said...

Cool blog, i just randomly surfed in, but it sure was worth my time, will be back

Deep Regards from the other side of the Moon

Biby Cletus