Gender in Education: A Shift From Ideology to Action

GENDER PARITY in access to education is a common discourse shared by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In last two decades, Most of the countries have taken a wide range of initiatives to achieve equal participation of male and female students in primary and secondary education. Nevertheless, positive changes in number and quality are still lagging behind the SDG targets. 42.5% of girls attended primary school in South Asia in 1992. In 2012, the scenario remained unchanged. However, trying to achieve gender equality only by increasing equal number of participation of boys and girls does not help achieve the original aim.

Equal number of participation of both gender in education surely portrays equal right in access to education. But the notion of gender parity lies within an individual psychology and actions correlated to the psychology. Increased enrollment of female student in education does not necessarily ensures gender equality. Many people see women participation as an essential tool to eliminate social stigma which does not necessarily change the age-old mentality about gender equality and equity. Such mindset is absent among most of the girls, and women of next generation. As a result, the number of female participation has remained almost unchanged over the period. Changing this psychology requires adopting an intricate pathway of learning and understanding the necessity of both gender and practicing in real life. Actions, in accordance with sustained ideological shift of equal gender role, increases the chance of creating protracted timeline of continued gender equality. Hence, psychological change is one of the cardinal elements to bring expected change in gender parity. Access to education may ensure women’s right to education but access to gender equal mindset can ensure women’s right not only in education but in all walks of life.

Designing such tricky pathway to ensure gender equality is not easy. Gender issues are perceived differently among male and female students. To change the preconceived stereotypes of gender role, gender issues must be included in textbooks. Unique ideas need to be evolved to penetrate typical notion of gender role built over the years in patriarchy. Education curricula need to be linguistically realigned to represent gender equality. Gender issues should be addressed separately among male and female students as the perception of gender roles differs from male to female. Generic description of gender equality in textbook is not sufficient if it does not stimulate the preset psychology to bring the expected changes. Contemporary curricula need be restructured with evolving gender issues and ideas of gender role and equality in workplace to bring the positive psychological change.

Once the change is made, the group of thoughts can be implemented through practical actions. Adopting psychological change and practicing equal gender roles must run in parallel. A positive psychological change in gender equality can be carried forward though prolonged course of actions in the society. If necessary, school-going students can be taught in different ways than the female students as gender role is influenced by patriarchal ideology. On the other hand, school-going female students must be introduced with gender education and innovative ideas to raise their voice in patriarchy. A comprehensive and inclusive approach is compulsory to teach and preach both gender about gender role, issues, equality and equity.

If such gender neutral mentally evolves and sustains through generations, the chance of bringing positive changes with gender neutral role will be higher. This ideological shift reminds us about Dr. Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach that emphasis on ideological change by taking free decision to control quality of life. The psychological development of gender equality brings similar impact to make independent decision on gender role. The capability of making gender neutral decision comes with ideological changes and practices through combined actions.

The idea of increasing female participation among school-going children will see the daylight only we are able to change psychological construction of school-going students from the early stage of life and transfers such changes through generations. The need of increasing female participation should be addressed among male students, and future generation as well. The process needs to be customized accordingly. Any overarching approach for gender neutrality could be counterproductive and ineffective. Increased number of female students may depict access to education, but not access to gender equal world.

Equal access to education for both female and male students is one of the perquisites to ensure gender neutral world. However, access to education without ideological change may hinder the progress of ensuring gender parity. School-going female students may take female participation higher but this does not necessarily ensures gender parity in society. True equality lies within gender neutral behavior and practice rather than equal participation of both genders. This article draws attention to the need of accentuating gender equality through changing gender notions, rather than emphasizing on equal participation of male and female students.