Him before her?
It is always said in this country that a parent’s love is always equal for their children. Still, there exists a preference for the male child that manifests in various forms. To start with, sex-selective abortion is prevalent in this country and that is why there are approximately 914 girls every 1,000 boys. The female children who survive this, struggle with the different aspects of the gender bias throughout their life. However, the government schools that impart education to these children reveal a surprising ratio. The data points out that there are more female children studying in these schools.
The increasing number of female students in government schools provides a certain level of satisfaction. Private schools however, have more male students. This shows that the gender bias may have taken a new turn in our society, where the people from lower class and lower-middle class are spending more on the education of the male child and leaving the girl child find her fate without additional facilities.
The data provided by the education department, South MCD says that the nursery, primary and aided schools which come under South MCD have 3, 11,221 students in total. Out of this, there are 1, 51, 376 boys and 1, 59, 845 girls. The data provided by the education department, North MCD says that in the schools that come under North MCD, the number of male and female students are almost equal. Out of 3,57,231 students who study in the nursery, primary and aided schools, there are 1,79,371 boys and 1,77,860 girls.
Abha Dev Habib, Physics professor at Miranda House, University of Delhi, talks about the level of dependence of the economically weaker section of the society on these schools. She says, “The government schools are the only hope for the people who come from that strata of society. They send their children to government schools because they cannot afford the fees of private schools.”
She adds, “For the last 20 years the public funded school education have seen a lot of decay. These are very important places for lower middle class and lower class to get education. That is why the seats are not empty. But we can understand that because of this situation and to section they are catering to, if the parents can afford private education, they will do that for the male child. It is the same as we see in upper middle class where parents are ready to pay or take loans more often for male child for sending them to engineering or MBA.”
The government is going beyond all means to educate the girl child. A special provision for admission, subsidy and various other facilities are being provided in order to encourage the parents to send their girl child to school. It is important to look at the number of students who appeared in the class XII examination in 2015. A total of 2,63,361 students, including 1,34,451 boys and 1,28,910 girls, had appeared. The total number of students who passed the examination is 2,26,830 of which the number of boys who passed is 1,09,701 while that of the girls is 1,17,137. The overall pass percentage of the region is 86.13. While the girls recorded a pass percentage of 90.87, the boys registered only 81.59 per cent in the region. This shows that the girls are no less talented than the boys. But why is it that the parents push more to educate the male child? This needs to be explored in a scenario when females are out-performing the males in many fields. When Millennium Post tried talking to some girls from a government school, they were apprehensive about it, but then, one brave girl Indu (name changed), a class 12 student spoke about the bias in the most frank manner. She said, “there are many students in my area including myself who face this problem. The issue is that many people will not speak up against this bias because an agitation or a statement would mean that we are going against our parents.” Indu hopes to study in a college but she says that she cannot go against her parent’s will. She adds, “ Agar hum log 12th ke baad hum logo ne padhna chaha toh bolte hai ki shadi kara denge tumhari, bhaiyon ko college tak padhayege tum aage tak padh ke kya kar logi, even if my percentage is higher than my brother only he will be encouraged or rather forced to study.” She further adds, “Mummy papa ke aage hum log kya kar sakte hai.”
When Millennium Post spoke to a government school teacher regarding this issue Priya Gupta (name changed) said, “You are right, in lower middle class there is a notion that girl child need not be highly educated and that they should rather get married. The parents are not too keen on getting the girl child educated and they get their boys educated in good public schools such that they earn well and get respect in the society.”
She adds, “The bias is a fact in our society and this will not go away by explaining or teaching. Even if the girls are performing well academically, but they are not provided with opportunities, especially the lower class. Middle class has some improvement but not the lower class. There are too many cases where the male child is studying in a good public school and the female child go to government schools because education there is free and they also get money for books and uniform.”
She further says “They are very casual about girl child’s education, they do not bother how is the girl performing in academics, they are just bothered about her marriage and fulfilling their own duty. Mukta Kumar, a teacher at Montfort School said, “As teachers we have to keep a record of the number of boys and girls in a class and we expect an equal number of male and female students, but that never happens. We thought that as the gender ratio in general is screwed up and that is the reason why there are less number of girls.” She adds, “Whenever we are arranging a seating plan we generally find because we are a co-ed school we prefer equal number of male and female students but there is never an equal number. and that has been the general observation over the years. I thought that the disparity was in general and that is why we have more number of boys than girls.”
Indu Jain, who is pursuing PhD in Jawaharlal university says, “Most of the private schools these days are giving admission on point system and there are actually more points for the girl child. I don’t find a flaw in the system as they are working according to a point system and admission is given on the basis of that. So weather there is a gender-based discrepancy or there is a gender based bias in it. I do not think so. The point is that there is no gender bias on the part of the institution. There may be a gender bias in other ways which needs to be economically and locally looked into.”
Saurabh Sharma, a journalist, recalls his personal experience and elaborates on what his aunt did when she had the means to put only one child out of two kids in a good private school. She chose her son over daughter. He said, “She spent Rs 2000 per month as fees for her son who was shifted to a private school and gave the minimal fees of Rs 250 for her daughter who continued to study in the same government school.”
Saurabh revealed another interesting aspect to this. He said, “The boy flunked in class 12 even when the parents spent so much on him but the daughter surprised the family by performing well in academics. The parents then decided to encourage her instead and soon changed her school so that she could avail better training, facility and opportunity.” The girl Sindhu Sharma now studies Bachelors in Physiotherapy in Hamdard University. The so called bias which was part of her life some years back now has vanished from her life. She is working hard for a bright future. None of the parents from the lower strata of the society will agree to the fact that they were biased when they chose their son over their daughter to go to a good private school when they could afford that only for one. But majority of the parents who come from this strata of society tend to do this. Does this mean that the girl child is secretly competing with her male sibling for better education and that it is a fight which she ultimately loses, not because she is incapable but because she is a girl?
But the reality is not as gloomy as it seems. It can be said that not all female children are victim of this bias. There are many families in the lower strata of the society and not just the upper middle class who believe in equality when it comes to education. They are educating their daughters no matter what. Abha Dev Habib says, “In higher institutions where a woman is able to make it, if you check the student’s family background you will find that all the siblings are properly educated irrespective of the economic background.”