Gender Roles in Indian Education System
Teacher, Engineer, Chef, Doctor, Inspector. What image comes to your mind first when you hear these words? Hearing a teacher, probably the first image that comes to your mind would be a FEMALE standing near a blackboard, or for engineer, a MAN standing near a construction site. Our primary socialization is guilty of shaping such views.
Education and learning are very important to open up our mind but somewhere down the line, we forgot the real aim of education. Now, it’s just for attaining degrees and marks. In this rat race, we have forgotten to question things, we simply imbibe what we see, what we are taught. Unknowingly, this results in confirmation of gender role.
One of the primary source of information for a student is the textbooks which has latent sexism. Do you remember any story growing up where the main protagonist was female? Even the fairy tales had a male who emerged out to be the ultimate hero. The seeds of gender stereotypes are sown in nursery and are watered till we cross school or even college. Till the time we finish our education these beliefs take such a strong root that these biases seem justified. Primary socialization also matters a lot. Birth of a boy is a matter of celebration and pride. Boys are taught to follow their father, go out and earn whereas the girls are meant to sit and take care of their families.
Attached below are two images. I am very sure that every Indian student is aware of these charts because they came to our rescue while making projects. Back then we couldn’t realize what was wrong in these chart because our education system never helped us in looking beyond what we were taught. One chart normalizes men working and earning to run the house while the other one (Chart 2) shows ‘few occupation’ for the females to choose from.
If we look closely in chart 1, we see only the male characters working and the customers being either women or senior citizens. The only shop where the customer is male is a book shop. Chart 2 is outrageously sexist. The occupations chosen for women are air hostess, model, singer, dancer, artist, teacher and tailor. It also teaches us that housewife can be of two types- either you ‘cook’ or be a ‘mother’. Mind of a child is not developed enough to question these things. They believe what they see and then internalize it making these gender role look normal.
The perils of such an education system is visible in day to day life. Women are deemed fit for certain profession and positions. Even if she reaches a certain position, her success raises many fingers because until now we have always been taught that men are more successful and capable enough for holding a successful position. Women are always seen as a homemaker. Even if she going out and earn, she should still be the one who should be taking care of the house. They are expected to behave in certain manners and crossing that line gives right to men of society to “teach her the limits” because they are the honor of the community.
In many villages of India, as soon as a girl hits puberty, her admission is withdrawn because she is “polluting the environment” and “distracting boys” and according to them “if a boy’s focus is deviated, it would be toxic for his career because he has to learn and earn. He would go out and do a job, he has to know everything. What does a girl need education for? She just has to cook and that needs no education.”
It is sad to know that the women themselves have a bigger hand in perpetuating these gender roles. The moral policing happens everywhere and anywhere. Girls are taught to do this or that because they should be at par with society’s expectations. I recall an incident of DELHI METRO where I was stopped by an aunty who out of nowhere came to me and said, “this is not how girls should dress up, you have got a pretty face, wear proper clothes and look nice, why are you dressed up like a boy!? What is all this torn jeans and shirt? Dress up LIKE A GIRL. Wear a kurta and jeans if you want to look modern.” I was not shocked because this is not new. I am very aware that all kind of moral teachings have been imparted to almost every girl and that too anywhere. However, what is ironic that this incident happened in the capital of India at a place (Delhi metro) which is symbolic of Delhi’s development. This “LIKE A GIRL” phrase is a phrase that both the genders have to hear. It’s a derogatory phrase for boys (example – don’t cry LIKE A GIRL) and for girls, it’s the level you have to reach (Talk politely to everyone LIKE A GIRL).
The “feminine” and “masculine” behavioral norms are reinforced by the members of the society themselves. These stereotypes become a part of our daily life and is followed from generations because after a point of time going against the regular flow seems impossible. Also education plays a major role in validating these stereotypes and gender roles. The basic aim of education is to open up learner’s mind but achieving that end seems difficult considering that education is still considered as a man’s field, narrowing down the chances of other gender to pitch in their views.