Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gender Bias and literacy in women - Jean Dreze

According to Jean Dreze there is a link between the neglect of female education in India with specific social practices  that create deep asymmetries  between male and female education.Prominent among these social practices are the gender division of labour and the kinship system.

The gender division of labor confines many adult women  to household work and some family labor in agriculture.The benefits of female education at home are often less clearly perceived  and less strongly valued than the economic returns to male education.The kinship system in many parts of India  involves the separation of an adult woman from her parents after her marriage when she joins her husband's family.This implies that educating a daughter is of little benefit from the point of view of parental  self-interest.The situation is very different in the case of sons since educated sons are expected  to get better jobs and to look after their aged parents.There is much evidence that employment opportunities and old-age security do play a major role in schooling decisions. The fact that educating a daughter does not bring any tangible benefits to her parents and is no less costly than educating a son may be an important cause of gender bias in schooling opportunities.

Parents are often reluctant to let their daughters wander outside the village.This prevents many girls from studying beyond the primary level given that upper primary schools are often unavailable within the village.Many parents rely on their elder daughters to look after young siblings.Indian men often expect their spouse to be less educated than they are themselves without the gap being too large.In a community with low levels of male education a relatively well educated daughter is often considered as a burden because she may be difficult to marry.In communities with high levels of male education however uneducated daughters may become a liability for the same reason.In such communities education is often considered to improve a daughter's marriage prospects.Given that a daughters marriage is often regarded as the overriding goal of her upbringing these links between female education and  marriage prospects are likely to have  a significant influence on schooling decisions.


There is evidence that public campaigns can have a strong influence on social attitudes towards female education and reduce the gender gap in school opportunities.The experience of Total Literacy Campaign in districts where it has received active support from the local administration and popular organizations is overwhelming.Even in India as a whole the gender gap in literacy has narrowed quite rapidly in recent years.

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