NEP 2020: Making education gender inclusive
While the policy does lay emphasis on gender sensitisation, what needs more attention is the curriculum. The component of sex education needs to be carefully added and be made a mandatory part of the teaching-learning process
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 envisages equitable and inclusive education for all, with special focus on children and youth, especially girls, from socially and economically disadvantaged groups. The policy’s focus is important because despite effort to educate women, the dropout rate for girls is still high after secondary education. The enrolment ratio too dips at the secondary and higher secondary levels. Among many reasons, the onset of menstruation and the lack of availability of hygienic toilets are responsible for girls leaving school without completing education.
The NEP 2020 intends to meet this challenge through its Gender Inclusion Fund (GIF). The fund will be used to provide quality education to all students. Hopefully, it will also be used to ensure facilities ---- secured and hygienic toilets ---- would definitely be a part of GIF’s infrastructural checklist. Besides toilets, hostel facilities for girl students have been recommended by NEP. This would be welcome in those areas where students have to travel long distances to reach school.
NEP 2020 appears to have recognised the fact that female students are disadvantaged in additional ways and so in the four Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) that have been identified within this policy, females form at least half of each of these groups.
The policy hopes to locate specific social causes such as gender stereotyping and customs and beliefs that have perpetuated the unequal treatment meted out to girls, including their education. It is hoped that issues specific to girl students and the other marginalised genders do not get diluted after having been co-opted within SEDGs.
NEP 2020 aims to address the issue of gender inequity in recruitment of teachers in rural areas. The policy hopes to adopt new methods that will ensure that merit and qualifications are taken into consideration and that women teachers are provided appropriate forums for recruitment. It is a fact that sound teacher training is imperative for quality education.
The policy has underlined the necessity for teachers and facilitators like anganwadi workers to undergo proper training to counsel the families of girl students. This inclusion of the family for counseling is significant as the gap between an educated girl child and her uneducated family leads to a different set of problems.
A definite way forward for girl students would be the skill enhancement courses that NEP foregrounds. Economic empowerment of women through skilling in educational institutions will surely be progressive and attract girl students to educational institutions as well as, hopefully, change the way that traditionally families distinguish between male/female education, seeing the former as a more rewarding proposition.
While the policy does lay emphasis on gender sensitisation, what needs more attention is the curriculum. The component of sex education needs to be carefully added and be made a mandatory part of the teaching-learning process. This should include instruction on menstrual health and hygiene.
Another important aspect that should be included as compulsory education is legal literacy. The girl student must be aware of her legal rights. Framers of curriculum under NEP 2020 must ensure that these two essential domains are properly factored into the curriculum and not done as tokenism with mere cosmetic value.
Furthermore, female health should be of prime importance and care should be taken that the right kind of nutrition is provided to female students; the mid day meal, or even the breakfast as mentioned in NEP, in themselves good initiatives of the government, are not enough to battle malnourishment faced by female students.
Swati Pal is principal, Janki Devi Memorial College, University of Delhi.
The views expressed are personal