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Updated: October 16, 2012 09:22 IST

Girls given the back seat

Aarti Dhar
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Parents spend less on girls’ education. Photo: Balachander Goud Rk.
The Hindu Parents spend less on girls’ education. Photo: Balachander Goud Rk.

As a gendered consequence of making ends meet, more boys than girls are sent to private schools, which are perceived as better centres of learning

There is good news around enrolment as more 8-year-old girls are now in schools but more boys than girls are sent to private schools because parents perceive private schools provide better education. Sadly enough more girls than boys continue to leave school early.

Young Lives Round 3 survey (2009-10) on lives of 3,000 children in Andhra Pradesh since 2002 running parallel to millennium development goals suggests 99.3 per cent 8 year-old boys were in school in 2009 as against 90.8 per cent in 2006 while the percentage for girls was 98.7 per cent and 88.8 per cent respectively.

The latest evidence released by Young Lives to mark the International Day of the Girl Child demonstrates the ways in which gender shapes the life chances of both boys and girls and their progression through schooling. The story is not a straightforward tale of female disadvantage but one of changing economic, social and cultural contexts which force children and families living in poverty to negotiate a series of competing demands which can have gendered consequences. There are often gender-specific factors which may affect children’s experience in school and in turn their learning outcomes, according to Young Lives, an international study of childhood poverty.

The study shows that at age nine, 41.2 per cent boys were attending private school as compared to 28.8 per cent girls. Parents spend up to Rs 1,932 per annum on boys but the spending comes down to Rs 1,228 in the case of 8 year-olds. But, this gap increases with age. A family spends about Rs 3,384 on a boy when he is 15 year of age but only Rs 1,717 on a girl in the same age group.

The lack of proper toilet facilities remains a major reason for girls being absent from school and even dropping out. The Supreme Court earlier this month directed all States and Union Territories to ensure that basic toilet facilities, particularly for girls, are provided in all schools within six months. The survey found that girls may be absent each month during menstruation because of lack of adequate sanitation or gender segregated toilets at schools. It also found 88 per cent private schools and 62.8 per cent public schools had toilet facilities. Similarly, 78.9 per cent private schools had separate toilets for girls and boys while only 45.2 per cent public schools had separate toilets.

It also shows that, on a typical day, girls spend more time at household chores, unpaid family work and caring for others than boys who spend more time on paid work.

Young Lives is a long-term international research study investigating the changing nature of childhood poverty in four developing countries—Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh), Peru and Vietnam—over 15 years, the time frame set by the UN to assess progress towards the MDGs.  Under the survey, two groups of children in each country: 2,000 children who were born in 2001-02 and 1,000 children born in 1994-95. In Andhra Pradesh Young Lives collects data in 20 sentinel sites across 3 geographical regions – coastal Andhra, Rayalaseem and Telangana.

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