HOW GENDER RESPONSIVE IS NEP 2020? 
| Nikita Ahya, Dy Director, KIIT and KISS, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha - 06 Oct 2020

There are more than 50 million women in India, neither going for study nor work. Women in India earn 25% less than global women. The gender pay gap is highest in the manufacturing sector. The gender gap is considerable in other areas such as banking, IT, etc. There is glaring gender disparity in education of the children at the margins and the average literacy of tribals in India is much less than national average. Addressing it at the grassroots with incentivising girl child and parents will go a long way to bring in this structural change.

By Nikita Ahya, Deputy Director, Networking, KIIT and KISS

New Education Policy 2020 (NEP2020) is the third overhaul in the history of education in post-independent India after 1986 and 1992. Education is the bedrock of economic development and cornerstone of progress. But it has been systematically and systemically subjugated to the secondary pedestal because the nuances and vision of academics, knowledge and education and industry could only get the ratification of the political will to usher in the change.

Leaders realize that educating girls strengthens our families, communities, societies, economies, and governments. Education of girl child though manifested in promises across party lines have never received the fuel enough to ignite the engines of growth and reduced to the levels of honking. 

NEP2020 as approved by the Cabinet after five years of long consultations seeks to present a paradigm shift by adding the elements of affordability and accountability to the troika of access, equity and excellence.

Educational landscape of India with the implementation of the principles enshrined in NEP2020 will be more suited to fit in the global scenario and yet underscore the Atma Nirbhar maxim.

A welcome move by the supporters and naysayers, NEP 2020 will help India to create a learning society for sustained and inclusive growth as pointed out by Nobel laureate Joseph E Stiglitz.

Flexibility, Inter-disciplinary, Multi-disciplinary & trans-disciplinary studies, focus on conceptual learning and knowledge, vocational training,  life skills, leveraging technology, reducing commercialisation, bringing early childhood education into its ambit, stressing on hands-on experiential learning, student-centric and research oriented approach are steps in the right direction. 

What strikes the right chord besides other positives is the gender-responsiveness of the NEP2020, a silent miss to be dealt in details in the previous policies. While castles of hope built around education may have potential to reap benefits, every such effort falls flat if gender parity is not achieved in education. Gender Equity in Education can be achieved through a change in Policy, NEP2020 will be a testimony to it. 

The Development Matrix of the Scandinavian countries show a Gender Development Index more than 95 percent. In developing economies like India it is as low as 60 percent. This clearly shows the loss of development potential of the country due to palpable gaps in health condition, educational attainment and living standards. At the base level, NEP 2020 is pathbreaking in this dimension. India is making huge strides in bringing inclusion and diversity, more is left than done. 

Girls’ education goes beyond getting girls into school, it is about enabling them to continue. Girls should learn and feel safe in school, complete all levels of education with the skills to compete on the market and life skills to adapt to the changing world.  Better educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn higher incomes, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and enable better health care and education for their children if they become mothers. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and nations out of poverty. In India, girls enrol rate and drop out early and there is a glaring gender disparity at levels of education. Lack of schools nearby, non availability of toilets, augmenting family income, rearing siblings, helping in household chores, selective discrimination against the male sibling and a glorious possibility of marriage are among the most crucial reasons behind dropout.  There are more than 50 million women in India, neither going for study nor work. Women in India earn 25% less than global women. The gender pay gap is highest in the manufacturing sector. The gender gap is considerable in other areas such as banking, IT, etc. There is glaring gender disparity in education of the children at the margins and the average literacy of tribals in India is much less than national average. Addressing it at the grassroots with incentivising girl child and parents will go a long way to bring in this structural change. The importance of investing in the education of girls as an effective way of tackling the gamut of poverty as enviosned by Prof. Amartya Sen is seen to be addressed through NEP2020. 

The tweaking of the curriculum content seeks to turn the gender bias and discrimination upside down with innovative methods of teaching-learning discourse and resources. It cuts across the gender specific roles and attacks the gender stereotypes. The curriculum will be gender-neutral, technology-oriented, and more adjunct to sustainable employment. 

With a gender neutral terminology in its narrative, the courses promises to cover women’s victories breaking the convention of reading history through men’s prism.  Underscoring the importance of capacity building of teachers to deal with subtleties and break the perpetuation of micro-aggressions and build inclusive classrooms, NEP2020 certainly presents a chimera of unshackling the patriarchies, if it implemented in the way envisaged. A collaborative model with the participation of Government, Educational institutions, society and local organisation to propel the movement for gender equality is praiseworthy. 

Gender Inclusion Fund to ensure 100% enrolment of girls in schools, continuing education beyond primary levels, enhancing the leadership capacities through positive dialogues and conversation is a bright instance of addressing and accepting the wrong and remedying it with a positive intent. Emphasis on the women in leading positions in the educational hierarchies instil a sense of can-do for all other women besides empathetic understanding of delicate issues. Greater recruitment of female teachers sets the tone for inclusive education spaces. 

A non negotiable focus on zero tolerance towards any form of gender based violence and harassment, equal treatment of all genders and sexualities and sensitisation on the legal acts like Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO),  the Maternity Benefit Act, and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act. available for rescue ushers in a behavioural change, that doesn’t happen overnight, but one right step at a time. However the only reservation is that it fails to acknowledge that boys are systematically socialised into becoming men who assume superiority and authority is a show of masculinity.

It remains to be seen how, and in what way, new forms of education, knowledge acquisition, and information sharing as prescribed by NEP2020 will significantly change patterns of gender socialization itself

It is too soon to definitely assess the shifting sands we are standing on. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to either overestimate the power of deep rooted patriarchy, or to underestimate the capacity of women and men to significantly refashion their realities. All said and done a gender responsive policy with almost right content to be just getting to meet the fate of right intent and action. 

Nikita Ahya Deputy Director, Networking, KIIT and KISS

PG in International Relations from JNU with distinction; She is a Research Scholar in School of Management, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Deemed to be University, Bhubaneswar and working on girl child empowerment through education; She presently handles the Networking and Digital Media at KIIT and KISS and assists Prof. Achyuta Samanta, Founder of KIIT and KISS with legislative research as a Deputy Director, Networking, KIIT and KISS. Nikita loves to call herself a communicator. A collaborator, a restless creator, Curiosity, Empathy and hard work keep her creative. She loves to make things happen - Inclusive things. She endorses right to dignity and self esteem for all. Contact - fearlessniki@gmail.com

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