COVER STORY

EDUCATING THE NEW GENERATION

Women teachers have come to dominate the education sector, narrow the gender ratio, reports NEETI JHA  

As we celebrate the accomplishments women have made around the world, we cannot ignore the fact that women play an essential role in the shaping the education system. Women are taking the education system by storm at each level. In India, teachers form the third largest workforce among white-collared employees. And out of this more than 50% are women. An increased number of females in the teaching profession are often associated with education systems that have achieved or nearly achieved universal basic education. The gender disparity in the profession is fast changing. From 20 women teachers per 100 men teachers in the 1950s, the ratio has jumped to 90 women teachers per 100 men teachers in the country now, say ministry of human resources development figures.

The shift started in the 1990s, when the government launched Operation Blackboard, reserving 50% of jobs in schools for women. In urban India, women teachers have outnumbered men long back, with many big schools having just 5-10% male teachers. The major change in the gender ratio was seen after liberalisation. Between 1991 and 2014, female-to-male teacher ratio rose from 41 to 88 in primary schools and 44 to 90 in senior secondary schools, ministry figures say. The reasons are not far to seek. Liberalisation improved the job market and pay packages drastically.

Women teachers say they prefer the profession as it is noble and convenient – it helps them balance family and work. Suman Ghera, Principal of Sanskaram Public School, Jhajhar, puts it in perspective. “The convenience of this job is the most attractive feature. With lesser working hours, compared to other jobs, women can manage their family and work.” Ghera herself refused a job in the corporate sector to join the school 28 years back, so that she could take care of her daughter. Dr. Savita Mehta, Vice President- Communications, Amity Group, shares her views on increasing number of female teachers. “Teaching, as a profession, has traditionally been seen as a female dominated bastion with women being looked upon as naturally blessed with qualities long associated with teaching professionpatience, perseverance, motherly and emotional instincts. Three decades ago when women were relegated to the four walls of the house, the only profession which gradually opened up for them was teaching because of the safety and security it offered to women folk. The profession, to some extent, provided succor to the career aspirations of the women”, Dr. Mehta Says.

She further elaborates “Men folk, all this while being considered the bread earners of the family, devoted themselves to jobs which provided them performance linked awards, ample opportunities for career progression, hefty salary packages and professional environment to work and grow, even if that required them to travel extensively or work beyond the office hours, at the cost of getting very less quality time with the family. Back at home, women provided all the support, taking care of children, parents and other responsibilities. Eventually, when society opened up and encouraged women to go in for professional qualification and study, the families still mooted the idea of women joining teaching profession, since the profession is less demanding w.r.t time and travelling which helped women to raise their families with certain comfort level. Those women who ventured out in other professions, faced the dilemma of striking a balance between work and life almost every day, taking a toll on their physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. Teaching, being less demanding, continued to enjoy the status of most preferred career choice amongst the women.”

FEMINIZATION IN THE TEACHING FRATERNITY A WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON

 

Interestingly, this is a world-wide phenomenon, and not just restricted to India. Feminization in the teaching fraternity has either taken place or is taking place across the world The presence of a significant proportion of women teachers – particularly in the early childhood and primary levels – is a longstanding phenomenon that characterises the education systems of many countries: Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and now India are examples of countries denoting that women represent a significant majority of the teaching workforce. On the other hand, those countries that continue to strive towards Education for All (EFA) and the education Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are more frequently associated with having a deficit of women teachers.

MEN TEACHERS PRESENTS DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

 

Men teachers have a different point of view altogether. Nitin Yadav, teacher in Rotary Public School Gurgaon attributed the trend to “innate qualities” of women. “Women possess those skills required to be good teacher. Patience, motherly affection, discipline and teaching go hand-in-hand with women. This is the reason why more and more women are taking up teaching as a career. And this profession now pays well also,” said Yadav Whereas, Ashok Pandey, Principal, Alcon International believes, “School teaching is not a first career choice of young Indians. This is unfortunate. Only a passion for teaching and nation building can drive one to take up teaching as a life time activity. If women are coming to teaching with this objective its good but if they are coming for ease, convenience and making a livelihood, it’s time to sit and think.” The increase in female teachers shows the decline of male teachers as well. Theere is a shortage of male role models in school. In most cases, the male teacher these days is only a PT trainer or a music teacher or one who drills maths into you. The only man boys know now is some actor. It is important for them to come across men who are sensitive, men who are family people, men who have feminity. We should not forget that Education systems place great responsibility on both male and female teachers to educate, train and guarantee the attendance of boys and girls in school. There should be a balance of both genders as teachers. Dominance of any gender should be avoided.