Numbers can lie

  • Girls outnumbering boys in Higher Secondary exams belies social reality
Numbers can lie

Jun 4, 2015-

For the first time since the Higher Secondary School (HSS) exams began 25 years ago, the number of girls appearing for the same has outstripped the number of boys. Just a few months ago, in March, girls had outnumbered boys appearing for the School Leaving Certificate examinations. Of the total 719,463 examinees appearing for grade 11 and 12 exams this year, 50.66 percent (364,451) are girls while the share of boys stands at 49.34 percent (355,012).

The increase in access to education for girls beginning from the primary level, according to experts, is the main reason behind the rise. By providing scholarships to female students from the marginalised communities, by increasing the number of female teachers and by aggressively campaigning for girl’s education, the government has been able to convince more parents to send their daughters to schools.

According to the Department of Education flash report 2013/14, the Gender Parity Index at the primary level stands at 1.03. This index is 1.02 both at the lower-secondary and secondary levels, and 1.05 in the Higher secondary level. So, girl’s enrolment is higher than that of boys’ right from the primary to the +2 level.

Bishnu Karki, an education expert, attributes this rise to parents’ awareness of the need to educate their daughters. But things aren’t as rosy as they appear in numbers. According to the data published by the University Grants Commission for 2010/11, girls still form less than 30 percent of university students in Nepal. And even among those women pursuing tertiary education, those studying for various degrees in science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) is abysmally low:  women receive less than 22 percent of doctorate degrees in math and physical sciences. And only about 16 percent of undergraduate and 11 percent of doctorate degrees in engineering go to women.     

So it seems that although a milestone has been reached in terms of female education, we are yet to increase the participation of women in tertiary education, especially in job-oriented disciplines of pure and applied science, which have traditionally been a male bastion.

Having said that, we must not forget that women have traditionally been marginalised by the patriarchal setup of our society. Education is a big step towards empowering girls and women and rectifying the historical injustices committed against them. But education by itself cannot change this skewed social makeup.  For this to happen, we need to radically change our mindset and cultural practices, which privilege men over women. Unless we start treating both the genders equally in every respect, the idea of an equal society remains an elusive dream.

Published: 05-06-2015 08:29

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