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More school teachers in India are women, but there are more men in higher education ranks - professors and educationists. Why this gender gap?
More school teachers in India are women, but there are more men in higher education ranks – professors and educationists. Why this gender gap?
The position of teachers in India is held sacred in the hearts of the people in our country. Today, September 5th, is celebrated as Teacher’s Day or shikshak divas across the country to commemorate the birthday of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the country’s former president, scholar, and philosopher.
But that is not the topic of this article. I’d like to talk about something else. In this article, I’d like to talk about how society views this profession for both men and women.
For a dynamic and critical profession like teaching, it is always observed that there is a significant gender gap among teachers in the Indian education system.
We all understand the critical role that teachers play in the development of children and students, as well as the development of the country, but no one wants their child to become a teacher. And the parents who want their child to pursue this profession only see it as a career for their daughters because it is considered a career for ambitious women who can manage home and work at the same time. And for males, this job is always a no-no since it involves ‘nurturing’, and how can a guy nurture a child on this planet? Right?
This is why female teachers in India outnumber their male counterparts, although this tendency is only evident in pre-primary, primary, secondary schools, and the gap is nearly twice in contractual or tutoring positions. As we move up the ladder, though, we find the reverse pattern: males tend to occupy more jobs as professors, associate professors, and directors of educational institutions.
Here are some of the reasons why there is a dearth of female representation in higher-level positions in educational institutions.
Better education is required for higher positions, but many women do not pursue it owing to a lack of parental interest in investing in girls’ education and saving money for girls’ dowry, rather than spending it on their education.
In more marginalised and poorer communities, girls often drop out much earlier, due to domestic responsibilities and other duties such as caring for younger siblings.
Even in certain metropolitan regions, parents do not allow their daughters to travel to faraway places for education. Families provide less encouragement to girls and women for spending time at home on learning activities or finishing home assignments. There is almost certainly inadequate assistance from a spouse or from the in-laws for pursuing further education or work after marriage.
As a result, women who want to teach do not pursue further education and instead work as school teachers.
The National Eligibility Test (NET) is administered on behalf of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to determine an applicant’s eligibility for Assistant Professorships, Junior Research Fellowships, or both, in Indian Universities and Colleges.
Despite the fact that more women apply for the exam, the number of women who pass the NET exam is consistently lower than the number of men who pass. This is explained by the fact that the age range of candidates allowed to take this test is 25-32, which is considered marriageable age for women in India, and as a result, women usually face a lack of support and a lack of a study environment.
The belief that ‘leadership jobs are masculine’ is one of the reasons why fewer women hold higher-level positions. Another reason is many private institutes run by families want their male successors to take control.
All these factors favor men’s advancement in Indian higher education institutions.
Sexist questions at job interviews are not uncommon for women all around the world. When it comes to higher-level posts or permanent professors, the recruiting managers often prefer men over women. This is due to the fact that they assume that women will commit less time and will not be available at odd hours. Furthermore, a regular faculty member, especially one higher up the ladder, would have greater perks, such as maternity leave, and hiring managers may find this unpalatable.
Women also miss out on promotions because of their spouse’s transferable work, family and children’s obligations, a lack of confidence, a lack of female role models, and so on.
These are some of the key issues that contribute to a lack of female professors and institute leaders. However, this is not the only difference; the gender gap is also bigger on the other side. Male representation is lacking in the pre-primary and elementary sections of schools.
Let us now try to figure out what is causing fewer men to become teachers in India, especially in the pre-primary or primary sections.
Teaching in the lower grades is seen as ‘low prestige’. It is widely assumed that teaching from KG to class 5 requires minimal intellect and is more like babysitting. As a result of these preconceived notions, these responsibilities are left to women.
Furthermore, money plays a role; the chances of promotion and increases are thinner in the early childhood area, therefore male teachers choose to go where the opportunities are greater.
One cause for the underrepresentation of male teachers in early childhood /elementary education is considered to be societal views. Men are believed to be ‘less capable’ with young children than women, and as a result, they (male teachers) have grown to think this and act accordingly. Male teachers are also frequently perceived to be less warm and loving than female counterparts.
Men outnumber women in administration, which might be because, after a few years in the classroom, men teachers may feel obliged to transfer out of the classroom and into administrative roles owing to cultural pressures.
For various people, the phrase “male teacher in early childhood education” raises very different concerns. Some may perceive men dealing with young children negatively and wonder, “What are his hidden motives? What’s the matter with him? Was he unable to secure other job offers?”
This is the most upsetting and disheartening reason why men prefer not to teach at elementary school level. With so many molestation trials against male perpetrators, many parents are concerned that the motivations of men teaching in elementary school classrooms are perverted.
Many misconceptions surround males who can exhibit guardianship for children, which is directly related to how ‘caring’ is regarded a feminine personality attribute. Parents may feel that a male teacher ‘being nice’ must be some type of deception, hiding a repulsive deed. Physical touch to a child hence raises questions, because far too many men (read fathers) are never trained to share these caring, personal moments with their own children, and find them suspect. The fact that every now and then cases against male teachers come to light does not help matters.
Society’s perception of teaching and teachers must be altered. Female teachers outnumber male teachers in pre primary, primary, secondary classes because this job is seen as more ‘convenient’ for women because they can balance work and family life, and women are sometimes forced to choose this profession.
Men, on the other hand, are underrepresented because they are perceived as uncaring, unloving, and un-nurturing, and teaching also does not have good pay scales in a vicious circle, being perceived as work of women.
There is a significant gender disparity among teachers at the higher levels of education, as mentioned earlier. According to official data, the percentage of female teachers in higher education has been increasing in recent years. This indicates a positive growing trend toward closing the gender gap in higher education as a result of women-friendly government schemes and women-empowerment initiatives to increase female enrollment in higher education and provide them with employment opportunities.
However, continuous efforts from society and the government are required to completely eliminate the gender gaps in enrollment and employment that exist at various levels of education.
We must recognize that such under and over representation of teachers of a particular gender (both in elementary and high educational institutions) creates a sexist environment in the classroom. It also strengthens cultural beliefs about gender roles. Let’s think differently.
Image source: a still from the film Hichki
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