New Delhi: More girls aspire to continue studying after class 12 than boys, the Annual Status for Education Report, 2023 has revealed. The report is based on a survey and found that the reasons behind the trend included -- the girls' belief that education would enable them to become better homemakers and also their interest in studying.
In general, boys were able to take or at least shape these decisions: if they were not interested in studying further, they could drop out regardless of their family's preferences. Among girls, these decisions were often not in their hands, the report said. "In the ASER 2023 survey findings, a larger proportion of boys than girls reported not wanting to study after class 12. During the discussion, girls discussed wanting to study at least to undergraduate level, while boys talked about the likelihood of discontinuing their education after completing their schooling," the report said.
"Among girls, shifting social norms with regard to the appropriate age of marriage emerged as a key driver of young women's ability to study further. Most girls talked about how they expected to get married only at the age of 21 or 22, giving them time to continue to study until then. "However, even though this perceived increase in the appropriate age of marriage enabled higher secondary and college level studies to be a socially acceptable pathway for these girls, further education was rarely connected to better preparedness for the job market," it added.
The ASER 2023 'Beyond Basics' survey was conducted in 28 districts across 26 states, reaching a total of 34,745 youths in the age group 14-18 years. One rural district was surveyed in each major state, except for Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, where two rural districts were surveyed. ASER is a nationwide citizen-led household survey that provides a snapshot of the status of children's schooling and learning in rural India.
First implemented in 2005, the 'basic' ASER survey was conducted annually until 2014 and switched to an alternate-year cycle in 2016. The 'basic' ASER collects information about the enrolment in preschool and school for children in the age group of three to 16 and assesses children aged five to 16 one-on-one to understand their foundational reading and arithmetic abilities. In the intervening years, ASER dives deeper into different aspects of children's schooling and learning in rural India.
Why did most girls actively desire to continue their education? The report says two major reasons emerged during the discussions with girls. "The first had to do with the view that education would enable them to become better homemakers. On being asked about the benefits of education, a girl in class 10 in Sitapur responded. We can learn how to manage a household, how to talk to others, how to present ourselves, and how to respect people around us. Exactly how more education would translate into this outcome was not always clear," the report said.
"Responses ranged from education providing a set of values that could be transmitted to children, to the possibility of combining further studies with vocational courses in beauty or tailoring, so that they could earn some income alongside their household responsibilities," it added. According to the report, the second, more compelling reason that girls describe was a simple one -- they liked coming to school.
"It provided them a respite from their everyday routine. Even though household chores routinely ate into the limited time available for studies (girls described, for example, having to sacrifice their study time or study late at night so that they could finish household chores), many talked about how they like to go to school because it is their only escape from their household duties and so they were keen to continue to study as long as they could," it said. Conversely, the ASER survey data shows that in aggregate, more boys than girls expressed the intention to study only up to class 12.
The need to earn money as soon as possible was uppermost in the minds of most of the boys. They described how many boys their age often started working while still in school to make ends meet. In situations of financial hardship, while their sisters were pulled out of school due to financial constraints, boys often had the option of finding their own sources of income if they wanted to pay their school fees.
"Although both girls and boys expressed clear desires and preferences during the discussions, the qualitative data also shows that there are enormous gender differences in the extent to which young people felt that their own opinions mattered for decision-making regarding the path ahead. "In general, boys were able to take or at least shape these decisions: if they were not interested in studying further, they could drop out regardless of their family's preferences. Among girls, these decisions were often not in their hands," it said.
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