The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dhaka beats Delhi in school gender race

New Delhi, Nov. 6: There’s one lesson India can learn from Bangladesh: how to move towards gender parity in primary education.

According to the Education For All (EFA) global monitoring report released by Unesco today, Bangladesh has achieved a gender parity index of 1.01 per cent, while India trails with 0.83 per cent. Gender parity means providing equal access to primary education to both girls and boys.

On the eve of the EFA summit in Delhi next week, the report reveals that a majority of countries, run by governments of all hues, are way behind achieving the goal set by them at the EFA summit in Dakar two years ago.

“Governments across the world need to make serious policy changes if they are to meet the Dakar summit’s objective of achieving gender parity in primary and secondary education by 2005,” says Prof. C. Colclough, author of the Unesco report.

“The Indian government is doing a lot but it still needs to do more in order to achieve gender parity,” he adds.

The report shows that the number of out-of-school children continues to be very high despite an increase in enrolment. “A fifth of the children in South and West Asia — numbering more than 32 million — are not in schools. Two-thirds of them are girls,” it says.

The report stresses that Bangladesh is one of the few countries that have been able to reverse gender disparity in education. Its gender parity index has gone up from 0.52 to 1.01.

“Huge gender disparities, however, still continue to exist in favour of boys in Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka,” stresses the report. On the scale of disparity, Pakistan is followed by India and Nepal.

One of the factors driving Bangladesh towards gender parity is the government’s initiative. “The government in Bangladesh has taken an active role in establishing satellite schools which help disadvantaged children, especially girls, to enter schools,” says the report.

From 200 satellite schools established initially, the number grew to 2,000 last year. “They were managed by women teachers who were selected by the local committees but paid by the government,” underlines the report. The Bangladesh government plans 20,000 satellite schools.

The issue of gender discrimination, explains Colclough, is linked to poverty, social and household behaviour, child labour, a sexist curriculum and a preponderance of male teachers in single-teacher schools. “Most of the single-teacher schools in India are run by males,” he says.

The report also shows that girls, if provided with equal access and opportunities, do better than boys in school.

“In most countries the survival rate for girls till the Vth standard is higher than that of boys. This shows that girls, once they have access to education, do better or as well as boys,” Unesco points out. India has the highest survival rate in favour of boys.

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