When Savitribai Phule opened the first school for girls in the year 1848, little did she think that 100+ years later, girls of this country would still be struggling to get this basic right without any hindrance. Most of it is because of the typical patriarchal conditioning that girls have to be wedded someday and then they’d be someone else’s “property” so why bother with the investment in education. It’s a matter of great concern that even today some parents do not have a perspective on girls’ education as that of empowerment, as that of making them independent to ensure they take educated decisions and have a voice of their own.
While the entire Indian education system needs a major overhaul, considering the overall attitude towards women’s independence and the fact that the patriarchal conditioning is so ingrained in our girls that even they do not yet know their full potential, gender sensitization should be made a compulsory course in every curriculum. For the longest time in my school life, girls weren’t encouraged enough to take up sports.
Even in science experiments, girls’ experiments were encouraged to be more analytical while boys were asked to take up more mechanical concepts. When you sort them in such groups, you automatically restrict their movement to other areas to explore other avenues. A part of me will always remain grateful for always having the privilege to access books that made sure my exposure wasn’t limited to what I learnt in school. Reading and communicating taught me that there are options other than the normal textbook ones.
Articulation of your issues is an essential life skill that is pretty underemphasized. When you know how to speak well, you sort around 90% of your problems because it opens doors to new connections, new ideas, varied discussions and viewpoints, thereby making you independent in the way you think. Books also taught me empathy. To fit yourself in someone else’s shoes is basically experiencing new things from new eyes. Not only does it expand your mind, it also enhances your problem solving ability simply because of the countering techniques you learn as you empathize and analyze.
I remember subjects such as language and rapid reading were pretty ignored and rushed up as was arts as a course subject. To a large extent it still is. But what our curriculum fails to understand is that our girls will be self-sufficient only when they know what they are lacking in and how to say it out loud.
Once the talking starts, once the ball sets rolling for questioning, the light automatically starts seeping in and brightens everything. More knowledge, means more confidence, more interactions, more ways to deal with problems, more exposure to the world and philosophies, to politics and ideas. And hence, I believe making discerning readers out of students is extremely important.
A reader lives a thousand lives, as George R R Martin says, and thus, the reader understands more about herself and the world. To understand and acknowledge who you are is the first step to any sort of personal development. Hope someday we realize this and enhance our curriculum to focus on life skills rather than rushing through useless stuff.