Unsettling caste-bound gender orders: the convergence of teacher commitment and pupil aspiration in two schools in Madhya Pradesh, India

Elspeth Page


Abstract: Whilst there has been significant progress towards gender equity in school enrolment, attendance and achievement in India since Independence in 1947, boys still out-perform girls in all these areas. Despite considerable social change and intervention in the last decade, poverty, the poor quality of government education, the highly abstract curriculum and restrictive class, caste and gender regimes interact to sustain gender inequality. This paper presents two case studies, focussed on gendered dimensions of schooling in and around two government schools in Madhya Pradesh, North Central India. The case studies illustrate that, despite the many challenges they had to overcome, girls from the most marginalised socio-economic groups were determined to succeed academically, and that two teachers, through their professionalism, attitudes and commitments, supported these girls in their struggles. Enrolment, attendance and achievement data demonstrates that, regardless of teachers’ positions on equality of opportunity, the interaction of complex caste-based dynamics and gender regimes operated to ensure that Dalit girls from low-income groups faced the most persistent inequalities of opportunity. Despite the persistence of bias in educational opportunity, however, both teachers renounced discrimination, attempted to treat all pupils equally and ultimately inspired most of them to aim for academic success. Spaces were thus created to challenge gendered caste and class regimes and compensate for some of the inadequacies of the system. Future policies and strategies in pursuit of educational gender equity must be based on further exploration of the lives, practices and insights of such teachers.

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ISSN 2049-9558
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