By Shayani Sarkar
Women’s education was recognised as a significant issue in 19th century India. Then, the reform movements in Bengal and, subsequently, in the country, highlighted the role it had to play in the social transformation of the country.
Education for Indian women
There was an attempt to define the kind of education that would be suitable for Indian women. Dadabhai Nairoji is reported to have said that “The time has not come yet, good and educated mothers only will raise good and educated sons.” KBV Krishna Rao, a zamindar of Cocanada, was of the view that the education of girls enabled them to become good housewives and good mothers. The intent was clear—women’s education was the means to an end, which was the betterment of the family and the nation. Further, the Indian curriculum of education differentiated between an oriental and a western woman. Ram Mohan Roy said, “Hindu Women were infinitely self-sacrificing than men and their exemplifying wifely devotion and spiritual strength was the distinguishing feature of an oriental woman.”
Changing the outlook
There has been, by default, a tendency to Indianise the curriculum for women’s education or, more appropriately, girl’s education, to maintain the best qualities of a woman. Although this thinking has been changing over the past several decades and a sizeable section of the Indian society sees an equal role for the women today, there is still a long way to go. The National Curriculum Framework seeks to view and relocate education into traditional power relations. It sees the challenges to family and community as a grave danger. It is an irony that education of girls begins with the intention of gender equality but then quickly redresses itself to emphasising gender roles.
Rani of Jhansi is, beyond doubt, a role model to young women but she is portrayed as a woman who is vulnerable to depression and finds solace in prayer. Another woman, Madame Curie, a Polish and French physicist and chemist, has been portrayed in history as doing all the housework: cleaning the house, washing the clothes and cooking dishes. In other words, the achievements of Rani Jhansi and Madam Curie are linked to the participation of cooking washing and praying. Now if we relate it to Vikram Sarabhai and Jagdish Chandra Bose, they were portrayed as men who were not only clear about what they wanted to achieve, but also free of any domestic responsibility. The achievement of Rani Jhansi is justified by the society at large. The concluding lines from the story of Jhansi of Rani say “Boys are shown in Indian textbooks as the ability to have greater experience and have greater mobility and have to travel to various places to their own.”
Standardising role of women
The film Kadamb Ka Pedh says the primary role of women in the Indian society is the role of a mother. The story the sparrow conveys a very important message. The sparrow makes the male protagonist lulled Balram a very honourable and respectable man, while Balram ensured that she gave up her dreams. Now if we link up this story to the role of women, the sparrow plays the role of a woman and Balram the man. Similarly, in the stories of great male leaders like Bahadur Shastri, Rajendra Prasad there is no details of family lives/homes. In the life story of some leaders like Baba Amte, there is a slight hint about the role of the mother in history but this reinforces the role of women as mothers. In all these cases, men are commonly portrayed as being born great or they achieved greatness in childhood which is quite contrary to what it is shown about the life of women in textbooks. It is very clear that the traditional definitions of masculine and feminine continue to persist in the National Curriculum Framework in India.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius