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November 01, 2018 Thursday 03:41:02 PM IST


Rajagiri Round Table

In a world that moves fast, driven by technology, education has acquired newer insights. It is a moot question whether the gender equations too have changed according to the times. 

The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher Education in India is 25.8, which is calculated for 18-23 years of age group. GER for male population is 26.3 and for females it is 25.4, according to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2017-18, published by Ministry of Human Resources Development.

New technologies have brought out scientific evidence that there are inherent differences in how men’s and women’s brains are wired and how they work. There is an opportunity to reengineer the world from a woman's perspective; a world which is more compassionate, more caring and more sustainable. It is time to revisit the foundations of engineering and to ensure that both halves of human resources are synergised in the building up of a new world.

The question of equality in terms of opportunities after acquiring degrees is a matter of concern to educationists and policy-makers. There is a need to make use of unutilised talents of a large section of society by bringing more women into the mainstream.

Some of the recent judgments by the apex court on cases on gender equality have been received with dismay by sections of society. There are others who view them with utmost caution even as large segments welcome them wholeheartedly.

The message is clear, though interpretations vary. The women are on a progressive track, finding new horizons and gaining fresh insights. Often, the promised land of opportunities remains a mirage, amidst trepidations brought by half-hearted movements in a society known for unequivalent approaches.

While there could be no end to the debate as to how much gender equality prevails in various spheres of life, a spectacular beginning is set to dawn. Whether the newfound awareness would lead to a fresh lease of life to the longing for an inclusive society that everyone dreams of, remains a moot question.

Education could be the springboard for a new symbiotic relationship. With a new impetus on gender equality, there is a need to harness the capabilities of larger number of women. The gender specific occupations in a variety of fields could feel the reverberations of the change. 

The subject was explored at the 41st Rajagiri Round Table, held at the Rajagiri School of Engineering & Technology, on October 10. Several experts from different walks of life discussed the topic,  'Gender equality in education, the way forward'.

Dr.P.S.Seema (Director, School of Legal Studies, Cusat)

The conventional concept of man being the breadwinner of the family is, in a way, contributing to gender inequality in certain spheres of life. Personal laws differ in respect of marriage, succession, divorce, maintenance and other aspects in the case of different relgions. Equal rights are denied to women in some religions.

Law is not restricting any woman. If the man is considered breadwinner of the family, it is bound to give him more privileges. In many of those instances where women outnumber men in the academic courses, particularly at the post-graduate level, it is often  the result of engaging the former as part of a pre-marriage plan by their respective families.

Most women are moulded into a traditional family pattern where the role of the women is fixed. There are parents who are reluctant to send their daughters to mixed colleges. Women are restricted from entering certain professions.

Though the law has always been with women, guarding them against discrimination, societal attitudes have to change to achieve the desired goals. Nevertheless, an educated woman can take the lead in tackling different gender-based issues. Everyone is afraid of an educated woman because she knows her rights.

Dr.T.R. John (Consultant Psychiatrist and Chief of medical services, Aster Medcity, Kochi)

Gender is a complex, dynamic concept. The concept of a woman in various countries differ. Gender equality has been enshrined in the Constitution and has gained international acceptance. It has crossed the threshold and will go into its natural conclusion. Laws are loaded against men and it is an affirmative action. The Constitution is bound to protect the rights of the least of the empowered. The right to education is a multiplier right. A knowledgeable woman knows her rights such as right to property and equal compensation. The right to access education, the rights in education as well as the rights through education are all important. The age of physical stereotypes is over. The concept of women marrying for security reasons is over in a mechanised and monetised world. There should be equality of opportunity. One should not be barred from becoming the CEO of a company on gender considerations. 

Dr.Varghese Panthalookaran (Professor of Engineering and Director of Rajagiri Media)

In this age of robotics, male jobs are more vulnerable. Scientific evaluation has indicated that male jobs are mostly inter-linked to linear thinking which could be copied by computers. Women are more adept at jobs associated with non-linear thinking. Artificial intelligence could pose more threat to the job sectors having a rational orientation, generally dominated by men, whereas the severity of such a threat could be comparatively less in the case of jobs executed by the female.

Gender inequality is part of a stratification where there is a stage of entropy enhancement. A recalibration or readjustment occurs after a transformation from order to disorder.

The days of male focused engineering is gone. Women are underrepresented in engineering. There is a need to facilitate the entry of more women into engineering streams. It could help in evolving a more sustainable, compassionate world.

Dr.P.R.Poduval (former Director of School of Management Studies, Cusat)

There is discrimination against gender equity, not gender equality. Very often, we tend to generalise issues. Interpretations based on superficial level are bound to be incorrect. The methodology for arriving at statistical figures could be faulty and hence the conclusions may not be right. The statistics pertaining to studies on gender equality in education, conducted by the union government, too could be misleading. There is often a tendency to discuss things on a superficial level without finding out the real factors because it needs much more research to assess facts and analyse them in proper perspective.

K.L.Mohana Varma (Author and Writer)

There is a dilemma, mostly among upper class and middle class working women, as to whether they have to spend more time with their children or to pursue a career. Many choose the latter, but opt to quit later to raise children. A large number of women in India, especially in rural areas, prefer not to pursue higher education. It is primarily because the priority of their families is to get them married, which involves substantial spending, including dowry which has not been wiped out so far. Higher education should be attuned to the needs of the women in contemporary society.       

Dr.Ramkumar Sreedharan Nair 

There are many women among the top 50 persons of the Fortune 500 list. About 40 countries are ruled by women leaders across the world. But in engineering education in India and many other countries, there is a gross shift to male segment. It is not a good sign of empowerment of women. Nevertheless, society has been changing and a lot of transformation has been happening in respect of gender equality in education as well as job market. It is not true that denial of rights is faced by women alone. It happens to several sections of society in different aspects. The advancement of robotics will render the gender question irrelevant in a variety of jobs in future.