Print Friendly, PDF & Email

EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Phasing out the line, ‘math is not for a girl’


Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: Government initiative for Research and higher education(ASER, NEP, GATI, KIRAN, STEM) etc
  • Mains GS Paper I & II: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services related to Education and women empowerment etc


  • The representation of females in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) or other math-intensive fields and careers remains far from ‘fair’ or desirable.




Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics(STEM):

  • STEM was introduced in 2001 by scientific administrators in the S. National Science Foundation (NSF).
  • It is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in 4 specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • India is one of the countries that produce the highest number of scientists and engineers, the growth of STEM has picked up significantly over the last few years.


Reason for low participation of girls:


Do girls perform poorly in basic math in comparison to boys?

  • Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER)report:
    • Boys outperform girls in mathematics significantly, which has been persistent over time.
    • The difference in reading scores is
    • There is a considerable variation;
      • In the north Indian States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh, boys outperform girls substantially
      • In south India, girls outperform boys in mathematics.
    • On average, the performance of girls remains worse than that of boys.


Cause for concern:

  • Lack of interest
  • Understanding in the subject
  • Implications for future academic and career success.


What drives this difference in performance?

  • There is a widespread prevalence of the systematic devaluation of girls related to their mathematical aptitude in the classroom, at home, and in society more broadly.
  • The oft-repeated line that “science and math are meant for boys and arts and humanities for girls” is reflective of the kind of stereotyping that parents, relatives/neighbors, and even schoolteachers push.
    • For example: The comment section from a YouTube video on this topic by “Soch by Mohak Mangal” includes hundreds of comments echoing these concerns.


Steps taken by the government:

  • Many State and central policies and campaigns show that public policy recognises the discrimination and biases that girls face in enrolling and also continuing school.
  • The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) acknowledges the need to address several gender-related gaps in schooling.
    • It recognises the existence of continued disparities across all social groups.
    • The need for developing interventions that enhance attendance and academic performance for girls.
    • It stresses the need to implement gender-sensitive training for teachers
    • Establishing a ‘Gender-Inclusive Fund’ for States to utilize in implementing community-based interventions.
  • The National Curriculum Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), also acknowledges these gender disparities.


Way Forward

  • None of the documents explicitly recognises the causes and consequences of gender differences in mathematics learning at early ages.
  • Position paper on the “Teaching of Mathematics” published by the NCERT in 2005:
    • The paper talks about poorer outcomes for girls in mathematics through the devaluation of girls in society.
    • It discusses classroom research, indicating how gendered perceptions and the behavior of teachers might negatively impact how girls view and perform in mathematics in the classroom.
  • The recent policies do not fully acknowledge and address the prevalence and impact of these specific biases and perceptions.
  • Targeted behavioral interventions can curb the gender stereotyping of “math is not for a girl” at the household, societal, and school levels.
  • References to female mathematicians in textbooks, female names, and characters in word problems, and providing exposure to female role models in STEM fields in the course curriculum are among other simple tweaks that are worth trying and likely to be beneficial.
  • There is an urgent need to address this problem to prevent further harm to female education, career choices, and job market opportunities.



What are the continued challenges for women in India against time and space?(UPSC 2019) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)

Discuss the positive and negative effects of globalization on women in India.(UPSC 2015) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)