The Exemplar Effect

More female teachers and role models may help bridge gender gap in schools

Written by Aditi Bhowmick | Updated: October 26, 2017 12:29 am
gender gap, female teachers, women, female school teachers, National Policy for Women, Gender Inequality Index, indian express A scientific evaluation would show whether there is impact on years of schooling for females through combining better access (cycle programme), role-model effect (more female teachers teaching females) and raising aspirations (by showing females jobs in secondary schools).

After 15 years, the Government of India has released the draft National Policy for Women. This is at a time when India finds itself below the 25th percentile on the Gender Inequality Index. Over the last 10 years, the ratio of females to males participating in India’s workforce has fallen by more than 10 percentage points, despite positive economic growth trends over the same period. The new policy framework, to be tabled in Parliament, is an opportunity to include evidence-informed solutions for empowering women. Building on insights from rigorous impact evaluations, I propose a solution for expanding the number of women in the secondary school workforce to increase school-years of girls, at scale.

These insights are from randomised evaluations where the research population is randomly divided into two groups before the policy was implemented. A critical point is that characteristics of both groups were the same on average before implementation, the only difference was that one group received the programme being evaluated and the other did not. Therefore, differences in outcomes between both groups are accredited to the programme.

The public education infrastructure is a widely accessible conduit for girls across India to achieve a number of objectives laid out by the National Policy for Women. Two approaches found to be effective are: An increase in female teachers in government secondary schools for a role model effect to increase girls’ participation in secondary schooling and in the workforce; and to show women and their families the value of local job opportunities for an aspiration effect. Solutions that are simple to expand across India are necessary to impact over half of India’s 15-18-year-old girls who are not in secondary school education.

A randomised evaluation by Robert Jensen (2012) of a low-intensity recruitment programme targeted at young females in rural India found that families increased investment in girls’ education when shown local employment opportunities, including the salary and application criteria details. The study found that girls had more years in school through this aspirations intervention. This same mechanism may increase years of schooling for girls if families are aware and given light-support for females to get jobs as secondary school teachers.

The impact of the role model effect, of increasing females in higher positions, for inspiring young girls was tested by a study in rural West Bengal, of increasing female legislators. Beaman et al. (2012) found that in villages where leadership positions were reserved for women, the gender gap in aspirations narrowed by 25 per cent for parents and 32 per cent in adolescents. Additionally, they found that the gender gap in terms of educational attainment was nearly removed, and girls were less likely to spend time on household chores. They identified the role model effect as the primary causal factor.

The draft National Policy for Women has recognised distance as a barrier to school access. The impact evaluation of the Bihar Cycle Programme using a quadruple difference-in-difference approach presents findings that providing cycles to girls, in Bihar in 2006, did close the gender gap in secondary schools. The evaluation found that the programme increased girls’ age-appropriate enrolment in secondary school by 32 per cent and reduced the gender gap by 40 per cent. In terms of learning outcomes, there was an 18 per cent increase in number of girls who appeared for the secondary school certificate examination and a 12 per cent increase in the pass-rate for girls.

A scientific evaluation would show whether there is impact on years of schooling for females through combining better access (cycle programme), role-model effect (more female teachers teaching females) and raising aspirations (by showing females jobs in secondary schools). The size of this issue demands a solution that can be applied at large scale and that is evaluated as cost-effective. Government-run secondary schools, 1,44,517 of them across 680 districts, are a widely available platform to address gender issues and shape aspirations of young girls. As the government draws up actionable items to implement through the National Policy for Women, an evidence-informed approach can be effective for empowerment of 95 million girls enrolled in India’s elementary schools today.

The writer is research associate at J-PAL South Asia at IFMR

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  1. G
    Oct 26, 2017 at 4:33 pm
    Ms. Bhowmick has not yet understood that males kids and female kids, both require different kind of educative support and care. They have found in Europe that a school with too many female teachers tend expect the same patience, attention etc etc from the male children like they get from the female children. As a result the male school children do not perform that well as the female school children. The males kids require more body movements like sport whereas the female kids can sit still and listen attentively. That is why in Germany more MALE teachers are being employed to give fair amount of philological attention to the male kids. My suggestion more female teachers and equally more male teachers in balanced atmosphere for balanced educative support.
    1. Y
      yash sehgal
      Oct 26, 2017 at 3:47 pm
      Ms Aditi, the writer, has made herself so ridiculous. On the one hand she talks of gender gap minimizing n on the other she talks of appointing only female teachers in schools. She is not a journalist, she is not a writer but if she is, she is nothing apart from a feminist prig. She orchestrates as a broadminded journo but underneath she is a narrow minded activist for snatching male rights to give doles to women. In the era of gender equality how can she steal males right of employment on their talents. Do girls school show better results? Not at all. Therefore she has wasted readers time n energy.
      1. V
        Oct 26, 2017 at 1:48 pm
        I have not read the article after reading the headline i.e. More Female Teachers. It seems the writer is not in touch with the ground realities. I stay at Mumbai (Kalyan) if i check the Male to Female ratios in schools the ratio will be tilted towards Female. At Kalyan all schools have 90 female teachers. This ratio is true across Mumbai in all State Board schools. The gender bias is in write up. Disappointment that Indian Express approved this article.
        1. N
          No one
          Oct 26, 2017 at 12:19 pm
          Most of Indian schools having more female teachers than male . Colleges may have more male than female. Gender Gap will be solved by recruiting more female teachers is wrong concept . Our society need to change .Mothers need to think positive and keeps their kids good learning .Even today lot of female wish to have male child not female and they think male child will bring fortune.Once they stop pampering male child from early age ,society will change .