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Females have lower assessment levels than males in basic maths: Study

“From the ASER data of eight years it was found that females have lower assessment levels than males in basic maths but not in reading. This was also revealed in IHDS (Indian Human Develop-ment Survey) which uses similar testing instrument,” said Karan Singhal, research associate at IIMA.

Written by Ritu Sharma | Ahmedabad |
January 25, 2022 5:57:24 am
IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, Narendra Modi, Indian Institutes of Management, hate speeches, Prime Minister’s Office, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsIn a statement issued on April 1 on its official website, the IIMA stated that “the proposed logo is to be released in June of this year after the annual vacation”. (File)

A research paper by a team of two from University of Manchester, United Kingdom and Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) has found “robust and strong evidence of a gender gap in basic mathematical abilities” prevalent across adolescent females.

The paper has found that females have lower assessment levels than males in basic maths across economic strata, social groups, and various other demographic compositions.

Further, the paper in-progress titled “Solving it correctly: Prevalence and Persistence of Gender Gap in Basic Mathematics in rural India”, first part released in October last year, reveals that this gap persists across age groups and has been increasing along with a significant inter-state variation with most of the Northern states where a disproportionately larger gap was noticed while the south Indian states showing a “reverse gender gap” (where boys are performing worse than girls).

“From the ASER data of eight years it was found that females have lower assessment levels than males in basic maths but not in reading. This was also revealed in IHDS (Indian Human Develop-ment Survey) which uses similar testing instrument,” said Karan Singhal, research associate at IIMA.

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For the paper, datasets with learning outcomes of over 20 lakh children from rural India in the age group 8 to 16 years from seven rounds of ASER (Annual Status of Education Reports) from 2010-2018 was used along with Indian Human Development Survey conducted in 2004-05 and 2011-12 and NFHS-4 (National Family Health Survey) data for additional analysis.

Upasak Das, Presidential Fellow of Economics of Poverty Reduction Global Development Institute, University of Manches-ter, the co-author of the paper, told The Indian Express, “By using the ASER data to generate state-level estimates to examine the states with higher levels of gender gap or even show a reverse gap in terms of mathematics learning, we found that 12 out of the 29 states show female disadvantage.”

Das said states in northern and central Indian states that include Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand along with eastern states like Odisha, West Bengal and Assam show female disadvantage.

Southern states that include Karnataka, undivided Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry show male disadvantage (reverse gender gap). “Major western states that include Maharashtra and Gujarat show no statistically significant girl disadvantage. This is true for most of the north-eastern states,” he adds.

“States like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand show a more pronounced trend of increasing gender gap. In the other states that include Assam, Orissa, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, which have a female disadvantage on average, there are signs of improvement,” Das added.

Das singles out Tamil Nadu, claiming that it “appears to be a state where we find an increased trend of reverse gender gap. This indicates systematically higher boy disadvantage in recent years which needs immediate recognition and implementation of relevant policies”.

On this reverse gender gap, the paper points out, “While this reverse gap is unexpected and requires further research, the lack of female disadvantage for these outcomes in southern states is unsurprising because such regional differences are common due to variation in historical contexts, norms, structures and relevant investments made in these states.”

The researchers complemented their understanding regarding the association of gender based patriarchal norms with mathematics learning of females using an additional data source (NFHS). Researchers also observed “a strong association of the pre-existing household and societal level patriarchal norms and attitudes with gender differences in mathematics ability”.

The paper points out that while there exists a number of policies and programmes targeting to improve low learning levels of all children that seek to address female disadvantage in education, these are not meant to exactly redress the specific issue of differences in numeracy levels.

“With states in the process of ratifying the National Education Policy 2020 and bringing in legislation to implement this, there is an opportunity to set up processes to build capacity to conduct periodic assessments of all children (across grades),” it suggests.

“National Curriculum Frame-work (NCERT, 2005) along with other studies have pointed out that gendered learning material and behaviour of teacher and parents (attributing better performance in mathematics of boys to ‘intellige-nce’ and of girls to ‘hard work’) may play a role in reducing the self-efficacy of the girl child,” it states.

The fact that the gender gap has increased from 2010 to 2018 indicates that the current gamut of policies has not been able to effectively target.

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