On September 15, 2015, The Hindu reported that as far as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were concerned, India’s official records show that one of the few areas that India had succeeded in, was in ensuring gender parity in primary school enrolment. The UNDP website however reflects that India’s performance has only been moderate as far as the 2 nd goal of achieving universal primary education is concerned.
On September 25, 2015, when the United Nations in a historic summit unanimously adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030, its goal on education looked beyond achieving universal primary education. It looked at ‘Quality Education’ in order to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Through this track we hope to discuss strategies which will help us inch closer to achieving the required goals and targets: exploring the partnerships that can be looked at, the public – private exercise, addressing the issues related to the quality of education, increasing the number of people who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment and entrepreneurship. Ensuring that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non- violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development. And last but not the least to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers through international cooperation.
The 10th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2014), based on the survey of more than 5 lacs children in the age group 3-16 years from 577 districts (16497 villages) in India, showed that 25 percent of Class 8 students could not read a Class 2 level text. It implies that overall quality of primary and secondary education is extremely disheartening. We hope that the yet to be announced new National Education Policy (NEP), 2015, which is looking at parameters like quality education, social development, inclusivity, technology for knowledge and transparency, new legislation and policies as well as community engagement, will enable India to meet the SDG on Quality Education by 2030. We also look forward to the NEP to sensitize the Indian population on issues related to gender, for although UNDP studies reflect that India is on track as far as the MDG on Gender Equality and Empowerment of women are concerned, we yet have a long way to go.
The history of policy for women’s development in India has been subject to detailed scrutiny by academicians and activists involved in action for gender equality. These discussions have problematised both the ‘gender-blind’ approach of policy in the post-independence stage, as well as the conception of women primarily as policy-receptacles rather than active agents of work, growth and development. The women’s movement that emerged in urban locations in India following the release of Towards Equality- the Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India (1974) called for a re-evaluation of the centrality of the state in gender-sensitive development. However, the massive reorientation of policy direction in the last decade of the twentieth century and the entry of new agents into the development sector has resulted in shifts in the articulation of goals with respect to women’s participation in development as well as gender equality. This period has thus seen the entry of novel strategies like self-help groups and microfinance along with newer players like international NGOs and corporate bodies into the terrain of development. Coexisting with these are critiques calling for a thorough assessment of these interventions, the decreasing role of the State and their combined impact on the millions of poor and property-less women across the country. Given this historical context, what should our approach to gender and development be? The discussions on gender equality in this track seeks to participate in these debates with a special focus on the following: recognizing and valuing unpaid care and domestic work, undertaking reforms to give women equal rights to economic and other resources, and ensuring women’s full and effective participation at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life.
The sub-themes for discussions and papers related to this track include: