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

Source– The post is based on the article “Phasing out the line, ‘math is not for a girl’” published in The Hindu on 2nd March 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Issues related to development and management of education

Relevance: Gender issues in education field

News- The representation of females in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics or other math intensive fields and careers remains is not desirable.

What is the status of girls’ performance in maths?

Boys outperform girls in mathematics significantly, which has been persistent over time. But, 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.

What are the reasons behind less representation of girls in the field of maths?

There is a tendency to attribute these disparities to differences in ability. It does not acknowledge the impact of social and cultural norms.

Girls are found to perform better in some southern States. It implies that inherent ability is not responsible for this difference.

There is a widespread prevalence of the systematic devaluation of girls related to their mathematical aptitude in the classroom, at home, and in society. This is reflective of stereotypes related to girls.

How public policy recognises the discrimination faced by girls in enrolling and continuing their school?

The National Education Policy 2020  acknowledges the need to address several gender gaps in schooling. It stresses the need to implement gender­ sensitive training for teachers. It calls for establishing a ‘Gender ­Inclusive Fund’ for States to utilise in implementing community based interventions.

Similarly, the National Curriculum Framework for Early Childhood Care also acknowledges these gender disparities.

How underrepresentation of girls in the field of mathematics is neglected by policy documents?

However, neither of these documents explicitly recognises the causes and consequences of gender differences in mathematics learning at early ages.

It is not that these gaps and mechanisms are unknown to the educational administration and policymakers. It was recognised in the 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 also discusses classroom research, indicating how gendered perceptions and the behaviour of teachers might negatively impact the performance of girls in maths.

What is the way forward to remove discrimination against girls in the field of mathematics?

Targeted behavioural interventions can curb the gender stereotyping of “math is not for a girl” at the household, societal, and school levels.

References to female mathematicians should be made in textbooks, female names, and characters in word problems.

There is a need to provide exposure to female role models in STEM fields in the course curriculum.

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