Increasing girls' participation in education: understanding the factors affecting parental decision-making in rural Orissa India
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Illiterate women have high levels of fertility and mortality, poor nutritional status, low earning potential, and little autonomy within the household. Yet, large populations of women in many developing countries continue to be illiterate. In India over 11 million girls do not go to school at all and 18 million drop out after grade five. As a result 151 million mothers are likely to be uneducated or minimally educated. Thus the problem is very acute. Issues related to effective demand are widely recognized among policymakers in India as being critical to ensuring the existence of effective demand for education. However, there have been few efforts to analyze the impact of these factors. This study attempts to fill this gap. This study examines the views and beliefs of those who make or influence decisions on behalf of girls that impact continuation of the girls in schools when they reach the age of adolescence. Set in a village in the eastern state of Orissa in India, the study analyzes the opinions of mothers, fathers, village elders, teachers and the girls themselves, and identifies the factors that influence the girls' continuation in the education cycle. The study finds that education and educational decision-making are family matters, and parents are the key decision-makers. While most parents support children going to school, negative parental attitudes toward educating daughters constitute a significant barrier to girls' education. Many parents report that sending daughters to school and educating them above a certain level results in problems finding a suitable groom. Further, educated girls would need to marry educated boys, thereby increasing expectations and demand for dowry. Some also report that girls should be taken out of school at the onset of menarche since then they need closer supervision and parental control. The study findings highlight the importance of effecting changes in parental attitudes about girls' education if meaningful improvements have to be brought about, and offer valuable insights for consideration in developing strategies related to girls' access to and retention in primary schooling.
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