Gender, subject choice and higher education in India exploring ‘choices’ and ‘constraints’ of Women Students

From Contemporary Education Dialogue

Higher education in India has witnessed significant expansion in women’s enrolment since independence. There have been shifts–dispersal and clustering of women students in various disciplines in higher education. This article examines the factors affecting the subject choices of women in higher education and how diverse contexts of gender consideration influence choices made at the post-secondary and undergraduate levels.  In relation to opportunities and choices in higher education, this exploratory study suggests that there are certain commonalities in the way gender mediates educational choice, making subject choice rela­tively more constrained for women than for their male siblings. This study offers some interesting insights into the processes of decision making around subject choices, while pointing to larger concerns in relation to opportunities for women in higher education and thereby in enhancing their life chances.

Abstract

The increased participation of women in higher education in India since 1947 has not received the scholarly attention it deserves. Since independence, there have been shifts–dispersal and clustering of women students in various disciplines in higher education. There is a need to understand the processes of decision making regarding schooling, subject choice and access (physical and social) to higher education. The article examines the factors affecting the subject choices of women in higher education and how diverse contexts of gender consideration influence choices made at the post-secondary and undergraduate levels. This exploratory study of women students at a university in Delhi showed that the family and the school were the key institutions that shaped their choice of subjects. In the family, the father played a prominent role in deciding the subject choice, and gender mediated the entire decision-making process. At the undergraduate level, women’s subject choice was compromised by concerns related to their gender. Priority was given to the institution, to its location and to the availability of an attached hostel, rather than to the subject or discipline.

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Article details
Meenakshi Gautam
Gender, Subject Choice and Higher Education in India: Exploring ‘Choices’ and ‘Constraints’ of Women Students
Contemporary Education Dialogue January 2015 12: 31-58, doi:10.1177/0973184914556865

 

 

 

 

     
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