What is that one unique trait you have that is valuable for your school? What is your vision for the future as teachers of your school? Do you dare to dream? How do you expand your comfort zone? Can education technology replace teachers in the class room?
This and many more thought-provoking questions were part of a unique opportunity for 17 Science and Math teachers and principals from five government schools of the Hyderabad district in India to participate in a two-day reflection process.
Last week, I had the great privilege to participate in the panel “From Higher Education to Women’s Leadership” convened by the Open a Door Foundation during the 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations. Before an attentive, vocal, and positive audience, I joined Barbara Bylenga from Open a Door and Leo Motiuk from the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund to discuss the impact of higher education for women on solving problems such as poverty and disease and the need to integrate higher education into the next round of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Our moderator was Ruthie Taylor from the Orchid Project, a London-based NGO that is pioneering a highly effective, community-based approach to ending the practice of female genital cutting.
Change occurs after people take action, and action occurs when people are inspired. I love to be inspired. Who doesn’t? When I’m inspired, I feel an almost physical response—suddenly my day looks brighter, my life seems more exciting, my dreams more attainable, and those around me appear as potential partners with whom I want to share the thrill, build momentum, and take action. So, I ask myself “How and when am I most inspired?” If I can figure it out, I can share it with more people, and keep the inspiration buzz going and growing.
The percentage of girls admitted each year to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology has been falling. The Joint Entrance Exam 2012 report states that the percentage of girls admitted has decreased from 9.9 in 2011 to 9.7 in 2012. My previous post, Introducing the Girls’ STEM Education Program in India, explains a few of the causes and our endeavors to break those barriers. In continuation of the needs assessment plan for the pilot program to be launched in Southern India, the IIE team set out for another site visit in December 2013.
While the literacy rate among girls is getting better gradually, the gender gap still continues and when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, girls are significantly underrepresented in most parts of India. Various factors are responsible for this disparity, such as differential socialization of men and women, impaired self-confidence and expectations regarding the impact of children on women's academic careers. Parents may not want to spend money for their daughters, or do not want to send their daughters to faraway places for safety concerns. The roots of this problem in India lie in the different gender experiences of boys and girls. As young girls and women, females are socialized to seek help and be help givers rather than to be self-reliant or to function autonomously or competitively, as are boys.
In her recent article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Karin Fischer makes a number of important points about the often-difficult reality of developing academic partnerships with Indian institutions. Anyone having attempted to foster these relationships will no doubt be able to relate to the bureaucratic hurdles, credit transfer issues, differing pedagogy, and incompatible research interests that inevitably arise.