With the prospect of going straight into a scale-up in Odisha, Breakthrough felt it to be more of an imperative to be taking up a formative research in Odisha to not only inform the curriculum components but also to assess our approach in relation to the local context. Therefore, with approval from the government body OSEPA (Odisha School Education Programme Authority) and in collaboration with Praxis, we undertook a formative research in 5 districts of Odisha that represent different socio cultural and geographical diversity with the following objectives:
- Documenting gender-based norms in cultures and narratives
- Understanding perceptions related to gender equity in the five sample districts
- Documenting narratives around change stories, influencers
- Documenting existing gender-based discrimination in pedagogy and curriculums
Key Findings of the Formative Research are-
- Questions related to aspirations of boys and girls received a mixed set of responses, which, while indicating prevalent gender gaps, adherence to limiting norms and hegemonic conditioning, also offered glimpses of youth having aspirations that are ‘different.’ For example, while some responses from girls included joining the police force or becoming a sports coach, some boys aspired to set up a garden or become a dance teacher.
- Probing into gender-based discrimination in accessing education revealed lack of support for girls’ education from families due to burden of household responsibilities on girls, general social beliefs and norms (educated girls tougher to be married off, prevalent early marriage in tribal area, more dowry is charged if girls are too qualified, too much education ‘mislead’ girls) as well as infrastructural Limitations (higher Secondary schools are far away and transportation is limited; schools lack fully functioning toilets)
Examination of the curriculum/pedagogy revealed the following key gaps:
- Content Lacks Representation/Diversity: Textbooks are largely written from an upper caste/upper class/male lens; There are not enough examples of Odia influencers; not enough examples from the tribal background; not enough examples of women leaders or achievers – existing examples are limited to national leaders like Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi or Indira Gandhi. Children from tribal communities lose touch with their local knowledge and traditions in this trade-off with a formal education.
- Women are Largely Absent: There is a lack of representation of women in textbooks;
where present, they only reinforce patriarchal norms.
- Content is Largely Conceptual: There are no examples or references to real life situations and problems; realities, current scenarios. For example, there are no references to women’s contribution in economic growth or women’s participation in the workforce etc. in Economics textbooks. Geography texts look at phenomena, but not how these impact lives of men and women; people from margins differently.