Gender and Inclusion


gender education

Education for All

Over the years, awareness has increased in India about the need to extend the reach of elementary education to children from all social backgrounds. This is particularly the case for girls, and children of both sexes from Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), children with disabilities and children from linguistic, ethnic and religious minority groups.

India has witnessed a wide range of efforts to bring these children within the fold of education, and such efforts have helped to increase the participation rates of marginalized children.

The table below shows the status of enrolment of children from different social backgrounds as well as of girls..

*UPS: Upper Primary Class

Gender Atlas

Children who are the most difficult of all to reach with education are not reflected in broad surveys such as the one above. It is these excluded groups who need to be focused on in addressing imbalances in gender and inclusion.

To this end, a ‘Gender Atlas’ – a decision-making tool for effective and targeted programming for girls’ education – is being preparedby UNICEF with a prototype expected to be rolled soon. 

UNICEF is also working to improve functioning of the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBV) - residential upper primary schools for children out of school, especially religious minorities and girls aged 11-14 years from marginalized groups such as SCs, STs, Other Backward Castes (OBCs).

UNICEF has been working on the effort closely with the Indian government flagship education programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, both at the national and states levels, along with supporting states in developing teacher capacity and wardens’ management skills, 

UNICEF has introduced a physical education and sports programme (Prerna, Handbook for Physical Education and Sports) and undertaken vulnerability mapping in selected KGBVs. Discussions have been initiated to improve transition rates of girls from the upper primary level to the secondary level of education.  

At the national level, UNICEF has engaged with the Department of School Education and Literacy in the National Evaluation of the KGBVs and coordinated a subsequent review with states workshops. 
It is agreed that children are best with their families. However, the option of residential schools, In India,  is seen as a means of providing access to education to children of marginalized communities who for want of schools often remain out of school.

As a part of inclusive programming, a guidance note on residential schools has been drafted jointly by Education and Child protection Sections  to provide some ideas for programming for residential schools within the framework of child rights and the right to education Act. 
UNICEF has also been working with girls’ collectives such as Meena Manch in states including Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh to build self-confidence among girls, create awareness about the importance of education and attending school regularly and desired hygiene and sanitation practices, and develop leadership qualities and team spirit.

There is evidence that involvement in these collectives has helped delay the marriage age of participants’ peers and others in the local community and increased the flow of children withdrawing from work and enrolling and regularly attending school. To further the efforts, UNICEF has also made partnerships with various NGOs and the Mahila Samakhya Programme (programme of the Government of India for the empowerment of women through education).


Big Picture

Why the need for equity programmes in education?

The layers of inequity woven into India’s social fabric are well known, and teachers and students alike bring these to the school and classroom. Social divides like language, caste, religion, gender, location, culture and customs are inherited from generation to generationtogether with their inherentbiases. 

Students who are physically or mentally challenged are also disadvantaged.

Children’s gender, economic class, location and ethnic identity largely define the type of school they will access, the kind of experiences they will have in school and the benefits they will reap from being educated. With the great diversity of learners in today’s classrooms, there comes the challenge to provide equitable education to each and every child.

Ensuring equity and excellence by delivering equitable, quality education in formal schooling lies at the very core of any country’s educational system, in which the teacher – the key facilitator of the education process – plays the most important role in shaping the child’s journey through schooling.

UNICEF In Action

Gender and inclusion are one of the important aspects UNICEF considers as part of training programmesfor teachers and the wider community. Training for teachers ensures democratic classrooms and teaching-learning processes that encourage equal participation of children from all backgrounds, including girls.

Training for the community ensures that all children in the neighbourhood of the school are enrolled, attend school regularly and are treated well in school. UNICEF has supported states to develop training modules and incorporate training on developing skills to respond to diversities in school and within classroom settings. A national-level consultation, “Addressing Equity Issues in Education”, washeld with a focus on classrooms and teachers.

UNICEF has led community mobilization programmes in areas where education indicators are below par. The thrust has been on mobilizingthe community through localized campaigns, sensitization meetings involving existing community-level institutions, such as  the attendance campaign, creating awareness about the entitlements of children and talking directly to particularly vulnerable families.

In the state of Assam, there is an example of UNICEF being able to reach small communities in hostile locations to ensure school attendance participationwhere a lack of education otherwise adds further to people’s marginalization.

UNICEF has also commenced work in selected areas of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha that are affected by conflict, to provide children education as a fundamental right.

While the approach has been different in the four states, each focuses on aspects that will help children in these areas complete eight years of elementary education. Alongside this, both UNICEF’s Education and Child Protection sections have initiated inclusion programming in conflict-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir. This collaborative endeavour between UNICEF and NGO, Save the Children, targets six education zones in three districts.