Indian parents’ prevailing bias for sons over daughters has resulted in India having the world’s most number of illiterates, a study has revealed.
While the country offers education as a basic human right for its people, statistics reveal a significant number of dropouts, with more than 40% of India’s children dropping out of school as early as the elementary years.
Currently, the country has more than 287 million illiterates, which amounts to 37% of the global figures, according to UNESCO. Figures also show that 40% of Indian children don’t grow to their full potential due to the lack of resources they are provided.
According to the study published by the American non-profit, National Bureau of Economic Research, India’s traditional preference for male over female children plays a huge factor in such alarming statistics.
Research heads Georgetown University’s Adriana Kugler and Sam Houston State University’s Santosh Kumar came to the conclusion after studying two of the most comprehensive surveys produced in the country.
The district-level household poll from 2007-08 looked into the effects on educational outcomes, while the national family health survey from 2005-06 reviewed the impact of family size on weight and height of young children.
The study noted that one common example that indicates bias in families is when the couple’s first born is female, they will continue to make more children until they finally have a male child. The first child’s gender will basically determine the size of the family.
While the situation does not have much of an effect on children from rich households, the majority, made of rural and poor families, tend to get little to no resources as an extra child takes away from the rest of the children in the family.
The research found that having an extra child causes a reduction in schooling by 0.1 years on average. It also reduces the probability of a child ever attending school by up to 2%.
With the sheer size of India’s young population, the small percentage can add up to millions who are never going to be able to study.
The study further noted that the impact of an extra child “in terms of reducing enrollment and attendance double and the impact of an extra child on years of schooling increase fourfold for illiterate and poor mothers, suggesting much larger gains from reducing family size in disadvantaged households.”