Surveys, researches and commentaries on decreasing participation of women in workforce in India, are well documented. These point out to alarming trend whereby the share of working women had decreased significantly in the decade before covid pandemic from 26% to 19%, even though they comprise 48% of the population. The pandemic has actually precipitated this trend.
At the same time, some subtle contributors are often not looked into. For instance, while the complexities and macro factors have been analyzed to great detail, contribution of schooling hasn’t been perhaps. There is an emerging pattern of young mothers preferring home to work because of education of their children.
Education of children has become more aspirational and mothers are willingly making sacrifices by giving up jobs not only to raise their children but also help them in school homework. The spread and growth of school homework in itself is a phantom phenomenon of modern schooling.
As a popular trend, ‘worried’ parents start education and career planning just with childbirth and this thought only gets restive with passing years. And, that entrance exam after class 12 for college admissions is etched on the minds of both the child as well as parents like a permanent alarm clock from thereon. Concurrently, hobby classes, sports, talent enhancement coaching which have turned into an industry tramples childhood under parental expectations and pressure of schedules.
All this eagerness and pressure has also translated into a huge stress on schools. The schools, which are already in perpetual experimentation mode for implementing one or the other program, plan or policy, are also participants of a race, where these have to showcase photo-features of their achievers in board and other examination just to reinforce their reputations and also how academic intensive the school is.
Project-based learning and allied concepts have been in fashion for several years now in country’s schools. The bulk of this teaching/learning and doing is for parents at home. Almost all schools give students project work for home without training students or assessing if it is age appropriate, feasible on students resources including time. The result, all this activity squarely falls on the shoulders of parents. Some try, some buy and most children never submit these projects. In reality, these projects are just a tiny fraction of tons of homework that teachers give to their students in most schools including renowned private schools and quality government school chains.
For middle and secondary classes, this school homework must be translating into good four to five hours after school. Adding tuitions and weekend coaching, school-going children in urban India have been left without any time to enjoy life and their natural development. And, this burden is equally shared by their mothers, who in support and solidarity of their schooling age children spent their productive years being around them. Nuclear families don’t have an option and as such the trend is socially also becoming acceptable and norm. Once, these women pass a certain age, working outside home is not a dream or habit. Even those who work, while choosing their careers and professions often chose convenience over choice and interest.
National Education Policy (NEP 2020), which is being touted as the magic pill for education and skill revolution in India must be used to standardize practices by schools on homework and after school assignments. There is a need to look minutely on this area if these mothers are to be incorporated into workforce. There is also the need to minimize school homework and instead replace it with skilling and sports by community way. Like schoolbags, school homework is also an understated issue, which is not helping either the cause of children or women empowerment.