Excitement is palpable in the voices of most school students currently studying in same-gender institutions when they hear about the possibility of their schools offering co-education. The issue goes a little deeper for the Kerala
State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, which passed a directive to convert all same-gender schools into co-ed schools.
In the directive, the Commission has asked the state government to allow only co-education from the academic year of 2022-23. Manoj Kumar KV, chairperson, Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, says, “There are around 4,000 schools in Kerala across the government, aided, private, and unaided sections. The maximum number of same-gender schools are in the private sector.”
While work in this regard has been going on for a few years now, the directive was fuelled by a recent public interest litigation (PIL) that called gender-based education an act against Right to Equality. Kumar says, “Co-education is important for social existence. When we expect higher education and professional decisions to be taken without gender discrimination, having same-gender schools negates our intentions. The Kerala government stands for equality and we hope for a positive response to our directive soon.”
Educators quote surveys and studies in favour of mixed schools. Kumar says, “A study conducted by Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad around seven years ago claimed that students in mixed schools’ study more and are better at social relationships and at respecting their peers.” Similarly, Shailendra Sharma, principal advisor, director education, government of Delhi, refers to a survey conducted by the Delhi government, which showed that results of students from mixed schools were better than those from same-gender schools.
A few sections in the Indian society prefer same-gender schools, but co-education offers students’ better preparedness for the future, says Kamlesh Singh, principal, Shanti Asiatic School, Kheda, Gujarat. “The future of education cannot be dependent solely on public sentiment. Same-gender schools fail to impart students with the feelings of equality, consideration, healthy competition and more. Similarly, certain traditions like patriarchy can be tackled through co-education as students here will understand that everyone is equal.”
Lack of adequate infrastructure is one of the biggest hurdles in converting same-gender schools to mixed schools, says Kumar. “Once we receive a confirmation from the Kerala government, efforts will be made towards adding parameters to the present school buildings to make them ready for all students regardless of gender,” he says.
Sharma says, “In Delhi, a higher number of student enrolment against available classrooms led to classes being held in two shifts. Somehow, the morning shift became for girls while the afternoon shift was for boys. This practice became a habit for all government schools, which is taking time to change.” The government has added 20,000 classrooms over the last seven years, which is helping them slowly do away with a two-shift system. “This is also gradually bringing a halt to the same-gender education system,” he adds.