In honour of the International Day of the Girl Child (October 11th) and UN’s Global Media and Information Literacy Week (October 24th-31st) we asked some colleagues across the Springer Nature Group to share their expertise and experience around the topic of gender and education. Here we're sharing an interview by Emma Bourne, Managing Director at Macmillan Education, who explores this important topic in conversation with Shashi Meenakumari, Head-Publishing at Macmillan Education India.
My job title is Director - Publishing, Macmillan Education India. We publish teaching and learning resources for schools in India and the Middle East following different curricular boards.
I work in the K-12 space and my areas of interest are Early Childhood Education (foundational years of 3 to 8 years) and hands-on teaching of science. Focus on the 17 SDGs, right from the foundational years, is at the heart of most of our learning resources that we publish.
As educational publishers operating in the K-12 space, our first priority is bringing a change in learners through the learning and teaching resources that we create and publish. Catch them Young is the mantra. Young learners are the future of our nation and communities, and education shapes their views and sense of accountability for responsible living.
We are confident that with the right kind of learning resources and engaging classrooms, we would be able to mold our young learners to follow sustainability practices and thereby preserve the environment and resources for the future. Young learners who have access to an equitable education, we believe, will ensure a better life for present and future generations, by conserving and preserving natural resources.
Gender and Education is critical to Macmillan Education’s work across our diverse footprint. We have created our inclusive publishing guidelines, which are being put into practice across Curriculum and ELT to ensure diversity and inclusion is at the heart of all we do, meeting the needs of all learners. There are three core principles: everyone learns in every lesson; embrace inclusivity; always remember the bigger picture and our overall contribution to inclusion in the wider society. A large part of that is gender equality across all aspects of our work.
Gender equity refers to equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities for all people irrespective of their gender. This includes equal access to education, nutrition, healthcare, employment opportunities, wages, sports and protection from gender-based violence and discrimination.
Education plays a critical role in promoting gender equality by breaking down gender stereotypes, and empowering girls to maximise their potential. Gender-responsive teaching and learning involves using strategies, tools, gender-sensitive language, images that are inclusive and responsive to the diverse needs of all learners. The publishing team at Macmillan Education endeavours to publish content that is inclusive, responsive and empowering for all learners, regardless of their gender and socio-economic status.
India is the largest democracy in the world, with the largest youth population in the world. My work is therefore focussed on ensuring we provide inclusive and equitable quality education (SDG 4) and gender equality (SDG5) to help learners uphold the values of freedom, equality, and inclusivity as well as to lead a quality and dignified life. With 20 million students worldwide learning with our content and technology, it is critical that as part of one of the biggest global educational publishers, we lead the way on quality education.
At Macmillan India, gender equality is a top priority, as we believe that it is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. Within India, like many other countries, family duties rest with women and girl’s education often comes secondary. Providing inclusive quality education to all is non-negotiable.
Literacy is an important indicator of a country’s human development. According to the report published by the National Survey of India, the literacy Rate of India in 2023 is 77.7%, with male literacy at 84.7% and female literacy at 70.3 %. This gender split is higher in rural areas. India has identified SDG 4 as a top priority and has taken various measures to address the current challenges and gaps in the education system. The most recent one is the National Education Policy (NEP), released in 2020 after a span of 34 years, with the motto Educate Encourage and Enlighten.
The policy document focuses on a range of educational reforms to ensure that SDGs 4 and 5 are met by 2030. India also aims to achieve Foundational literacy and numeracy by 2025. A Gender Inclusion Fund (GIF) has been set up to build India’s capacity to provide equitable quality education for all girls and transgender learners in public (Govt run) schools. The fund will focus on ensuring 100% enrolment of girls in schooling and a record participation rate in higher education, decrease gender gaps at all levels, practice gender equity and inclusion in society, and improve the leadership capacity of girls through positive civil dialogues.
As publishers, we need to ensure that the learning-teaching resources are drawn from various parts of the country (India is a pluralistic country), authors /editors/ reviewers and teachers are from Pan India and parts of the world for realistic depictions and provide access to technology. Using real-life examples, case studies and newer pedagogies will also help in promoting equitable education practices. The needs of CWSN should also be kept in mind by suggesting strategies for teachers to teach effectively in inclusive classrooms. We ensure that we integrate this within all our publishing, and our digital platform Altura.
Emma Bourne is Managing Director at Macmillan Education, and Shashi Meenakumari is Director - Publishing at Macmillan Education India.