Educational participation of girls in Nepal: an ethnographic study of girls' education in a rural village

PhD Thesis

Timsina, G. 2011. Educational participation of girls in Nepal: an ethnographic study of girls' education in a rural village. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Education
AuthorsTimsina, G.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification namePhD

In this thesis I explore the extent to which women and girls are disadvantaged within the Nepalese education system. I attempt to investigate the barriers to, and opportunities for, participation by women and girls in the formal education system, including those who are doubly discriminated against because of gender and caste.

I attempt to explore the issues in three ways: through an examination of my own experience growing up in Nepal as a member of a Brahmin family, and employed within the Ministry of Education in Nepal; through an exploration of the relevant literature within and outside Nepal; and through an ethnographic case-study of a village community. I spent about four months as a participant observer in the village engaging in unstructured in-depth interviews, as well as recording conversations and reflections in a research diary. Although the village is situated only 15 kilometers from Kathmandu, it exhibited a pattern of life that has changed very slowly in the fifty-two years since the end of the 50s.

I report the extent of changes in the experiences of women and girls in the village, through their own reflections on their social position and the value of education to them, and their involvement and attendance at public, including religious, occasions. I report, too, on both the changing attitudes of men and their resistance to them. I pay particular attention to the present position of girls, through a detailed account of a public secondary school, situated at the centre of the village. I report on my observations in the classroom, conducted interviews with
the girls, inside and outside school, and read their diaries in which they wrote down reflections about their experiences in school and at home.

I selected, as key informants, a group of Dalit and Non-Dalit girls and boys, who were studying in Bhagawati School, as well as a group of girls who had stopped attending school.
The activities of these key informants were observed in their schools, and outside as well. Interviews were also conducted with their parents, teachers and members of the different
communities in the village. These opinions were supplemented with views about the education of girls, in general, and Dalit girls, in particular, and from discussions with Dalit
activists and NGO workers.

I consider how the value of education for girls is revealed, and affected, by competition from private schools, where boys predominate. I build a picture of the differences in educational participation of Dalits and non-Dalits, males and females and Dalit and non-Dalit girls. I also examine the role of NGOs in the village, and the extent to which they influence participation of women in education.

I incorporate concepts of inclusion and exclusion into Bourdieu’s theory of cultural reproduction, as grounds for understanding how discrimination towards girls and Dalits is
perpetuated in education. I also borrow the concept ofcultural production theory, in order to examine how the schooled children resist traditional beliefs and prejudiced attitudes, about gender and caste, where the school offers a forum for the creation of a new counter-culture. I also draw on a Freirean approach to analyse how to increase the self-awareness of the excluded about their own exclusion.

I provide an analysis of the case-study material, and a consideration of what these add to the literature and my own autobiographical reflections. I follow this with a critical analysis of how girls, and disadvantaged children, have experienced change in their educational participation, as a result of the efforts made by the government to implement its educational policies.

I conclude that discrimination against girls in education persists, despite some changes, and is exacerbated by the interaction between gender, caste and poverty. The patriarchal value system and prejudices towards girls’ education, are still creating major barriers to girls’ opportunities for education, with low caste disproportionately increasing discrimination towards girls, compared to boys. The growth of private education is an added force for discrimination, with boys far more likely than girls to be supported by their families at private schools. I suggest that ways of combating discrimination need to be reviewed, within the relatively new context of a Nepalese democratic republic. This will require a redirection of
policy-making and administration, from personal careers and patronage, towards a determined effort to put into practice the ideals of the Education for All programme in Nepal,
without regard to gender, caste or ethnic background.

KeywordsInclusion, exclusion, participation, Dalits, policy
Publication process dates
Deposited27 Jan 2012
Output statusUnpublished
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