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Direct and opportunity costs of schooling a girl child: a case study of puncha block of purulia district, West Bengal, India

Author: 
Shovan Ghosh and Susmita Sengupta
Subject Area: 
Health Sciences
Abstract: 

What constrains investments in girls’ schooling? The answer lies in a deeper understanding of the apparent returns - who gains from education in what ways, and who bears the costs, both economic and social. From the families’ perspective, the costs of educating girls are likely to be higher and the benefits are more tenuous than the boys. This discrepancy is greater and matter more in poor households of rural India where educating girls may seem a less attractive investment than boys. It is the family, especially the parents – who usually decide how much education their children will receive. The family bears several kinds of costs for their children’s schooling, e.g., direct costs, opportunity costs of child’s time spent in school and lastly the costs of observing socio-cultural tradition and ensuring safety, all of which in most of the poor families are likely to be higher for girls than the boys. Even the enthusiastic parents have to bear tremendous pressure to educate their girls even at the beginning of new millennium. Such social cost cannot be depreciated in this regard. At the same time, physical barriers in terms of hilly terrain, poor accessibility and inadequate connectivity, etc. are mainly responsible for the socio-economic backwardness of the marginal people living in hilly and mountainous tracts of India. The present study opts to investigate the above costs acting as typical constraints of girls’ education influencing parental decision-making with special reference to Puncha block, one of the backward blocks of Purulia District, West Bengal. The study also fosters rethinking the education and development paradigms, especially for girls, reducing the costs of girls’ schooling and legitimizing alternative forms of learning. This will lead to an education system that empowers communities and will not only nurture their inherent potential but extend their social possibilities also.

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