One of the most interesting aspects about the Book Bus school visits was to see first hand whether gender differences impacted on the quality of the education offered and ultimately how these affected the achievements of boys and girls in the primary schools.
Children in India are provided with free and compulsory education up to the age of 14, however, the outlook for girls fulfilling their educational potential is still uncertain. The Book Bus project focused on schools in the rural areas of Jodphur and it was a pleasant surprise to find out there were high achievers who could not only read and write in Hindi but had a good grasp of English. This can only be a positive step forward enabling the children to be open and receptive to opportunities which may have otherwise have been beyond their reach. There was still a notable disparity in male and female attainments and generally speaking, the educational high fliers were boys.
Culturally, it is deemed important for boys in India to complete their education, attain a good literacy level and, familial circumstances allowing, be educated beyond the age of 14. For the girls, however, the outlook is bleaker, particularly in rural areas where sadly there are still some girls who do not participate in any formal education. The socio-cultural factors, seen most frequently in the lower-caste system often dictate that young girls are expected to work at home and ultimately enter arranged marriages at a young age. The stark truth remains that even if investment in education in India is forthcoming sadly in some areas, females will never experience paid employment.