India is primarily a patriarchal society with a small segment of the population that adheres to matriarchal beliefs and values. Within the national culture there exists a “son syndrome” which entails giving preference to sons over daughters and placing a greater value on the male child. This cultural norm breeds gender discrimination in families, schools and communities; something that is reflected in everyday life, at both individual and collective levels – the girl child is an “issue” i.e. she is not of value to the family or in the larger sense to society, but rather a problem to be dealt with. Combating this mindset has not been easy. However there exists a ray of hope; the state of India has not only supported but also enthusiastically ratified the ‘UN Convention of Child Rights’.
In 2009 the passing of the Compulsory Education Act was a historic moment for the children of India that clearly indicated the commitment of the state to providing educational opportunities for all children. The act reinforced faith in school education as being in the best interest of children as well as society. Also highlighted in the act are policies related to child participation, child protection, and the challenges of implementing them in a tradition-bound society. The Act makes available to the girl child—in a very real sense—all that is overdue to her.
In this paper, which follows Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theoretical framework, an attempt is made to analyze the situation and to suggest that schools continue with what they are doing. It also calls for a plan of action in schools which fosters the values of gender equity in the next generation of India. The Right of Education will be meaningful if the educational system can encourage boys to treat girls as equals in the new emerging, economically strong, and knowledge- based modern Indian