Co-education – A Level Playing Field?
I completed my formal education 6 years ago. From kindergarten to class XII, I studied in co-educational schools. Then I completed under graduation in a ladies college before going back to a co-ed institution for my master’s degree. I would like to put forward some of my experiences in both types of institutions.
When I was in class 3 or 4, we were asked to choose our extra-curricular activities. I chose gymnastics. The teachers were taken by surprise as I was the only girl in the whole class to choose what they labeled a “boy’s activity.” They tried to make me change my mind and choose a “girly activity” like classical dance and vocal music. Well, I had a stubborn streak even as a kid, so I stuck to my guns and chose gymnastics. Emboldened by what I had done, 2 other girls came forward to join gymnastics. This surprised the teachers even more.
Three years went by and more girls followed in our footsteps. One fine day, I attained puberty and had the REAL bad luck to have it happen in school, right after my gymnastics class. The whole school (meaning the teachers and other administrative staff) knew about it even before I realized what was happening was pretty momentous. I was too young to understand the ramifications of this natural process.
The next day, my class teacher cornered me and told me I was a “big girl” now and so I should not play with boys anymore and I should opt for a more “girly” extra-curricular activity. I gave her a strange look, as I had no clue what all this meant. I was quite a tomboy (still am, in many ways) and I loved playing with the boys. So I rebelled once again and did as I pleased. Then came another shock; the gym teacher, a man, refused to have me in his class anymore! I was forced to take up another activity and I opted for Karate. The teachers, except the karate master, threw up their hands in exasperation and left me in peace after that.
Whenever I or any other girls complained about the inappropriate behavior of boys or the male teachers, we were told to: “act like ladies and if you behave like tramps, it’s no wonder you are getting unwanted attention!” Double standards?
During my undergraduate days, I observed that many girls who had studied only in all-girls institutions all their lives found it difficult to interact with male members of the faculty and hesitated in putting their questions forward whenever we had seminars and guest lectures, especially when the speakers were men. 95% of the girls from co-ed institutions did not have this problem.
After I completed my undergraduate studies, I enrolled in a co-ed institution for my master’s degree. Here, I encountered a new playing field with rules which were absurd and outdated. The young men and ladies were not supposed to interact with each other, sit next to each other for group work and sure as hell not supposed to socialize with each other outside college! I almost had a heart attack when I heard these rules on the first day. I told myself this is utterly ridiculous and fortunately found a whole class full of boys and girls who wholeheartedly agreed with me (at least in this case). We chose to ignore these unwritten decrees and we’re none the worse for it!
I do not think that this is an isolated scenario. This situation persists in a lot of leading educational institutions even today. So, where is the level playing field????? If you are student or a students parent, just break away from this age old mould. Do what you like and always remember, there are ladies who are in space.