By Dr Rowena Arshad, Head of Moray House School of Education, the University of Edinburgh
As Prof Roger Jeffery mentioned in a previous blog, the first week of the University’s events in India, is over. So what struck me in that altogether brief, but packed, week? It has to be the sheer scale and diversity of India. The traffic in Delhi is seriously scary and you require a good horn, excellent brakes and guts to drive in the City. I was pleased I did not have to do so!
More seriously though…I was struck by the fact that Scotland is smaller than most of the states in India and the closest in population size is the state of Himachal Pradesh (21st smallest of 29 states).
In terms of women and school leadership, there is also a big difference. In Scotland, according to the 2014 Scottish Government teacher census – 87% of primary headteachers and 39 % of secondary headteachers are women. In India, there are hardly any women headteachers other than in primary. Where they exist, they tend to be in ‘acting’ positions which means women in these posts are in it on a temporary basis. The states of Kerala, Delhi, Goa, Tripura and Daman & Diu show a move towards higher representation of women in school leadership positions and in many other states, as Dr N. Mythilli from NUEPA indicates, women’s representation at headship level is ‘abysmally low’.
Where there is commonality is in the issues affecting female teachers in both countries. Scottish and Indian women still have to juggle the complexities of life-work balance, deal with everyday forms of sexism, and grapple with helping others understand that ‘woman’ is not a homogenous group. Factors such as age, caste/class, ethnicity, linguistic diversity, geography and place, religion and beliefs and ability impact on our life opportunities, both in India and Scotland.
It will be both a challenge but also incredibly exciting to identify the research area that is original and makes sense to two countries that are so different in scale. However, I look forward to this challenge as well as being able to return to Delhi to take forward further collaborations with NUEPA and beyond.