Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Book Reviews -- Women, Education, & Family Structure in India Edited by Mukhopadhyay, Carol Chapnick, and Susan Seymour

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Book Reviews -- Women, Education, & Family Structure in India Edited by Mukhopadhyay, Carol Chapnick, and Susan Seymour

Article excerpt

MUKOPADHYAY, Carol CHAPNICK and Susan SEYMOUR, eds. WOMEN, EDUCATION, & FAMILY STRUCTURE IN INDIA. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994, 245pp, 454.85 hardcover.

This book brings together several excellent studies examining the linkages between gender, family, and education in India. As the editors point out, the multifaceted relationships between these spheres is often overlooked in preference for the dynamics between gender and family, or gender and education. The material presented clearly demonstrates that the "patrifocal family system and ideology" simultaneously shapes women's roles in the family and their opportunities for educational achievement. This is an extremely important issue since education for women has been heralded as a means to improve the status of women in India. Yet increasing women's access to educational opportunities alone will not bring about the desired increase in education or the secondary outcomes (i.e. lower fertility and infant mortality). Increased education for women must first become an integral part of women's roles in the family.

The overall theme of this book is highly consistent for an edited volume. In short, it is argued that some women in India have been able to achieve high levels of education because Indian men increasingly desire educated wives. As long as education increases parental ability to arrange good marriages for their daughters, it is desirable. However, as repeatedly illustrated in this book, too much education can negatively affect marriage possibilities. The major problem is that it is not acceptable for a man to marry a woman who is more highly educated than himself.

The first of three sections in this book examines the history of western style education in India, the rise of educational opportunities for women, and the family's role in determining women's educational achievements. The spread of education for women is highly parallel to that in Western Europe and the United States. Education for women was first seen as a way to produce better wives and mothers. The emphasis was primarily on domestic types of knowledge. However, the patriarchal ideology of India has taken different forms than in the West. For instance, the practice of purdah made it extremely difficult for girls to attend school with boys. For this reason, home-schooling (zenana schools) were popular. …

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