“Lack of good co-ed colleges and parental pressure discourage boys like me to pursue home science after college,” says Nikunj Vij, a 20-year-old boy, who studied home science as one of his subjects in class 11th and 12th in school. Contrary to the popular perception, he feels that home science is a diverse discipline and can prove to be of great significance in the later stages of a person’s education and professional life.
Unfortunately, a society marred with stereotypical gender roles where women are best raised up to become homemakers while men are trained to become breadwinners, coupled with lack of educational opportunities, ensures that the subject continues to elude male students even in the 21st century.
Every year, the admission season reminds us of the flaws in our education system. So, the prestigious Delhi University and most of the other colleges around the country offer a Bachelors of Science (BSc) in home science as a course only to female students while conveniently overlooking the minority of male applicants who are also interested in the course. In July last year, Women and Child Development Ministry sent the draft National Policy for Women 2017 to the cabinet for consideration, which proposed that the HRD Ministry should redesign school curriculum to promote gender sensitivity as well as make home science and physical education compulsory for both girls and boys. However, the bill still waits to see the light of day.
‘My department is very clean and boys usually litter things’
“In the socio-cultural structure of our society, patriarchy still exists which makes it unthinkable for men to take up a subject like home science. However, I feel, that we are biased towards women because we only teach them important life skills but don’t think it’s important for men to learn them as well,” Dr Sangita Srivastava, a faculty member at the Home Science department in University of Allahabad tells InUth. While the university is co-ed, the home-science department is open only to women.
“We may allow boys to apply for our course if we feel that there is a need to and if the resources allow us because our university is always up to change for the better. But as a matter of fact, so far, we haven’t come across any case of a male student applying for the subject,” said Dr Srivastava.
Interestingly, Dr Srivastava also believes that men would “litter” her department. “I don’t like the idea of inducting men into the department because my department is very clean and boys usually litter things,” she says.
‘Lack of colleges reiterates the stereotypical beliefs of the parents’
While the unavailability of male applicants may be an excuse good enough for colleges to keep their doors closed for them, Pooja Dawer Rao, a Delhi-based career counselor says that the fact that all colleges which offer home science are girls’ colleges reiterates the stereotypical mindset of the society. “It’s a vicious circle. Often we have to counsel the parents rather than the student. Many of them don’t like the idea of their sons studying ‘soft’ subjects like home science or psychology, so they don’t allow them to go ahead with this subject choice. The lack of co-ed colleges just reiterates their stereotypical beliefs,” she said.
‘A Dynamic Subject’
Ms Bharti Pushkarna, a PGT home science teacher explains that while the subject is quite “dynamic”, but fails to garner the appreciation it deserves. “It is the only subject, I feel, which is skill-oriented and teaches you how to deal with everything under the sun. It imparts basic life skills, which are significant for anyone, irrespective of their gender. It is not just about cooking and sewing, as it trains one to be mindful, to live a healthy life, and apparel/textile designing, resource management etc. It makes you independent. So now a change can be seen in the lifestyle of young people, who have to often stay in hostels and pgs and parents have also started realising the importance of the subject, even for their sons,” says Pushkarna. She teaches a class of 50, of which 26 are boys, all of whom applied for the course by choice.
Winds of Change
The change is coming slowly but steadily. Dr Chinu Aggarwal, a psychologist, and founder of Feeling Minds, talks about the concept of a metrosexual man. “Today, men look forward to sharing the household chores as well as other familial responsibilities. There are ample examples where men chose to be the homemakers. They would definitely not shy away from taking up home science as it teaches us important life skills and enhances our knowledge about the family as an institution,” Aggarwal tells InUth.
Breaking the myth about home science (that it is not a career-oriented subject) several students are interested in taking up home science at the undergraduate level as a stepping stone to professions like fashion designing, hotel management etc. What we now wait for is to see this change in the educational system of our country.
(Written by Urvashi Sharma)