Biased teachers and gender gap in learning outcomes: Evidence from India

Biased teachers and gender gap in learning outcomes: Evidence from India

Soham Sahoo, Sonali Rakshit

Journal: Journal of Development Economics

Abstract: This study evaluates the effect of teacher’s gender stereotype on student’s learning outcomes in the Indian context. The paper shows that the gender gap (favoring boys) in math performance widens when students are taught by math teachers holding gender-stereotypical beliefs. The analysis also shows that biased teachers negatively affect girls’ attitude towards math learning, self-confidence and effort, compared to boys. These effects are significant only for math outcome, as no such effect is found on English score. This is consistent with the literature showing a significant gender gap in math performance among adolescent students in various parts of the world, while girls are at par with (or better than, in some instances) boys in learning languages. With the prevalence of societal stereotypes against girls’ math skills, girls may be more susceptible to teacher’s stereotype while studying math rather than language. Math teachers may also be more expressive of their stereotypical behavior than language teachers in the classroom.

The study highlights the need for recognizing the role of teachers’ influence on the gender gap in students’ math performance, which has further implications on stream choice and future earnings of girls. In societies where gender bias is pervasive, gender stereotypes may creep into the classroom via teachers. This hampers the learning process and reproduces the inequalities that education is supposed to reduce. Some studies have suggested that gender sensitization programs for adolescent school-going students may be beneficial for promoting gender equality. This study shows that there is also a need for sensitizing teachers in order to achieve gender equality in learning outcomes. Identifying an effective policy in this regard is a future research question.

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