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Gender Implications of the Education Policies in Southeast Asia

Discuss about the Position of Women In Southeast Asia.

The essay highlights the position of women in the South East Asian countries like Singapore and Indonesia. There has been considerable improvement in the South East Asian countries in terms of industrialization and modernization after their independence. It was always understood that educating women is one of the tools to embark development in a region. Building national unity and creating a better education system that shall benefit the country, came out to be of primary importance. In respect to this context, it became necessary to embark on the fact that the women of the country should get proper education. In the view point of Joseph and Cynthia (2000), educating women helps to improve the economic and the financial condition of the society because an educated woman will provide positive implication in the labour force of a country.

In case of South Asian countries, development of women became a special agenda in developing the nation. Several approaches were made to make improvements in the education system of girl child and opportunities were opened for them to go to schools (Lim & Peng, 2016). The aim of the report is to investigate the positive synergies that are important to understand the approaches made to create a positive linear relationship between education and other social norms like economic or social improvement or political empowerment among the women of the country with respect to the boys or men. A detail analysis of the factors that affect the education of men and women in the regions of Southeast Asian countries will be taken into consideration.

Reading Booth and Anne, (1999), it has been observed that educating girls has a better impact on the society compared to the boys. Therefore, the return gained from educating a girl is higher than that tended from a boy. However, it has been found that women are gradually dragged into the labour force depending upon the skills of the women. There have been other changes as well with respect to family planning or marriage of women. It was then considered as the beginning of the modernization, industrialization and on a large aspect globalization. As commented by Falkus and Malcolm, (2000), that the improvement of a nation is not possible without the contribution of women or girls in the society because they are a major and important part of any country. It falls under the responsibilities of the government of a nation to think of the ways to improve the condition of women and increase gender equality in the nation (Joseph & Cynthia, 2000).

Situation in Singapore

Several researches have been conducted in understanding the implications of girls’ education in the development of the society in terms of economic, political or on a whole on social sphere. In the view point of Frenzen, Paul and Dennis (1982), educating girls will entrap the construction of the gender identity and shall uphold the patriarchal approach of the society. Herz, Barbara and Sperling (2004) argued that there a number of questions that needs to be answered that shows the recent condition of women in the society. It is a common believe in the regions of Southeast Asian that the women are home maker and that they should be responsible to contribute towards the society by the means of taking care of others and not anything related to the jobs outside the domestic sphere because that is the responsibility of the men in the society.

The increasing impact of the steps taken to increase the education among the females of the nation has shown an increase of 47% in the population aged between 25 and 34 years (Lim, 2015). The graduation rate has also increased by 15%. This has created a positive implication on the fact that the increasing rate is higher than that of the male in the country. Women are also entitled to gain other benefits as well like lifetime income facilities in case they have been able to gain proper education (Yeoh & Huang, 1995). Apart from the monetary benefit, other benefits like proper health care, marriage prospects and productive investments in children also falls under the benefits gained by the women in the society.

If the educational scenario is considered, it has been found that the education system of Singapore have provided equal opportunities to girls and boys. This has certainly increased the female literacy rate and has improved the social and the economic condition of women in the society. In spite of these approaches, in the view point of Lim, Tan & Tan, (2012), it has been stated that the age old preservation of women and patriarchal framework of the society has still remained. Improvements have been noticed in the labour force as well. Among the 2.12 million workforces in the Singapore, 1.18 million were males and 0.94 million were females (Sakellariou & Chris, 2003). According to the statistical data of the Manpower Ministry of Singapore, it has been found that women labours are more likely to drop the workforce after a considerable time. 56% of the women in Singapore aged between 40 and 49 years worked in Singapore compared to the 76% of the women force in USA and 79% in UK (Ko, Teede & Moran, 2016). Therefore, it can be said that the women participation is less in this country compared to other countries. In a recent online survey made by Accenture, it has been found that 74% of women in Singapore turned down their job because they are not able to balance their work and life together (Ko, Teede & Moran, 2016). All these situations are clear response of the fact that there is still a kind of lacking in the women participation in the workforce.

Situation in Indonesia

Gender stereotypes and barriers in the education system in the countries of Southeast Asia especially in Indonesia are highly recognized. Gender biasness is high in the education system in schools. Men always get priority in terms continuing their education in the higher level as well (Postlethwaite, Neville & Thomas, 1980). The increasing inability as well as inefficiency of the education resource management creates a negative impact on the condition of women. However, increasing effort to improve the inefficiency of the education quality among the women or girls in the society might result in some fruitful impact on the society of these regions (Sakellariou, & Chris (2003). There has been implementation of a number of governmental policies to improve the standard of education among the women. In Indonesia, it has been seen that generally the boys and girls are given equal attention and opportunities in the education centres (Yeoh & Huang, 1995).

In the view point of Huang and Yeoh, (2016,), boys and girls belonging to the rich families are given better chances and opportunities in the schools and colleges than those belong to the poor family. Improving the quality of the education shall not improve the condition of the situation as a whole. The Indonesian government in cooperation of the US government, improvement in the teaching and training skills to support the teaching life of the people can promote gender equality and open up the opportunity for the women to participate in the labour force that shall improve the economic and the social condition of the region (Hutchison & Jenkins, 2013).

Two women were interviewed for the purpose of understanding the practical implication of the education system made primarily to improve the situation of women in the society. One of them was Malay and the other was an Indian. It was found that the Malay girl used to live alone in Singapore. She was quite old about 56 years old and had a small book store to support her living. I was known from her that she used tom live in a joint family with few other cousins. Her family thus consists of both boys and girls. She said that it was during term when she was young education was not the primary important factor in her family. In fact, the boys of her family were encouraged to go to school and the girls were primarily meant to follow the culture and the discipline of the house. However, she also received education along with her other brothers. She further exclaimed that by the time she was grown up, she gained much education. In her early 20s she used to work in a book store and used to help the customers in selecting the books of their choice. Later, she took it up to her future venture and opened up a book store at a place near her home. She further added that she managed to support her family as well with the money she used to earn from the book store. When asked about other male members in her family, she said that there are a few members in her family or she is aware of who are not sufficient in their way in terms of both education and financial support.

Impact of Girl’s Education Compared to Boy’s Education on the Family and Communities

Another girl who was interviewed was an Indian who was born and brought up in Singapore. Her mother was from India and her father from Singapore. She had a younger brother as well. As per the girl, she never faced any kind of discrimination in terms of being a girl. She and her brother used to attend the same school. She had recently completed her graduation and is now working as an assistant teacher in a private school. She has been earning good enough to support herself. When asked what her achievement in her life is, she exclaimed that although she has never been denied of having anything in life and all her demands and needs are fulfilled by her parents, yet she feels a different joy being independent and the way she supports herself. About her brother, she said that her brother is young and he is in his high school at present. They share a loving relationship in their life being with the members together.

With this analysis, it can be easily said that in case of interviewing the first woman it was understood that a little education among the women is more beneficial than educating a boy. In case of the first woman, it can be assumed that she was very little educated but she used her educational qualification to become independent and support herself as an independent women. It can be further said that educating a women will bring better result in the society compared to the boys. On the other hand, from the information gathered by interviewing the second girl, it can be said that in the recent time, people are not discriminating between a boy and a girl and the parents themselves support the education of their children. Therefore, it can be said that the situation is changing and people are aware of the importance of educating both boys and girls. Moreover, as commented by the girl herself, education helps a person to become independent and well aware of the changing society and be able to cope with the challenges at any point of their life. Educating women is indeed necessary in a society where the society is demanding equality in the society. Major steps have to be taken to boost participation of women to join the workforce and contribute in the development of the nation both in terms of economy and on a social perspective as well. In spite of the fact that the women are interested to join the work force, there arise a number of situations when women preferred part time job and do not opt for full time work and participate completely on the work force (Christiani et al., 2015).

Educational issues have been in the limelight among the Southeast Asian countries. A number of policies have been undertaken to improve the system of education and reduce the educational disparities in these underdeveloped and developing regions (Hutchison & Jenkins, 2013). South Asian Nations in spite of having differences in terms of the political systems, ideologies or development policies, they share a common view towards their education system (Koning et al., 2013). With the increasing competition and impact of globalization, focusing on the changes of educational system became one of the primary important issues among the governmental policies of these nations. In 2007, a closer cooperation in terms of education system and human development was recognized and focus had been made on improving the education system of the countries (Fechter, 2016). Examination system revealed a combination of the education policies of Australia, Japan, Korea and Singapore as well.

21st century has presented unique and significant changes in terms of its economy, interdependencies, technology for all countries around the world. Same impact has been found in the South Asian regions as well. It has been observed that there have been significant changes in the geo-political scenario of the countries of these regions (Hutchison & Jenkins, 2013). There have been considerable changes in the demography of Southeast Asia due to migration. About 50% of the migrants come from the regions like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka compared to the rest of the population from Indonesia. As commented by Hayati, (2013), the increasing mobility of the labour force across these nations has compelled to take steps to alter the educational system of these regions. The emerging challenges and opportunities have important implications in the decision of education policy making. This has shaped both the national and international education system. Government policies to encourage and help women to stay in the labour force, and become active contributors in economic growth of the nation were seen (Lindberg & Jütting, 2016). Focus has been made greatly on the education system to educate women of the nation.

Economically, it can be said that in the past two decades there has been considerable growth in the economy of the Asia-Pacific regions and the regions are considered to have a considerable growth in the future as well. Per capita income and the GDP have been increased by 35% as well (Darmadi, 2013). However, there the situation is changing due to the ageing population and the needs for proper education policies. The countries are moving to more knowledge based and creative economies rather than the old implication on the education policy. Climatic changes have also affected the policies undertaken by the government (Lindberg & Jütting, 2016). The Southeast Asian regions have been drastically affected the regions there making it the most vulnerable regions in the globe (Lincove & Arnold, 2008). Therefore, it has become an important factor to create prevention, preparedness and mitigation to responds the drastically changing situation in these regions. Geographically, the South Asian countries are interconnected with each other and this has facilitated greatly in strengthening the development and educational impact on the society.

In case of the Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Indonesia there have been introduction of a number of legal policies as well to ensure the increasing education among the women in the society. The policies have set clear goal or vision about the planning, monitoring and the management policy that has to be undertaken for a continuous improvement in the society (Lindberg & Jütting, 2016). The Convention of the Rights of the Child has committed to provide free educational rights to children and women (Pong & Suet-Ling, 1995). These regulatory serve the rights of the citizen to education and have proposed free education to the children up to a certain minimum age. The financial account has shown that 14.7% of the government expenditure has been spent on education (Sakellariou & Chris, 2003). Most of the schools have supportive programs for the girls to address specific issues related to the students. The schools provide supplementary programs to address specific issues such as poverty and the incapability of students to pay their fees or the remoteness of their home from the schools. These planning are long term and it depends on the management of the schools to tackle the situations to combat any kind of negative impact on the quality of education provided to the students (Herz, Barbara & Sperling, 2004).


The overall discussion has created a positive implication in understanding the impact of education of women in the Southeast Asian society. The opportunities provided by the government of the nation have opened up the horizon for the women to become a part of the society in its development. With the considerable increase in the education of women, there has been improvement in the femininity of the society. The opportunities given by the government has motivated the women to come out of their home and become an integral part of the development of society. Approaches made to suppress the embedding gender ideology have contributed in pragmatic national development. It can be said that despite the approaches made to increase the benefits to the college education or improvement in the status of equality, women are yet to catch the full benefits that are gained by the men in the society.

More funding or better approach to improve the situation of women in the society might help to benefit the women in these societies and increase the opportunity for the women to participate in the economic and the social development of the society. The government of these countries might expand a number of courses and educational institutes as well to facilitate the women education. The companies should be willing enough to recruit women depending on their qualification and ability to contribute in their respective jobs. Moreover, women should also have the option of selecting from a wide range of jobs to best fit their career aspirations. A continuous financial assistance and relive of the burden that the women have to suffer in the regular course of their life shall help to improve the condition of women in the society.

Reference List:

Booth & Anne (1999) “Evaluation and Economic Development in Southeast Asia: Myths and Realities”. ASEAN Economic Bulletin, 16(3): 290-306.

Christiani, Y., Byles, J., Tavener, M., & Dugdale, P. (2015). Socioeconomic related inequality in depression among young and middle-adult women in Indonesia׳ s major cities. Journal of affective disorders, 182, 76-81.

Darmadi, S. (2013). Do women in top management affect firm performance? Evidence from Indonesia. Corporate Governance: The international journal of business in society, 13(3), 288-304.

Falkus, K. & Malcolm, L. (2000) “The Development of a Female Wage Labour Force in Thailand”. Asian Studies Review, 24(2): 175-193.

Fechter, A. M. (2016). Transnational lives: expatriates in Indonesia. Routledge.

Frenzen, Paul D. & Dennis P. Hogan (1982) “The Impact of Class, Education, and Health Care on Infant Mortality in a Developing Society: The Case of Rural Thailand”. Demography, 19(3): 391-408.

Hayati, E. N. (2013). Domestic violence against women in rural Indonesia: searching for multilevel prevention.

Herz, Barbara & Gene Sperling (2004) What Works in Girls' Education Evidence and Policies from the Developing World. New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press

Hill, M. Anne & Elizabeth King (1995) “Women’s education and economic well-being”. Feminist Economics, 1(2): 21-46.

Huang, S., & Yeoh, B. S. (2016, February). Maids and ma'ams in Singapore: Constructing gender and nationality in the transnationalization of paid domestic work. In Geography Research Forum (Vol. 18, pp. 22-48).

Hutchison, K., & Jenkins, F. (Eds.). (2013). Women in philosophy: what needs to change?. Oxford University Press.

Joseph & Cynthia (2000) “Researching Teenage Girls and Schooling in Malaysia: Bridging Theoretical Issues of Gender Identity, Culture, Ethnicity and Education”. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 21(2): 177-192.

Ko, H., Teede, H., & Moran, L. (2016). Analysis of the barriers and enablers to implementing lifestyle management practices for women with PCOS in Singapore. BMC Research Notes, 9(1), 311.

Koning, J., Nolten, M., Rodenburg, J., & Saptari, R. (2013). Women and households in Indonesia: cultural notions and social practices. Routledge.

Lim, L. Y. (2015). Beyond gender: The impact of age, ethnicity, nationality and economic growth on women in the Singapore economy. The Singapore Economic Review, 60(02), 1550020.

Lim, L. Y. & Peng, H. (2016) “The Leadership and Advocacy Roles of Hedwig Anuar and Her Sisters in Promoting School Librarianship in an Emerging Multilingual School System in Post- colonial Singapore, 1960 – 1985”. School Libraries Worldwide, 22 (1): 32-48.

Lim, S. L., Tan, W. C., & Tan, L. K. (2012). Awareness of and attitudes toward congenital cytomegalovirus infection among pregnant women in Singapore. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 117(3), 268-272.

Lincove, I. & Arnold, J. (2008) “Growth, Girls’ Education, and Female Labor: A Longitudinal Analysis”. The Journal of Developing Areas, 41(2): 45-68.

Lindberg, C., & Jütting, J. (2016). Gender, Globalisation and Economic Development in Asia. Border Crossings: Grenzverschiebungen und Grenzüberschreitungen in einer globalisierten Welt, 42, 135.

Pong, K. & Suet-Ling, T. (1995) “Access to Education in Peninsular Malaysia: Ethnicity, Social Class and Gender”. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 25(3): 239- 252.

Postlethwaite, Neville, T & Murray, R. (eds) (1980) Schooling in the ASEAN Region: Primary and Secondary Education in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Sakellariou, M. & Chris, J. (2003) “Rates of Return to Investments in Formal and Technical/Vocational Education in Singapore”. Education Economics, 11(1): 73-87.

Yeoh, B.S.A. & Huang, S. (1995) ‘Childcare in Singapore: Negotiating Choices and Constraints in a Multicultural Society’, Women’s Studies International Forum, 18: 445-61.

Yeoh, B.S.A., Huang, S. & Gonzalez III, J. (1999) ‘Migrant female domestic workers: debating the economic, social and political impacts in Singapore’, International Migration Review, 33(1): 114-36.

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