An analysis of nonformal education needs of rural women: A one village case study in India

Trivedi, Neela
Major Professor
Larry H. Ebbers
Shu-Min Huang
Committee Member
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The purpose of this study was to examine the nonformal education needs of rural women in the sociocultural context of a village in India. Specifically, the objectives of the study were to examine: (1) the physical, social and cultural milieu that determine women's need for and participation in nonformal education; (2) the needs that can be addressed through nonformal education programs; and (3) the perceptions and attitudes of women toward nonformal education;It was assumed that the needs of women are determined by and grow out of the sociocultural context and therefore can be adequately understood only in terms of this context. An ethnographic approach was used to accomplish the objectives of the study. The techniques used for collecting data were: (a) participant observation; (b) in-depth interviews--both unstructured and semi-structured; (c) group discussions; and (d) use of documents;An observation of the physical, social and cultural milieu and of women's activities and roles revealed that all these have a significant influence in shaping women's needs, perceptions, and attitudes towards education--both formal and nonformal. Social and cultural norms and constraints often determined women's access to programs, information about services and programs, and their participation in programs;The study revealed that women were not aware of many of their needs. Their needs were complex and varied according to their roles and responsibilities, and the different categories of class, caste, age, and occupation. In general, interest in learning skills that generate income was high, whereas interest in health, family planning and nutrition education programs was low. There was little "felt need" for literacy. Literacy was considered to be important but was not perceived relevant for improving their living conditions;An analysis of the situation suggests that in a community where social and cultural norms and attitudes have a strong influence on women's lives, it is not sufficient to recognize their felt needs and to design programs to meet these needs. The need in nonformal education for adults is to design programs that will create a consciousness among people to enable them to analyze their situation, recognize their needs, and to develop their skills and abilities to transform their reality. Thus turning the negative cycle into a positive one that leads to greater awareness and participation, increased self-reliance, and empowerment. The findings of the study lead to several recommendations for designing specific approaches and strategies for nonformal education programs for women in Third World countries.