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Parental Decisions and Influence on Young Women’s Education to Work Transitions and Possible Selves Futures in Nepal

Parental Decisions and Influence on Young Women’s Education to Work Transitions and Possible... Statistics show that Nepal has made significant progress in achieving gender par - ity, especially in the areas of access to education and female literacy rates. How- ever, despite significant advances made towards equal access to education, Nepali society, to a large extent, still privileges a patriarchal mindset which favours a son over a daughter in access to resources. Using a sample of 12 young females, this paper assesses parental choices in education influencing the education to work tran - sition of young females and also their sense of selves. The findings show that the career pathways of young female participants were directly affected by their parents’ choices and intervention in their secondary education. For some, parents’ influence on selecting an education stream turned out to be an opportunity for a better career and life, while for the others it acted as a barrier. The paper highlights the implica- tions of parents’ choices for the young females as they transition from education to work and their sense of selves, both positively and negatively. Keywords Youth transition · Gender · Higher secondary education · Parents’ choices · Possible selves · Nepal Introduction It is accepted that education can empower women to fight against gender-based inequalities in a patriarchal society and help them live a dignified life (Bista et al. 2019; Guinèe 2014; Joshi 2019). Education can be the key to improving women’s Patriarchy literally means the rule of the father. In this study, patriarchy is both the rule of the father and the seniority/hierarchy in the family. * Neha Basnet basnetne@gmail.com Department of Youth Studies, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Science, University of Groningen, Grote Rozenstraat 38, 9712 TJ Groningen, Netherlands Vol.:(0123456789) 1 3 136 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 overall capabilities and securing employment (Neupane 2017). Historically, educa- tion in Nepal has been available to individuals of higher socio-economic status and has served as a powerful status symbol (LeVine  2019). However, nationwide poli- cies and programmes have managed to bring some changes in Nepalese society. For example, privileging educational opportunities for the male child is slowly being replaced by growing parental and familial support for the education of the female child (Neupane 2017). Moreover, parental choice has extended to selecting a school (Joshi 2019), whereby parent’s look to invest in quality education, which in the Nep- alese context would mean choosing a private school over a public school education. The disparities in the quality between private and public schools have led parents to try their best to allocate their financial resources to a private school education under the assumption that it will better prepare their children for securing employ- ment (Joshi 2019). The impact of parents’ intervention on the educational trajectories of their children for the sake of their future orientations is important to understanding a young adult’s transition from education to work (Patel 2017; Hardgrove 2015a). This paper therefore aims to contribute to the emerging literature on family choices and parents’ involvement in education, by focusing on parental decision-making related to females’ educational tracks in higher secondary education and the influence it has on young rural–urban migrant females’ transition and their sense of self. Gender Inequality in Nepali Society As a way to reduce the gap in literacy rates between males and females, the Nepalese government has introduced several policies. The School Sector Reform Programme (SSRP) 2009–2015, a continuation of the Education for All (EFA) programme launched in the 1980s, reinforced the impetus put on the role education plays in uplifting women’s status in society (Bista et  al. 2019). The SSRP restructured the education system up to higher secondary level and was especially aimed at socially transforming the status of women and girls by removing barriers to education and as a result, improving access to employment opportunities (Ezaki 2019). Amidst such heightened development, education became increasingly important. The effects of the nationwide policy were noticeable; the Nepal Living Standard Survey 2010–2011 (NLSS-III) revealed that the overall literacy rate had increased to 66% (Central Bureau of Statistics 2011). According to the 2011 census, the net enrolment rate in primary education increased from 64% in 1990 to 89% in 2011 (United Nations Development Program 2012). Furthermore, during the same period, the report revealed that female literacy had increased from 15% to 57.4%. These per- centages indicate that Nepal had made significant advances in improving female lit- eracy rates. In fact, it shows that females’ educational achievements surpass those of males in all educational levels (see, for example, Central Bureau of Statistics 2011; United Nations Development Program 2012). However, the improvement in female literacy is often seen as an end to all barriers and an extension of all available opportunities for successful future. Several scholars have built upon this idea to highlight the link between educa- tion and easy access to employment opportunities (Guinée 2014; Ezaki 2019), 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 137 economic empowerment (Kölbel 2013), and the concept of self among young females in Nepal (Ahrean 2001). What the data do not take into considera- tion is the patriarchal nature of Nepali society, which can be observed in var- ious guises and forms across all caste and ethnic groups (Lotter 2017). For instance, young females are married at an early age to avoid financial burdens. Discriminatory values and norms against females are deeply rooted in Nepali culture and social practices. The traditional view of females as someone else’s property still undermines attempts at giving Nepali females the same educa- tional opportunities as boys (LeVine 2019). While data might suggest increas- ing female literacy rates, and a progressive transformation of a traditional society into a modern one, they do not take into account the social hierarchies that disrupt and challenge the ideal of equal opportunities for females. The implementation of the Gender Equality Bill of 2006 and the Women’s Bill of 2002 in Nepal was an attempt to redress gender inequalities that infil- trate all sectors and their negative effects on women’s livelihoods (Lotter 2017). Studies on female education in Nepal have shown a long-standing asso- ciation of gender inequalities and patriarchy (Bista et  al. 2019; Ezaki 2019). These constructions and structures have significantly contributed to the insti- tutionalisation, maintenance, and reproduction of gender inequalities in Nepal. Kathmandu as the capital, and the most developed urban centre in Nepal, attracts a large rural migrant population who come to the city for higher edu- cation and employment. This makes the city a valid location for the study of young people’s education to work transition, especially for young people from rural regions of Nepal. Yet, the city prompts inequalities by way of foster- ing the culture of Afno Manchhe, or a culture of nepotism and favouritism (Subedi 2014). Kathmandu is a centre of all the resources and facilities, and privilege is given more value than merit to gain social, economic, and political positions. However, a majority of young people still choose to come to Kath- mandu for education or employment opportunities. Parents’ Choices in Their Children’s Education and Possible Selves Navigating education to work is often a challenging process for young peo- ple, specifically for women and girls in a patriarchal society. The family unit, as a representative of the wider society, interacts with and influences the life trajectories of females as their education directly impacts their futures (Ezaki 2019; Patel 2017). Further, the analysis of family decisions in female’s education demonstrates how family is significant in realising the life goals of females. Family is important, and more specifically, how family struc- tures and values affect gender-family dynamics and the broader phenomena of females’ life trajectories (Patel 2017). Therefore, one could argue that The term ‘Afno Manchhe’ in Nepal means ‘one’s own people’ or associates and refers to those who can be approached whenever the need arises (for example, to find work or promotion at the workplace). 1 3 138 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 educational decisions are negotiated within the framework of parents’ influ- ence and control over their child’s interests, aptitudes, aspirations, and goals. Efforts have been made to explore parents’ influence on educational tra- jectories, career trajectories, and the ensuing adult lives of their children. Educationalists and other scholars of parental involvement in education have investigated parents’ choices and support as important aspects in young people’s education to work transitions and their adult lives and livelihoods (Cuervo 2014; Bæck 2017). A young person’s dependency on their parents for financial resources, motivation, and guidance has a direct influence on their future self as well. Studies on the sense of self have viewed self in diverse ways. Scholars have interpreted self as a working notion of ‘self-con- cept’ (Dwyer et  al. 2011), as imagined selves or imagined futures (Ahrean 2001; Keating & Melis 2021; Ravn 2021), and as possible selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986; Abrams & Augliar 2005; Hardgrove et al. 2015b; Patel 2017), whereby individuals ref lect on or articulate their experiences and activity of their day-to-day life. Youth studies researchers have shown that young people have the capacity to realise their life paths within the limited social options and access they have. However, the development of sense of an agency in one’s life paths constitutes the choices made by an individual. These choices are sometimes conscious or are embedded in and intertwined within the indi- vidual social circumstances (Worth 2016). The notion of possible selves is actively constructed by scholars within the realm of education and education-related achievements, which provides people with a space in which they negotiate their selves (Hardgrove et al. 2015b; Patel 2017). Understanding educational opportunities and achievements in relation to past events within the immediate social environment can help us understand how possible selves are constructed. Patel (2017)    has used the concept of possible selves to refer to how family involvement in education in the present helps young females to realise their conceived self in a future situation. Par- ents help their children in their educational choices, which directly affect their perceptions of a positive future. Parents’ support or involvement in education in these context-specific studies also plays an important role in young peo- ple’s educational trajectories, career development, and positive possible selves (Hardgrove et al. 2015a, b; Patel 2017). However, in a society where gendered norms and expectations are deeply rooted in patriarchy, it remains to be deter- mined whether familial intervention and involvement in education contributes to positive outcomes. Hardgrove et  al. (2015a) suggest that family choices should be considered an influence on young people’s education to work transitions. To date, there are limited studies that show how parents’ choices in relation to the education of young females change their visions and their possible selves as they tran- sition from education to work. This study aims to fill that void by exploring parents’ choices and intervention in their female child’s education, working as both opportunities and barriers to young females’ education to work transi- tions, and their impact on their possible selves. 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 139 Methodology This study draws on 12 in-depth interviews conducted with young female par- ticipants aged between 16 and 25  years belonging to diverse caste and ethnic groups. The participants had an educational background mixed of both private and public school education. The data used in this study are part of the doctoral study conducted in Kathmandu, Nepal, between 2018 and 2019, on rural–urban migrant youth education to work transition. The objective of the doctoral study was to explore the patterns of education to work transition of young rural–urban migrants in Kathmandu, their experiences, perceptions, changes, and interpreta- tions of working at the various call centres. The data collection among the young rural–urban migrant females took place at various call centres in Kathmandu. The participants were given the liberty to choose the language they were comfortable in. Due to the absence of official data on the number of call centres and people working in Kathmandu, a snowball sam- pling was used to identify the participants. The reason I choose call centres in Kathmandu was because (a) call centre jobs in Nepal have not been perceived as future careers that would support social mobility and there is a limited research work focusing on the young people working in the call centres in Nepal and (b) the call centres were mostly concentrated in Kathmandu and most of the young people with rural backgrounds were found to be working at these call centres (Pradhan 2016). The interviews were recorded with a digital voice recorder, were transcribed ver- batim, and were analysed. To protect the research participants’ identities, pseudo- nyms (chosen by themselves) were given to participants. The analysis of the nar- ratives/stories is based on the thematic analysis guidelines outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006). This was followed by Boeije’s (2002) constant comparative analy- sis. The codes were analysed inductively, and a set of sub-themes and themes were developed aiming to explore the perceptions about their job among the participants. Then the codes were read again, and duplicate codes were removed. Then, the codes denoting similarities were put together to form sub-themes and themes. After group- ing these codes into sub-themes or concepts, nineteen code families were identified that addressed the research participants. These codes across genders exposed two themes that were more prominent among females as opportunities and barriers. The two themes were (1) parents’ choices in education and (2) sense of self. Results Two themes were found only across the young rural–urban migrant female par- ticipants: parents’ choices in education and possible selves. A close examination of the life (hi)story data of these females pointed to the level of influence parents’ choices has on their educational trajectories and their evaluation of their indi- vidual selves while making the education to work transition. 1 3 140 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 Parents’ Choices in Education as Opportunities This section of the analysis focuses on the influence of parents’ choices as a posi- tive contribution and an opportunity for young females in Nepal. The analysis is based on the young rural–urban migrant females’ diverse experiences and opin- ions on parental influence in relation to (their) higher secondary education. Anna A 20-year-old Anna, born in Janakpur, shared that for her the best thing that had happened in her life was moving to Kathmandu. When her parents made the move, she was given the opportunity to study at a famous private school. Although she lived very briefly in Pokhara, another major urban centre in Nepal, prior to her higher education, Anna still believed that it was her schooling in Kathmandu that marked an important transition in her life. I feel my time at DAV helped to mould me into the person that I am now. I feel like that...when I was in school in Pokhara, I was shy and academically weak, but in DAV I was happy with my academic achievements… For Anna, having access to a school in Pokhara did not hold the same value as being at DAV. Her comments show that being able to attend a good private school was an advantage and a privilege. In Nepal, a private education is a widespread culture and especially considered as advantageous when entering the labour mar- ket (Joshi, 2019). Anna studied management diploma in a higher secondary edu- cation level and her parents were happy with her choice. The fact that her father was the head of a bank in Kathmandu made her choice of studies more appealing to her parents. According to Anna, her parents were open to their children pursu- ing a non-traditional career path. Often, parents in Nepal put immense pressure on their children to opt for sciences as the preferred area of study in order for them to follow the traditional career routes in medicine or engineering (Bista, 1991). For Anna, however, her aspirations were complemented by her parents’ choice in education and their preference. Patel (2017) examined the role of familial relations and how they significantly influenced the future orientations of young women in Gujarat. She mentions that parents play a significant role in influencing the transition in a positive way. In her study, the aspirations of young women for a positive future orientation were the results of their parents’ choices in their educational trajectories. A similar phe- nomenon can be observed in the narrative of another young female participant. Rose Rose, aged 21 years, was from Bandipur, a town that lies between Kathmandu and Pokhara. During the conversation about her experiences with her parents’ choice 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 141 and influence, she spoke of how her mother motivated her to value education and pursue the educational streams that could easily lead to future employment. My mother and my father both used to say that I had to study and I should be economically independent. My mother inspired me to do better in my stud- ies...she also supported me when I wanted to come to Kathmandu to pursue my higher education. She took a lot of pride in the fact that I was the first one in the family to study in Kathmandu and she motivated me to do well and to make my family proud. Anna’s and Rose’s experiences imply that in their life (hi)stories, their educa- tional choices and decisions were influenced and positively encouraged by their parents. Moreover, their motivation was matched by their parents’ visions of their futures. Other young female participants also spoke about their parents’ choice for their education as an opportunity for them to either access good academic institutions or be economically independent after their education. This demonstrates that these young women and their parents viewed education as a financial investment that would yield social and economic benefits in the long term (Kölbel 2013). These young females also shared that although their parents were strict and had a tradi- tional mindset when it came to enjoying the same level of freedom as their male siblings, their parents were very supportive when it came to education. However, the life (hi)story interviews of other young females revealed quite a dif- ferent response. Their experiences of their education and life trajectories intersected with many other factors that represented the nature of their relationships with their families. Parents’ Choices in Education as Barriers Ansu was aged 25  years when she was first interviewed for this study. Ansu was born and raised in Biratnagar. Although Ansu comes from a modern family, her parents were expecting a son instead of a daughter: We are three sisters and one brother...I am the eldest child in the family... although my parents were hoping for a son …. they were still happy that the first child was a daughter …. they said it’s ok if our first child is a daughter... goddess Laxmi came home... This quote from Ansu reveals the continuing tension between modern society and embeddedness of patriarchy within that society, which welcomes the birth of a daughter but still prefers a son. The case of Ansu suggests that the desire of a son was the reason for many daughters in the family. According to Hatlebakk (2012), a larger family in Nepal indicates a stronger son preference. A son is viewed as bonded economic support for his parents until death, while a daughter is considered Modern family in the context of Nepal. 1 3 142 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 a financial burden, who will transfer her achievements to her husbands’ family (LeVine 2019). At the time of the interview, Ansu was living in Kathmandu with her cousin and was working at a call centre. Ansu studied in a school in Darjeeling, India. She mentioned that even though she did not want to go to Darjeeling for her studies, her parents insisted that she do so. After a couple of years, however, she returned to her family home in Biratnagar, before she could sit her School Leaving Certifi- cate (SLC) examination. She mentioned that she returned because her father went to Saudi Arabia for work and her mother was alone looking after her younger sister. Ansu wanted to become an air hostess, but her parents wanted her to study science. I had seen air hostesses on television and I also knew of a lot of girls in Dar- jeeling who were working as air hostesses...I also started to feel like I wanted to be one of them, but my relatives in Darjeeling told me that I should consider studying science...they said I could even have. a tutor if I found any of the sub- jects difficult …then they asked me to study management...my parents were really let down by it. Despite wanting to train to become an air hostess, Ansu was forced to study the subjects her parents thought would be a good fit for her. Ansu eventually had to give up on her dreams of becoming an air hostess. This was not because her parents could not afford to pay for the course, which was in fact cheaper studying manage- ment, but because they wanted her to become a doctor or a nurse. Ansu’s restricted choice in pursuing her interests reflected a strong desire and expectation on the par - ents’ part for her to follow a traditional career route. This is a common occurrence in most developing countries, which has been explored by Langevang (2008). Her research also highlights that both parents and young people enter school with the hope and aspirations for social mobility through formal wage employment. Ansu completed her higher secondary education with decent results, but she never felt any passion for her studies. Natasha Natasha, aged 25 years, sat her School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam at the age of 15. Her parents were separated and lived and worked in different regions of Nepal. She was raised by her mother. After her SLC, she expressed her desire to become a staff nurse. However, her parents forced her to study management. Eventually my aim was to become a staff nurse...I did tell my parents that I wanted to study nursing and they seemed happy with my decision, but after my SLC exams, when I mentioned studying nursing again, they told me that there were too many people studying nursing and that I should study manage- ment instead. We have a relative who is the CEO of Narayani Finance Bank and he told my parents that if I were to study management, I was certain to get a job at his bank. 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 143 Natasha further added: I ended up taking commerce in the higher secondary level…and though I did not feel like studying, I still managed to pass… During the interview, Natasha mentioned how she lost interest in her studies because she was not allowed to study what she really wanted. She believed that she could have excelled in nursing. Instead, her academic grades began to suffer and she became increasingly disillusioned. Parental aspirations and expectations for their children’s academic success and achievements are directly linked with how their children value academic success and achievements. In Natasha’s case, individual choice was not in line with her parents’ choice. It has been suggested that parents’ values are directly transmitted to their children through speech and act (Gonida & Urdan 2007). However, the transmission of values and the nature of values is also specific to social and cultural contexts. In developing countries, it has often been found that parents’ economic status and their educational backgrounds are influential factors that determine parental intervention in their children’s education (Joshi 2019, 2014). The desire to please family members, especially parents, extends beyond individ- ualisation, which tends to underplay the importance of parents and relationships in general, and the forms of obligations that are embedded within them (Bæck 2017). Often, children are morally obliged to make their parents proud or even repay them for the sacrifices they have made for them. Furthermore, young women feel even more obliged to obey their parents, against their personal will, as they see them- selves as dutiful daughters (LeVine 2019). Therefore, despite educational access, females feel the pressure of their family and society more acutely because of their perceived standing and role in a patriarchal and hierarchical society. Eliza When I first met Eliza, she was 20 years old and working as a night shift agent at a call centre. As a child, Eliza was really shy and like a tomboy. Trying to justify her childhood attitude, she explains: We are two daughters…. I have a tataa (an older sister in the Newari lan- guage) ….my parents got sad when their second child was also a daughter Eliza implicitly linked her travel to Kathmandu to study nursing, to fulfil the role of a son that her parents expected. My mother said I would be able to get a job easily if I became a nurse, but I did not want to study science. I just wanted to do a vocational course and work… These statements illustrate an element of pressure felt by young females like Eliza to succeed and to follow in the path that their parents envision for them. The Newari is a language of the Newars, one of the ethnic groups in Nepal. 1 3 144 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 path chosen by Eliza’s mother was neither one of the preferred career options such as medicine or engineering nor the traditional role of a homemaker. Still, her moth- ers’ choice was not aligned with her desires. However, she missed the enrolment deadline for the nursing course and as a result, she enrolled in a diploma course for lab technicians. Her mother was displeased with Eliza’s choice, and her constant reminder of how she wanted her to become a nurse took an emotional toll on her sense of self and happiness. It is noteworthy that Eliza acknowledged the effect her mother’s verbal comments about her not studying nursing had on her, even though she was aware that they wanted her to succeed considering their investment in her education and to take pride in her success. However, her parents wanted her to follow a different educa- tional path. And consequently, she gradually lost interest in her education. Mimica Mimica, an 18-year-old at the time of the interview, came from Panchthar district in Nepal. She was an only child and her mother passed away when she was 6 or 7. After her School Leaving Certificate exams, Mimica decided to go to Jhapa, the closest city to Panchthar, but her father, who had remarried and had a son from his second marriage, was not happy with her moving away. He insisted she either stay at home with her stepmother or get married. Her father mentioned the future of his son, Mimica’s half-brother, when expressing his discontent with Mimica’s decision to move. He said that he also needed to think about the future of his son, my (step) brother…But I decided that I would travel to Kathmandu, and I would earn money to cover my own expenses and pursue my studies on my own… Mimica managed to move to Jhapa and then later to Kathmandu despite her father’s protests. Mimica’s response implies that although both female and male children’s education is becoming increasingly important to parents, there is still a culture of privileging the son’s education over that of the daughters. Shreepa Similar to Mimica, Shreepa was unable to pursue the field of study she desired at higher secondary level as her parents were averse to the idea of her traveling to Kathmandu alone. As a result, she was compelled to enrol in a management pro- gramme, since an education in the sciences was not available in her hometown. This soon made her lose interest in her studies. Although she managed to complete higher secondary education, she was not keen on pursuing her undergraduate stud- ies, even if it meant better job opportunities in the future. Shreepa was unsure about what she wanted to study after completing her higher secondary education, though she was aware that in order to secure a good job, she would need to at least obtain a master’s degree. During the interview, she constantly held her parents responsible for her lack of motivation, since she believed that they restricted her from pursuing what she really wanted to study. 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 145 From the experiences shared by the young female participants, we can gather that parents exercised their own reasoning to force their young daughters into choosing educational streams that they thought were better suited, without considering their children’s desires. The narratives of the young females explored above evidently indicate that there was a clear preference for sons over daughters, along with the allocation of family resources for education. As Hardgrove et al. (2015a) and Guinée (2014) found, parents’ choices and support for education do play an important role, whether for selecting a primary school or for girls to gain access to school with their parents’ consent. Research by Joshi (2019, 2014) also revealed that parents continue to exercise their decision-making authority while selecting schools at the lower sec- ondary levels. Parent’s Choices in Education and Possible Selves Apart from a heavy influence on educational trajectories, another recurrent theme in the interviews was the notion of self while making their education to work transi- tion. The introspective reflection and evaluation of the selves revealed that while education might empower young females and provide them with job opportunities, these young females viewed the choices they made or the choices that were made for them as having a clear link to their sense of being in the present. Markus and Nurius (1986), Abrams and Augliar (2005), and Hardgrove et  al. (2015a) define ‘possible selves’ as young people’s idea of one’s self which is constructed through individual and social experiences. For example, for some, not being able to exercise choice while selecting their educational tracks during higher secondary education led to self-doubt or negative possible selves as a consequence of not being given the opportunity to do what they wanted to do. In the case of Ansu, even though she completed her undergraduate studies in management, her unfulfilled desire of becoming an air hostess always stayed with her. She linked the failures in her professional life, after completing her studies, to her lack of motivation and lack of interest in the field of study that was not of her choosing. She decided to opt for jobs that she was clearly overqualified for and that did not utilise her educational qualifications. The devaluing of her as a person and her achievements can be corroborated by the research conducted by Markus and Nurius (1986) and Abrams and Augliar (2005) who posit that negative self, in rela- tion to fear of becoming something, has linkages with past experiences that an indi- vidual views as pivotal moments that shaped their future. For Ansu, the sense of failure had an overall effect on her wellbeing. I applied for other jobs...I mean I was only focused on applying for jobs at banks because that was the choice available to me based on the education that I have...when I became unsuccessful in getting a job multiple times, I started to feel like I would not be able to do anything in my life...I started to feel very low... Among some of the other factors that restricted the shaping of possible positive selves, the young women demonstrated feelings of resentment towards their parents 1 3 146 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 and a desire to make their parents feel guilty about their decisions. In Shreepa’s case, she blamed her parents and their decisions, and at some point, her parents also felt that her failure to do better in her studies was a result of their decisions. I did not put in all my effort when preparing for examinations ...I was let down by it….my mother and father did not let me study what I was interested in. I felt like I did not get to study what I wanted and I also failed in the exams… I did not try hard even when I repeated the exams… Shreepa further added: ... I think mummy and daddy also felt that my academic performance was deteriorating because of them. ... The possible selves lens used in the evaluation of self proves analytically useful here in highlighting the links between parents’ choice as an opportunity and as a bar- rier in the education to work transition. For some young females, educational access aligned with their aspirations and thus parents’ choices and support were reflected as opportunities. However for others, parents’ choices and educational access were not supportive to their idea of their possible selves and were thus reflected as barriers. Underpinning these reflections as opportunities and barriers was parents’ choices and intervention in their educational trajectories. Irrespective of financial resources available to support their daughters, parents influenced their education to work tran- sition. The young women’s narratives about their parents and their decision-mak- ing in their educational trajectories demonstrate that parents’ choices were driven by their uncertainty about their daughter’s future in relation to education-related outcomes. In general, the young female participants expressed that due to their parents’ choices regarding their higher education, their life took a different direction, and for six females, their present selves felt like a failure. These young females were unable to land jobs related to their education, and they were also dissatisfied with the educational choices their parents made for them. The responses given by the young females indicated particular concerns about their failures in relation to the educational choices made for them in the past. The notion that parents’ choices in young people’s education might not lead to a positive outcome was reflected in young females’ state of mental wellbeing and their disinterest in education and their perceived failure to make a smooth education to work transition. Discussion In line with the findings from research on parents’ roles in influencing the edu- cation to work transition of young females (Patel 2017; Hardgrove et  al. 2015a, 2015b), this paper demonstrated that parents’ choices in relation to the education of young females as double-edged. Meaning that even though young females are encouraged to join a school these days and pursue education, they are not given the freedom unlike the males to choose what they want to become and what future 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 147 they want to create. In general, the parents’ choices, as observed in this study, are complex, with their roots in patriarchy and inequality. Even though vigorous poli- cies and programmes have been implemented and there have been improvements in the status of females and their access to education, they still struggle with lim- its to their freedom of choice and mobility, which directly affects their possible selves. In addition, the study shows that young females’ transitions is grounded in structural context, i.e. patriarchy and present circumstances, which influence the idea about one’s self of young females. While all participants moved from rural to urban Kathmandu, with hopes of better opportunities, their experiences and achievements were different. Fam- ilies that were in support of their daughters moving to the city for better edu- cational opportunities also demonstrated a synergy with the young females’ choices regarding education. Some participants mentioned how moving to the city or being allowed to move to the city played an important role in their lives and opened up educational and career opportunities. This signifies how parents’ choices can be a strong influencing factor when it comes to young females’ educa- tion to work transition, while simultaneously presenting them with opportunities that could not have been possible without their support (Hardgrove et. al 2015a). Conversely, parents’ choices presented themselves as barriers to the positive shaping of selves for many of the young females. For six females, parents’ choices and influence regarding higher secondary education were shaped by how they felt their economic resources were best used. In one participant’s case, the parents showed an implicit preference for prioritising their son’s future, even if at the cost of their daughter’s future. For other six females, however, parents’ choices and intervention were shaped by their perceived value of a particular education stream and how it was better suited for future employment, without considering their child’s aspirations. These factors clearly influenced the females’ education to work transitions. Parents’ choices and possible selves, according to Hardgrove (2015a, b) and Patel (2017), draw compelling links between the selves and the transitional opportunities, while in this study they jeopardise the construction of selves for young females. For example, in case of Ansu her parents’ choices led to form a negative possible self. A qualitative longitudinal study was useful in capturing the multiple realities lived by the participants (Cuervo & Cook 2020). This study demonstrates the useful- ness of possible selves (Markus & Nurius1986; Abrams & Augliar 2005; Hargrove 2015a) concept to assess the two-way relationship between gender and parental resources in transitions. However, the study lacks narratives of parents about their perceived support and choices their children’s education. Understanding both moth- er’s choices and father’s choices in female’s education and how they might shape the possible positive selves or negative selves could be interesting for those engaged in educational and familial research and policy making and how they might inter- sect with gender and society. Further, there is much potential (both empirical and theoretical) in future enquiry into different selves developed within an individual over their life course. This study is limited by small female participants working at the call centres in Kathmandu. A more broader research with young females is also recommended. 1 3 148 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 Conclusion This study finds that parents play a crucial role in young people’s lives, more spe- cifically in those of females. All the female participants expressed clearly and firmly that their life pathways changed due to their parents’ choice and intervention dur- ing their secondary education. These young females shared that despite their lack of interest, they were forced to choose the educational trajectory—one their parents considered would be beneficial to them without considering their desires. Parents’ choices were a recurring theme throughout the interviews with young females. The significance of parents’ choice on the young females’ life trajectories came across more clearly when young female participants expressed how their parents’ choice in their educational trajectories had an impact on their futures. The influence of parent’s choice in young females’ education and their possible selves is evident through this study. Despite the growing number of school enrol- ments and female participation in education in context of Nepal, the female young have limited or no say on their future. This study demonstrates some are positively benefitted by their parent’s intervention in their educational trajectories, while for others it has negatively affected. Parent’s choices and financial resources with which they support their child’s education needs more research highlighting how it influ- ences their possible selves. Funding This study was funded by Netherlands Fellowship Programmes (grant number CF 13175). Data Availability The codes were generated manually. Data and codes will be made available upon request. Declarations Ethics Approval The study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Ethics Committee of the University of Groningen (RUG). Consent to Participate The study used standard consent form with details of the project and its purpose. Consent forms were sent to the participants prior to the interview. Consent for Publication Approval for the publication was taken from the participants in the consent form. Competing Interests The author declares no competing interests. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Com- mons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. 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Parental Decisions and Influence on Young Women’s Education to Work Transitions and Possible Selves Futures in Nepal

Journal of Applied Youth Studies , Volume 5 (2) – Jun 1, 2022

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Springer Journals
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Copyright © The Author(s) 2022
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2204-9193
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2204-9207
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10.1007/s43151-022-00074-8
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Abstract

Statistics show that Nepal has made significant progress in achieving gender par - ity, especially in the areas of access to education and female literacy rates. How- ever, despite significant advances made towards equal access to education, Nepali society, to a large extent, still privileges a patriarchal mindset which favours a son over a daughter in access to resources. Using a sample of 12 young females, this paper assesses parental choices in education influencing the education to work tran - sition of young females and also their sense of selves. The findings show that the career pathways of young female participants were directly affected by their parents’ choices and intervention in their secondary education. For some, parents’ influence on selecting an education stream turned out to be an opportunity for a better career and life, while for the others it acted as a barrier. The paper highlights the implica- tions of parents’ choices for the young females as they transition from education to work and their sense of selves, both positively and negatively. Keywords Youth transition · Gender · Higher secondary education · Parents’ choices · Possible selves · Nepal Introduction It is accepted that education can empower women to fight against gender-based inequalities in a patriarchal society and help them live a dignified life (Bista et al. 2019; Guinèe 2014; Joshi 2019). Education can be the key to improving women’s Patriarchy literally means the rule of the father. In this study, patriarchy is both the rule of the father and the seniority/hierarchy in the family. * Neha Basnet basnetne@gmail.com Department of Youth Studies, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Science, University of Groningen, Grote Rozenstraat 38, 9712 TJ Groningen, Netherlands Vol.:(0123456789) 1 3 136 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 overall capabilities and securing employment (Neupane 2017). Historically, educa- tion in Nepal has been available to individuals of higher socio-economic status and has served as a powerful status symbol (LeVine  2019). However, nationwide poli- cies and programmes have managed to bring some changes in Nepalese society. For example, privileging educational opportunities for the male child is slowly being replaced by growing parental and familial support for the education of the female child (Neupane 2017). Moreover, parental choice has extended to selecting a school (Joshi 2019), whereby parent’s look to invest in quality education, which in the Nep- alese context would mean choosing a private school over a public school education. The disparities in the quality between private and public schools have led parents to try their best to allocate their financial resources to a private school education under the assumption that it will better prepare their children for securing employ- ment (Joshi 2019). The impact of parents’ intervention on the educational trajectories of their children for the sake of their future orientations is important to understanding a young adult’s transition from education to work (Patel 2017; Hardgrove 2015a). This paper therefore aims to contribute to the emerging literature on family choices and parents’ involvement in education, by focusing on parental decision-making related to females’ educational tracks in higher secondary education and the influence it has on young rural–urban migrant females’ transition and their sense of self. Gender Inequality in Nepali Society As a way to reduce the gap in literacy rates between males and females, the Nepalese government has introduced several policies. The School Sector Reform Programme (SSRP) 2009–2015, a continuation of the Education for All (EFA) programme launched in the 1980s, reinforced the impetus put on the role education plays in uplifting women’s status in society (Bista et  al. 2019). The SSRP restructured the education system up to higher secondary level and was especially aimed at socially transforming the status of women and girls by removing barriers to education and as a result, improving access to employment opportunities (Ezaki 2019). Amidst such heightened development, education became increasingly important. The effects of the nationwide policy were noticeable; the Nepal Living Standard Survey 2010–2011 (NLSS-III) revealed that the overall literacy rate had increased to 66% (Central Bureau of Statistics 2011). According to the 2011 census, the net enrolment rate in primary education increased from 64% in 1990 to 89% in 2011 (United Nations Development Program 2012). Furthermore, during the same period, the report revealed that female literacy had increased from 15% to 57.4%. These per- centages indicate that Nepal had made significant advances in improving female lit- eracy rates. In fact, it shows that females’ educational achievements surpass those of males in all educational levels (see, for example, Central Bureau of Statistics 2011; United Nations Development Program 2012). However, the improvement in female literacy is often seen as an end to all barriers and an extension of all available opportunities for successful future. Several scholars have built upon this idea to highlight the link between educa- tion and easy access to employment opportunities (Guinée 2014; Ezaki 2019), 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 137 economic empowerment (Kölbel 2013), and the concept of self among young females in Nepal (Ahrean 2001). What the data do not take into considera- tion is the patriarchal nature of Nepali society, which can be observed in var- ious guises and forms across all caste and ethnic groups (Lotter 2017). For instance, young females are married at an early age to avoid financial burdens. Discriminatory values and norms against females are deeply rooted in Nepali culture and social practices. The traditional view of females as someone else’s property still undermines attempts at giving Nepali females the same educa- tional opportunities as boys (LeVine 2019). While data might suggest increas- ing female literacy rates, and a progressive transformation of a traditional society into a modern one, they do not take into account the social hierarchies that disrupt and challenge the ideal of equal opportunities for females. The implementation of the Gender Equality Bill of 2006 and the Women’s Bill of 2002 in Nepal was an attempt to redress gender inequalities that infil- trate all sectors and their negative effects on women’s livelihoods (Lotter 2017). Studies on female education in Nepal have shown a long-standing asso- ciation of gender inequalities and patriarchy (Bista et  al. 2019; Ezaki 2019). These constructions and structures have significantly contributed to the insti- tutionalisation, maintenance, and reproduction of gender inequalities in Nepal. Kathmandu as the capital, and the most developed urban centre in Nepal, attracts a large rural migrant population who come to the city for higher edu- cation and employment. This makes the city a valid location for the study of young people’s education to work transition, especially for young people from rural regions of Nepal. Yet, the city prompts inequalities by way of foster- ing the culture of Afno Manchhe, or a culture of nepotism and favouritism (Subedi 2014). Kathmandu is a centre of all the resources and facilities, and privilege is given more value than merit to gain social, economic, and political positions. However, a majority of young people still choose to come to Kath- mandu for education or employment opportunities. Parents’ Choices in Their Children’s Education and Possible Selves Navigating education to work is often a challenging process for young peo- ple, specifically for women and girls in a patriarchal society. The family unit, as a representative of the wider society, interacts with and influences the life trajectories of females as their education directly impacts their futures (Ezaki 2019; Patel 2017). Further, the analysis of family decisions in female’s education demonstrates how family is significant in realising the life goals of females. Family is important, and more specifically, how family struc- tures and values affect gender-family dynamics and the broader phenomena of females’ life trajectories (Patel 2017). Therefore, one could argue that The term ‘Afno Manchhe’ in Nepal means ‘one’s own people’ or associates and refers to those who can be approached whenever the need arises (for example, to find work or promotion at the workplace). 1 3 138 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 educational decisions are negotiated within the framework of parents’ influ- ence and control over their child’s interests, aptitudes, aspirations, and goals. Efforts have been made to explore parents’ influence on educational tra- jectories, career trajectories, and the ensuing adult lives of their children. Educationalists and other scholars of parental involvement in education have investigated parents’ choices and support as important aspects in young people’s education to work transitions and their adult lives and livelihoods (Cuervo 2014; Bæck 2017). A young person’s dependency on their parents for financial resources, motivation, and guidance has a direct influence on their future self as well. Studies on the sense of self have viewed self in diverse ways. Scholars have interpreted self as a working notion of ‘self-con- cept’ (Dwyer et  al. 2011), as imagined selves or imagined futures (Ahrean 2001; Keating & Melis 2021; Ravn 2021), and as possible selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986; Abrams & Augliar 2005; Hardgrove et al. 2015b; Patel 2017), whereby individuals ref lect on or articulate their experiences and activity of their day-to-day life. Youth studies researchers have shown that young people have the capacity to realise their life paths within the limited social options and access they have. However, the development of sense of an agency in one’s life paths constitutes the choices made by an individual. These choices are sometimes conscious or are embedded in and intertwined within the indi- vidual social circumstances (Worth 2016). The notion of possible selves is actively constructed by scholars within the realm of education and education-related achievements, which provides people with a space in which they negotiate their selves (Hardgrove et al. 2015b; Patel 2017). Understanding educational opportunities and achievements in relation to past events within the immediate social environment can help us understand how possible selves are constructed. Patel (2017)    has used the concept of possible selves to refer to how family involvement in education in the present helps young females to realise their conceived self in a future situation. Par- ents help their children in their educational choices, which directly affect their perceptions of a positive future. Parents’ support or involvement in education in these context-specific studies also plays an important role in young peo- ple’s educational trajectories, career development, and positive possible selves (Hardgrove et al. 2015a, b; Patel 2017). However, in a society where gendered norms and expectations are deeply rooted in patriarchy, it remains to be deter- mined whether familial intervention and involvement in education contributes to positive outcomes. Hardgrove et  al. (2015a) suggest that family choices should be considered an influence on young people’s education to work transitions. To date, there are limited studies that show how parents’ choices in relation to the education of young females change their visions and their possible selves as they tran- sition from education to work. This study aims to fill that void by exploring parents’ choices and intervention in their female child’s education, working as both opportunities and barriers to young females’ education to work transi- tions, and their impact on their possible selves. 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 139 Methodology This study draws on 12 in-depth interviews conducted with young female par- ticipants aged between 16 and 25  years belonging to diverse caste and ethnic groups. The participants had an educational background mixed of both private and public school education. The data used in this study are part of the doctoral study conducted in Kathmandu, Nepal, between 2018 and 2019, on rural–urban migrant youth education to work transition. The objective of the doctoral study was to explore the patterns of education to work transition of young rural–urban migrants in Kathmandu, their experiences, perceptions, changes, and interpreta- tions of working at the various call centres. The data collection among the young rural–urban migrant females took place at various call centres in Kathmandu. The participants were given the liberty to choose the language they were comfortable in. Due to the absence of official data on the number of call centres and people working in Kathmandu, a snowball sam- pling was used to identify the participants. The reason I choose call centres in Kathmandu was because (a) call centre jobs in Nepal have not been perceived as future careers that would support social mobility and there is a limited research work focusing on the young people working in the call centres in Nepal and (b) the call centres were mostly concentrated in Kathmandu and most of the young people with rural backgrounds were found to be working at these call centres (Pradhan 2016). The interviews were recorded with a digital voice recorder, were transcribed ver- batim, and were analysed. To protect the research participants’ identities, pseudo- nyms (chosen by themselves) were given to participants. The analysis of the nar- ratives/stories is based on the thematic analysis guidelines outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006). This was followed by Boeije’s (2002) constant comparative analy- sis. The codes were analysed inductively, and a set of sub-themes and themes were developed aiming to explore the perceptions about their job among the participants. Then the codes were read again, and duplicate codes were removed. Then, the codes denoting similarities were put together to form sub-themes and themes. After group- ing these codes into sub-themes or concepts, nineteen code families were identified that addressed the research participants. These codes across genders exposed two themes that were more prominent among females as opportunities and barriers. The two themes were (1) parents’ choices in education and (2) sense of self. Results Two themes were found only across the young rural–urban migrant female par- ticipants: parents’ choices in education and possible selves. A close examination of the life (hi)story data of these females pointed to the level of influence parents’ choices has on their educational trajectories and their evaluation of their indi- vidual selves while making the education to work transition. 1 3 140 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 Parents’ Choices in Education as Opportunities This section of the analysis focuses on the influence of parents’ choices as a posi- tive contribution and an opportunity for young females in Nepal. The analysis is based on the young rural–urban migrant females’ diverse experiences and opin- ions on parental influence in relation to (their) higher secondary education. Anna A 20-year-old Anna, born in Janakpur, shared that for her the best thing that had happened in her life was moving to Kathmandu. When her parents made the move, she was given the opportunity to study at a famous private school. Although she lived very briefly in Pokhara, another major urban centre in Nepal, prior to her higher education, Anna still believed that it was her schooling in Kathmandu that marked an important transition in her life. I feel my time at DAV helped to mould me into the person that I am now. I feel like that...when I was in school in Pokhara, I was shy and academically weak, but in DAV I was happy with my academic achievements… For Anna, having access to a school in Pokhara did not hold the same value as being at DAV. Her comments show that being able to attend a good private school was an advantage and a privilege. In Nepal, a private education is a widespread culture and especially considered as advantageous when entering the labour mar- ket (Joshi, 2019). Anna studied management diploma in a higher secondary edu- cation level and her parents were happy with her choice. The fact that her father was the head of a bank in Kathmandu made her choice of studies more appealing to her parents. According to Anna, her parents were open to their children pursu- ing a non-traditional career path. Often, parents in Nepal put immense pressure on their children to opt for sciences as the preferred area of study in order for them to follow the traditional career routes in medicine or engineering (Bista, 1991). For Anna, however, her aspirations were complemented by her parents’ choice in education and their preference. Patel (2017) examined the role of familial relations and how they significantly influenced the future orientations of young women in Gujarat. She mentions that parents play a significant role in influencing the transition in a positive way. In her study, the aspirations of young women for a positive future orientation were the results of their parents’ choices in their educational trajectories. A similar phe- nomenon can be observed in the narrative of another young female participant. Rose Rose, aged 21 years, was from Bandipur, a town that lies between Kathmandu and Pokhara. During the conversation about her experiences with her parents’ choice 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 141 and influence, she spoke of how her mother motivated her to value education and pursue the educational streams that could easily lead to future employment. My mother and my father both used to say that I had to study and I should be economically independent. My mother inspired me to do better in my stud- ies...she also supported me when I wanted to come to Kathmandu to pursue my higher education. She took a lot of pride in the fact that I was the first one in the family to study in Kathmandu and she motivated me to do well and to make my family proud. Anna’s and Rose’s experiences imply that in their life (hi)stories, their educa- tional choices and decisions were influenced and positively encouraged by their parents. Moreover, their motivation was matched by their parents’ visions of their futures. Other young female participants also spoke about their parents’ choice for their education as an opportunity for them to either access good academic institutions or be economically independent after their education. This demonstrates that these young women and their parents viewed education as a financial investment that would yield social and economic benefits in the long term (Kölbel 2013). These young females also shared that although their parents were strict and had a tradi- tional mindset when it came to enjoying the same level of freedom as their male siblings, their parents were very supportive when it came to education. However, the life (hi)story interviews of other young females revealed quite a dif- ferent response. Their experiences of their education and life trajectories intersected with many other factors that represented the nature of their relationships with their families. Parents’ Choices in Education as Barriers Ansu was aged 25  years when she was first interviewed for this study. Ansu was born and raised in Biratnagar. Although Ansu comes from a modern family, her parents were expecting a son instead of a daughter: We are three sisters and one brother...I am the eldest child in the family... although my parents were hoping for a son …. they were still happy that the first child was a daughter …. they said it’s ok if our first child is a daughter... goddess Laxmi came home... This quote from Ansu reveals the continuing tension between modern society and embeddedness of patriarchy within that society, which welcomes the birth of a daughter but still prefers a son. The case of Ansu suggests that the desire of a son was the reason for many daughters in the family. According to Hatlebakk (2012), a larger family in Nepal indicates a stronger son preference. A son is viewed as bonded economic support for his parents until death, while a daughter is considered Modern family in the context of Nepal. 1 3 142 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 a financial burden, who will transfer her achievements to her husbands’ family (LeVine 2019). At the time of the interview, Ansu was living in Kathmandu with her cousin and was working at a call centre. Ansu studied in a school in Darjeeling, India. She mentioned that even though she did not want to go to Darjeeling for her studies, her parents insisted that she do so. After a couple of years, however, she returned to her family home in Biratnagar, before she could sit her School Leaving Certifi- cate (SLC) examination. She mentioned that she returned because her father went to Saudi Arabia for work and her mother was alone looking after her younger sister. Ansu wanted to become an air hostess, but her parents wanted her to study science. I had seen air hostesses on television and I also knew of a lot of girls in Dar- jeeling who were working as air hostesses...I also started to feel like I wanted to be one of them, but my relatives in Darjeeling told me that I should consider studying science...they said I could even have. a tutor if I found any of the sub- jects difficult …then they asked me to study management...my parents were really let down by it. Despite wanting to train to become an air hostess, Ansu was forced to study the subjects her parents thought would be a good fit for her. Ansu eventually had to give up on her dreams of becoming an air hostess. This was not because her parents could not afford to pay for the course, which was in fact cheaper studying manage- ment, but because they wanted her to become a doctor or a nurse. Ansu’s restricted choice in pursuing her interests reflected a strong desire and expectation on the par - ents’ part for her to follow a traditional career route. This is a common occurrence in most developing countries, which has been explored by Langevang (2008). Her research also highlights that both parents and young people enter school with the hope and aspirations for social mobility through formal wage employment. Ansu completed her higher secondary education with decent results, but she never felt any passion for her studies. Natasha Natasha, aged 25 years, sat her School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam at the age of 15. Her parents were separated and lived and worked in different regions of Nepal. She was raised by her mother. After her SLC, she expressed her desire to become a staff nurse. However, her parents forced her to study management. Eventually my aim was to become a staff nurse...I did tell my parents that I wanted to study nursing and they seemed happy with my decision, but after my SLC exams, when I mentioned studying nursing again, they told me that there were too many people studying nursing and that I should study manage- ment instead. We have a relative who is the CEO of Narayani Finance Bank and he told my parents that if I were to study management, I was certain to get a job at his bank. 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 143 Natasha further added: I ended up taking commerce in the higher secondary level…and though I did not feel like studying, I still managed to pass… During the interview, Natasha mentioned how she lost interest in her studies because she was not allowed to study what she really wanted. She believed that she could have excelled in nursing. Instead, her academic grades began to suffer and she became increasingly disillusioned. Parental aspirations and expectations for their children’s academic success and achievements are directly linked with how their children value academic success and achievements. In Natasha’s case, individual choice was not in line with her parents’ choice. It has been suggested that parents’ values are directly transmitted to their children through speech and act (Gonida & Urdan 2007). However, the transmission of values and the nature of values is also specific to social and cultural contexts. In developing countries, it has often been found that parents’ economic status and their educational backgrounds are influential factors that determine parental intervention in their children’s education (Joshi 2019, 2014). The desire to please family members, especially parents, extends beyond individ- ualisation, which tends to underplay the importance of parents and relationships in general, and the forms of obligations that are embedded within them (Bæck 2017). Often, children are morally obliged to make their parents proud or even repay them for the sacrifices they have made for them. Furthermore, young women feel even more obliged to obey their parents, against their personal will, as they see them- selves as dutiful daughters (LeVine 2019). Therefore, despite educational access, females feel the pressure of their family and society more acutely because of their perceived standing and role in a patriarchal and hierarchical society. Eliza When I first met Eliza, she was 20 years old and working as a night shift agent at a call centre. As a child, Eliza was really shy and like a tomboy. Trying to justify her childhood attitude, she explains: We are two daughters…. I have a tataa (an older sister in the Newari lan- guage) ….my parents got sad when their second child was also a daughter Eliza implicitly linked her travel to Kathmandu to study nursing, to fulfil the role of a son that her parents expected. My mother said I would be able to get a job easily if I became a nurse, but I did not want to study science. I just wanted to do a vocational course and work… These statements illustrate an element of pressure felt by young females like Eliza to succeed and to follow in the path that their parents envision for them. The Newari is a language of the Newars, one of the ethnic groups in Nepal. 1 3 144 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 path chosen by Eliza’s mother was neither one of the preferred career options such as medicine or engineering nor the traditional role of a homemaker. Still, her moth- ers’ choice was not aligned with her desires. However, she missed the enrolment deadline for the nursing course and as a result, she enrolled in a diploma course for lab technicians. Her mother was displeased with Eliza’s choice, and her constant reminder of how she wanted her to become a nurse took an emotional toll on her sense of self and happiness. It is noteworthy that Eliza acknowledged the effect her mother’s verbal comments about her not studying nursing had on her, even though she was aware that they wanted her to succeed considering their investment in her education and to take pride in her success. However, her parents wanted her to follow a different educa- tional path. And consequently, she gradually lost interest in her education. Mimica Mimica, an 18-year-old at the time of the interview, came from Panchthar district in Nepal. She was an only child and her mother passed away when she was 6 or 7. After her School Leaving Certificate exams, Mimica decided to go to Jhapa, the closest city to Panchthar, but her father, who had remarried and had a son from his second marriage, was not happy with her moving away. He insisted she either stay at home with her stepmother or get married. Her father mentioned the future of his son, Mimica’s half-brother, when expressing his discontent with Mimica’s decision to move. He said that he also needed to think about the future of his son, my (step) brother…But I decided that I would travel to Kathmandu, and I would earn money to cover my own expenses and pursue my studies on my own… Mimica managed to move to Jhapa and then later to Kathmandu despite her father’s protests. Mimica’s response implies that although both female and male children’s education is becoming increasingly important to parents, there is still a culture of privileging the son’s education over that of the daughters. Shreepa Similar to Mimica, Shreepa was unable to pursue the field of study she desired at higher secondary level as her parents were averse to the idea of her traveling to Kathmandu alone. As a result, she was compelled to enrol in a management pro- gramme, since an education in the sciences was not available in her hometown. This soon made her lose interest in her studies. Although she managed to complete higher secondary education, she was not keen on pursuing her undergraduate stud- ies, even if it meant better job opportunities in the future. Shreepa was unsure about what she wanted to study after completing her higher secondary education, though she was aware that in order to secure a good job, she would need to at least obtain a master’s degree. During the interview, she constantly held her parents responsible for her lack of motivation, since she believed that they restricted her from pursuing what she really wanted to study. 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 145 From the experiences shared by the young female participants, we can gather that parents exercised their own reasoning to force their young daughters into choosing educational streams that they thought were better suited, without considering their children’s desires. The narratives of the young females explored above evidently indicate that there was a clear preference for sons over daughters, along with the allocation of family resources for education. As Hardgrove et al. (2015a) and Guinée (2014) found, parents’ choices and support for education do play an important role, whether for selecting a primary school or for girls to gain access to school with their parents’ consent. Research by Joshi (2019, 2014) also revealed that parents continue to exercise their decision-making authority while selecting schools at the lower sec- ondary levels. Parent’s Choices in Education and Possible Selves Apart from a heavy influence on educational trajectories, another recurrent theme in the interviews was the notion of self while making their education to work transi- tion. The introspective reflection and evaluation of the selves revealed that while education might empower young females and provide them with job opportunities, these young females viewed the choices they made or the choices that were made for them as having a clear link to their sense of being in the present. Markus and Nurius (1986), Abrams and Augliar (2005), and Hardgrove et  al. (2015a) define ‘possible selves’ as young people’s idea of one’s self which is constructed through individual and social experiences. For example, for some, not being able to exercise choice while selecting their educational tracks during higher secondary education led to self-doubt or negative possible selves as a consequence of not being given the opportunity to do what they wanted to do. In the case of Ansu, even though she completed her undergraduate studies in management, her unfulfilled desire of becoming an air hostess always stayed with her. She linked the failures in her professional life, after completing her studies, to her lack of motivation and lack of interest in the field of study that was not of her choosing. She decided to opt for jobs that she was clearly overqualified for and that did not utilise her educational qualifications. The devaluing of her as a person and her achievements can be corroborated by the research conducted by Markus and Nurius (1986) and Abrams and Augliar (2005) who posit that negative self, in rela- tion to fear of becoming something, has linkages with past experiences that an indi- vidual views as pivotal moments that shaped their future. For Ansu, the sense of failure had an overall effect on her wellbeing. I applied for other jobs...I mean I was only focused on applying for jobs at banks because that was the choice available to me based on the education that I have...when I became unsuccessful in getting a job multiple times, I started to feel like I would not be able to do anything in my life...I started to feel very low... Among some of the other factors that restricted the shaping of possible positive selves, the young women demonstrated feelings of resentment towards their parents 1 3 146 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 and a desire to make their parents feel guilty about their decisions. In Shreepa’s case, she blamed her parents and their decisions, and at some point, her parents also felt that her failure to do better in her studies was a result of their decisions. I did not put in all my effort when preparing for examinations ...I was let down by it….my mother and father did not let me study what I was interested in. I felt like I did not get to study what I wanted and I also failed in the exams… I did not try hard even when I repeated the exams… Shreepa further added: ... I think mummy and daddy also felt that my academic performance was deteriorating because of them. ... The possible selves lens used in the evaluation of self proves analytically useful here in highlighting the links between parents’ choice as an opportunity and as a bar- rier in the education to work transition. For some young females, educational access aligned with their aspirations and thus parents’ choices and support were reflected as opportunities. However for others, parents’ choices and educational access were not supportive to their idea of their possible selves and were thus reflected as barriers. Underpinning these reflections as opportunities and barriers was parents’ choices and intervention in their educational trajectories. Irrespective of financial resources available to support their daughters, parents influenced their education to work tran- sition. The young women’s narratives about their parents and their decision-mak- ing in their educational trajectories demonstrate that parents’ choices were driven by their uncertainty about their daughter’s future in relation to education-related outcomes. In general, the young female participants expressed that due to their parents’ choices regarding their higher education, their life took a different direction, and for six females, their present selves felt like a failure. These young females were unable to land jobs related to their education, and they were also dissatisfied with the educational choices their parents made for them. The responses given by the young females indicated particular concerns about their failures in relation to the educational choices made for them in the past. The notion that parents’ choices in young people’s education might not lead to a positive outcome was reflected in young females’ state of mental wellbeing and their disinterest in education and their perceived failure to make a smooth education to work transition. Discussion In line with the findings from research on parents’ roles in influencing the edu- cation to work transition of young females (Patel 2017; Hardgrove et  al. 2015a, 2015b), this paper demonstrated that parents’ choices in relation to the education of young females as double-edged. Meaning that even though young females are encouraged to join a school these days and pursue education, they are not given the freedom unlike the males to choose what they want to become and what future 1 3 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 147 they want to create. In general, the parents’ choices, as observed in this study, are complex, with their roots in patriarchy and inequality. Even though vigorous poli- cies and programmes have been implemented and there have been improvements in the status of females and their access to education, they still struggle with lim- its to their freedom of choice and mobility, which directly affects their possible selves. In addition, the study shows that young females’ transitions is grounded in structural context, i.e. patriarchy and present circumstances, which influence the idea about one’s self of young females. While all participants moved from rural to urban Kathmandu, with hopes of better opportunities, their experiences and achievements were different. Fam- ilies that were in support of their daughters moving to the city for better edu- cational opportunities also demonstrated a synergy with the young females’ choices regarding education. Some participants mentioned how moving to the city or being allowed to move to the city played an important role in their lives and opened up educational and career opportunities. This signifies how parents’ choices can be a strong influencing factor when it comes to young females’ educa- tion to work transition, while simultaneously presenting them with opportunities that could not have been possible without their support (Hardgrove et. al 2015a). Conversely, parents’ choices presented themselves as barriers to the positive shaping of selves for many of the young females. For six females, parents’ choices and influence regarding higher secondary education were shaped by how they felt their economic resources were best used. In one participant’s case, the parents showed an implicit preference for prioritising their son’s future, even if at the cost of their daughter’s future. For other six females, however, parents’ choices and intervention were shaped by their perceived value of a particular education stream and how it was better suited for future employment, without considering their child’s aspirations. These factors clearly influenced the females’ education to work transitions. Parents’ choices and possible selves, according to Hardgrove (2015a, b) and Patel (2017), draw compelling links between the selves and the transitional opportunities, while in this study they jeopardise the construction of selves for young females. For example, in case of Ansu her parents’ choices led to form a negative possible self. A qualitative longitudinal study was useful in capturing the multiple realities lived by the participants (Cuervo & Cook 2020). This study demonstrates the useful- ness of possible selves (Markus & Nurius1986; Abrams & Augliar 2005; Hargrove 2015a) concept to assess the two-way relationship between gender and parental resources in transitions. However, the study lacks narratives of parents about their perceived support and choices their children’s education. Understanding both moth- er’s choices and father’s choices in female’s education and how they might shape the possible positive selves or negative selves could be interesting for those engaged in educational and familial research and policy making and how they might inter- sect with gender and society. Further, there is much potential (both empirical and theoretical) in future enquiry into different selves developed within an individual over their life course. This study is limited by small female participants working at the call centres in Kathmandu. A more broader research with young females is also recommended. 1 3 148 Journal of Applied Youth Studies (2022) 5:135–150 Conclusion This study finds that parents play a crucial role in young people’s lives, more spe- cifically in those of females. All the female participants expressed clearly and firmly that their life pathways changed due to their parents’ choice and intervention dur- ing their secondary education. These young females shared that despite their lack of interest, they were forced to choose the educational trajectory—one their parents considered would be beneficial to them without considering their desires. Parents’ choices were a recurring theme throughout the interviews with young females. The significance of parents’ choice on the young females’ life trajectories came across more clearly when young female participants expressed how their parents’ choice in their educational trajectories had an impact on their futures. The influence of parent’s choice in young females’ education and their possible selves is evident through this study. Despite the growing number of school enrol- ments and female participation in education in context of Nepal, the female young have limited or no say on their future. This study demonstrates some are positively benefitted by their parent’s intervention in their educational trajectories, while for others it has negatively affected. Parent’s choices and financial resources with which they support their child’s education needs more research highlighting how it influ- ences their possible selves. Funding This study was funded by Netherlands Fellowship Programmes (grant number CF 13175). Data Availability The codes were generated manually. Data and codes will be made available upon request. Declarations Ethics Approval The study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Ethics Committee of the University of Groningen (RUG). Consent to Participate The study used standard consent form with details of the project and its purpose. Consent forms were sent to the participants prior to the interview. Consent for Publication Approval for the publication was taken from the participants in the consent form. Competing Interests The author declares no competing interests. 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Journal

Journal of Applied Youth StudiesSpringer Journals

Published: Jun 1, 2022

Keywords: Youth transition; Gender; Higher secondary education; Parents’ choices; Possible selves; Nepal

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