Female Education: The role of women in the social and economic development of any nation cannot be ignored. Both women and men act equally as two wheels of society and lead the society towards progress. Given the equal role of both, it is necessary that they are given equal opportunities in all other areas including education, because social progress will not be possible if one side is weak. But the practicality in the country is probably different, according to the 2011 census, the female literacy rate in the country is only 64.46 percent, while the male literacy rate is 82.14 percent. It is noteworthy that India’s female literacy rate is much lower than the world average of 79.7 percent.
Current scenario of women education in India
- The literacy rate of women is much lower than men in India. The 2011 census data shows that the state of women education in Rajasthan (52.12 percent) and Bihar (51.50 percent) is quite poor.
- Census figures also show that the female literacy rate of the country (64.46 percent) is lower than the country’s total literacy rate (74.04 percent).
- Very few girls are admitted to schools and many of them leave school in between. Also many girls are unable to attend school due to conservative cultural attitude.
- According to several studies, the unemployment rate of young women in the age group of 15-24 is 11.5 percent in India, compared to 9.8 percent in the case of young men of the same age group.
- In the report released by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in the year 2018, it was said that about 39.4 percent girls in the age group of 15-18 years are not registered in any institution for schooling and most of them either engage in domestic work or In tasks such as begging.
- Statistics also show that there are still about 145 million women in India who are unable to read or write.
- It is noteworthy that the situation is more serious in rural areas of India than in urban areas.
History of women’s education in India
To understand the current state of women’s education in India, it is necessary to understand its development journey in history. It can be mainly divided into 3 parts (1) ancient Vedic period, (2) British India and (3) independent India.
Ancient vedic period
- The history of women’s education in India is associated with the ancient Vedic period. It is worth mentioning that during the Vedic period, more than 3000 years ago, women had an important position in the society and they were considered as an important part of the society like men.
- According to the Vedic concept of feminine power theory, women began to be worshiped as goddesses – for example Saraswati, the goddess of education.
The Vedic scriptures state that “girls along with boys should be nurtured and trained with proper care.”
- Vedic literature also mentions women who chose the path of Vedic studies.
- The first all-girls boarding school in this period was established in the year 1821 at Tirunelveli, South India.
- By the year 1840, there were six schools built in South India by the Scottish Church Society, in which a total of 200 girls were enrolled.
- Jyotiba Phule, who started a girls’ school in Pune in 1848 and his wife Savitri Bai, was also a pioneer in the field of women’s education in Western India.
- Women’s education in Western India began with the construction of a girls’ school in Pune, which was started in 1848 by Jyotiba Phule and his wife Savitri Bai.
- It is noteworthy that by 1850, Madras missionaries had enrolled more than 8,000 girls in the school.
- In the year 1854, Woods Dispatch, a program of the East India Company, acknowledged the need for education and employment for women.
- Bethune College, established in the year 1879, is currently the oldest women’s college in Asia.
- Significantly, the overall literacy rate of women increased from 0.2 percent in the year 1882 to 6 percent in the year 1947.
- At the time of independence, the country had a very low female literacy rate, which could not be ignored by the government. Keeping this fact in mind, in the year 1958, the Government set up a National Committee on Women’s Education, whose recommendations were accepted. The essence of these recommendations was that female education should be extended in parallel to male education.
- In the year 1959, a committee formed on the same subject recommended the implementation of the same curriculum for boys and girls at different stages.
- The Education Commission, set up in the year 1964, spoke extensively about women’s education and in the year 1968 recommended the Government of India to develop a national policy.
Need for female education
- Educating women can prove to be the key to overcome many social evils in India such as dowry, female feticide and harassment at workplace.
- This will certainly be helpful in the economic development of the country, as more and more educated women will be able to take part in the labor force of the country.
- Recently a survey has been released by the Ministry of Health, which showed a direct relationship between the nutritional status of children and the education of their mothers.
- This survey has revealed that the more educated women are, the more nutritional base their children get.
- In addition, many development economists have long studied the subject of how girls’ education enables them to emerge as agents of change.
Obstacles in the path of women’s education:
- Indian society is male dominated. Women are not given equal social status as men and are confined to the home walls. Although the situation is better in urban areas than in rural areas, the fact cannot be denied that even today majority of the country’s population lives in rural areas.
- We are making rapid progress to become the super power of the world, but the challenge of gender inequality still stands before us as a harsh reality. Even many educated and working urban women in the country experience gender inequality.
- This myth is very prevalent in the society that the efficiency of women for a particular work or project is less than their male counterparts and that is why there is a huge difference in the average salary of women and men in the country.
- Women’s safety remains a big issue in the country, due to which many parents hesitate to send girls to school. Although much work has been done by the government in this area, all those efforts have failed to address the issue fully.
Government’s efforts for women’s education
- ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ was launched in 2015 to address the issue of declining child sex ratio across the country. It is a joint initiative of Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resources.
- Under this, objectives such as preventing female feticide, increasing the number of girls in schools, reducing the number of school dropouts, enforcing the right to education rules and increasing the construction of toilets for girls.
- The Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme was started in the year 2004 to provide primary level education for girls especially in the areas with low literacy rate.
- Mahila Samakhya program was started in the year 1989 as per the goals of the National Education Policy 1986 to improve and empower the education of women.
- UNICEF is also working with the Government of India to provide quality education to girls in the country.
- Apart from this, Jharkhand has also taken a major initiative towards the upliftment of women education. Jharkhand School of Education has decided to distribute free text books, uniforms and notebooks to all students from class 9 to 12.
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