Education of the Girl Child: Problems and Possibilities

Abstract: India has an early and rich tradition of education of women. The decline began with the rise of Brahamanical forces which imposed restrictions on women’s movements, denying them the right to education. Only with the introduction of modern education by the British in the nineteenth century, the possibilities of women receiving education opened up. In independent India, the debate on separate versus common curricula for both sexes was settled in favour of undifferentiated curricula. The existence of the gender gap in spite of the progress in education is surprising. Regional and group disparities are large. Gender cuts across all these layers making women and girls of the disadvantaged groups the most deprived members of our society.

Keywords: women’s empowerment, women’s development , female literacy ratio, women teachers, technical education, rural areas, administrative issues, gender stereotyping, women’s skill deficiency, women’s literacy deficiency, prevention strategies, marginalised groups, female education access, higher secondary schools, female dropout rates

India has an early and rich tradition of education of women (nearly 5000 years old). From a high point during the Vedic period, the decline began with the rise of Brahamanical forces which imposed restrictions on women’s movement, denying them the right to education. The rise of Buddhism and Jainism offered better status to women and the opportunity to receive religious and secular education. Education of women virtually disappeared in medieval India and only with the introduction of modern education by the British in the nineteenth century, the possibilities of receiving education opened up, although largely due to private initiative till India’s independence. The aim of educating women was restricted to their better performance of family roles. This non-economic aim of female education continued to dominate the thinking of the policy makers and planners even though theoretically all streams of education were open to women. The Post War Development Plan categorically stated that all education which was good enough for boys was good for girls too. In independent India, several high powered committees and commissions on education pondered over the questions of increasing educational access on an equitable basis to all groups of population, constantly improving its quality and relevance according to the requirements of the times. The debate on separate versus common curricula for both sexes was settled in favour of undifferentiated curricula. From equality of opportunity to education for women’s equality was a sea change experienced by the nation between the first National Policy of Education (1968) to the National Policy on Education, 1986. Substantial progress been made and yet the gender gap continues to exist and widens with every successive higher level of education. Regional and group disparities are large. Gender cuts across all these layers making women and girls of the disadvantaged groups the most deprived members of our society. Gender disparities in educational and all other social and demographic indicators reflect the unequal position of girls and women in a highly sexist, gender discriminatory social context

Education of girls and women has transited from extreme opposition to reluctant acquiescence to total acceptance by the end of the last century. In 1901, not even one in hundred (0.6) women could read and write. In 2001, more than half are literate. At the time of independence girls formed less than a quarter of the students enrolled in formal institutions. The first five year plan (1950-55) noted with great concern the neglect of women’s education as girls constituted only 28% at the primary; 16% at the middle stage; 13% at the high / higher secondary stage and only 10% in higher education. From these it is heartening to note that they now form 44% in the primary, 41 % at the middle, 38% at the high/higher second stage and 39% in higher education. Till the Fifth Five Year Plan the absolute increase is higher for boys than girls. Analysis shows that the rate of growth of female education has been higher than that for boys in every successive Plan understandably because of the very small base of female education at the time of independence.

The girl child in India is in a unique position in that the politico-legal framework is fully geared to promoting equality between sexes and for ending all forms of discrimination. This framework is supported by a large number of enabling measures in the form of forward looking policies and strategies aimed at all children, women in general and girls in particular. While in several respects the issues concerning a girl child may be shared by several developing countries, these acquire a different sociological nuance. This is partly inherent in the Indian mythological and religious traditions which both deify and denigrate women. The discriminatory socio-cultural values, attitudes and practices hinder the utilisation of the available opportunities at times. This leads to a situation where girls both prosper and suffer. While education of the girl child appears to have taken off, the flip side is the endangered yet to be born girl! The Census 2001 makes one happy that female literacy has grown faster than that for male although only 52% females are literate compared to 76% males. But the fact of declining highly unfavourable sex ratio in the age group 0-6 years brings one’s heart to the mouth; six million girls missing in this age group and 36 million lesser number of females in the population as a whole.

That girls’ education has increased at a faster pace than that of their male counterparts during the 1990s is heartening and also that the absolute growth in numbers has also been higher for girls at all levels of education. The Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002) document is an excellent refined statement of the nation’s intent to educate girls and empower women as a major human / national development strategy. As usual, India has excellent policies and planning blueprints but is eternally chasing targets, may be they are unrealistic. And perhaps we need education which can empower both men and women to become good human beings and responsible citisens. The Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-07) makes many promises and underscores the need to ensure survival, protection and development of the Girl Child, who holds the key to the nation’s prosperity and felicity. The cost of not educating them as equal citisens would be greater than the cost of educating them. Investment in the girl child is a safe one with assured gains now and in the future.

Besides socio economic and political considerations, the geography – ecology – culture formations have historically determined the gender based division of labour and resources in each of the settings and thus impinge on the educational and social participation of girls and women. On the one hand is the urban elite middle class section of population where girls are doing better than the boys, in secondary / higher secondary examinations and gender discrimination is low. On the other hand are poverty groups, where being girls is an additional handicap, although even boys belonging to these groups of population also have very low participation and survival rates in education. Not all girls are sent to school and scattered habitations, at times comprising four to twenty households defy all governmental effort to provide subsidised electricity, piped water, schools and health services. Post primary schooling is a major bottle neck for girls and even primary schools give children very little. Given the difficult geographic and climatic conditions that may restrain access to schools far away and the absence of schools in small scattered settlements valid for both boys and girls, the pattern of male and female participation in education differs. Sometimes in spite of the presence of a school in the settlement girls may not be attending school at the expected level. We could state that transportation difficulties caused by the geographic and the climatic conditions, hinder school attendance of girls relatively more than that of boys. The proposition is that the access of girls to educational institutions is in great part determined by the socio cultural system in the region and the position of women and girls in this system. (Nayar, 2000). Under the protective discrimination clause, the State has passed several, social and labour legislation and drawn up special programmes and schemes for the protection, welfare and development of women and children. There are laws to protect women and children from hazardous work, laws providing maternity benefits and child care services, and equal wages for work. Additionally, women have reserved quotas and seats in many educational and training institutions, development schemes, local bodies and in government jobs. India has one of the most impressive sets of laws for women and children/girls and yet little is known about them either by women themselves or by men.

The policy framework safeguards the rights of every child, and so of the girl child, to education, nutrition, health and medical care, play and freedom of expression. All education and occupations are open to both sexes equally. Girls and women of urban middle classes are not only entering all occupations but are performing equally well, often outpacing their male counterparts. In India, school has been given the major responsibility of bringing about women’s equality through suitable curricular strategies and reorientation of all educational personnel on issues of gender equality. Besides, the educational system is expected to lead the process of social change and to take up programmes of women’s development and women’s empowerment. A major conceptual shift is noticed in the last decade in the approach to the education of girls and women. Education of girls is increasingly being seen both as a basic human right and a crucial input into national development. The National policies are designed to reach out to the girls and other disadvantaged groups in remote rural areas.

Notable Policy Shifts

• From macro, aggregative, centralised planning to disaggregated, decentralised micro planning with people’s participation.

• From ‘welfare’ to ‘development’ and finally the empowerment of women.

• From separate curriculum to undifferentiated curricula.

• From treating child as a gender neutral category (see National Policy on Child 1974) to gender inclusive, gender-just approaches seeing children as male and female.

• From women’s concerns to issues of the girl child, from SAARC Year of the Girl Child to SAARC Decade of the Girl Child (199l-2000).

• From seeing girls’ education only as a moral commitment to viewing it as a sound investment.

• From manpower/human capital to human resource development, to human development and human rights.

The National Policy on Education (NPE) is a major land mark in the evolution of the status of women in India. The NPE goes substantially beyond the equal opportunity and social justice approach and expects education to become an instrument of women’s equality and empowerment. The National Policy on Education and the Programme of Action (POA), 1986, revised in 1992, give an overriding priority to removal of gender disparities and command the entire educational system to work for women’s equality and empowerment. The Policy addresses not only the issue of equality of educational opportunities for women but in fact puts the issue of equality between sexes at centre stage. The POA envisages development of institutional / departmental plans for integrating gender concerns within the education sector. The POA also emphasises inter sectoral collaboration and convergence of efforts of all concerned ministries of NGOs in promoting universal literacy with focus on girls and women. The total approach of the NPE and POA is to link education of girls and women to broader concerns of national development and to develop in them a culture of self reliance, a positive self image and the capacity to participate in decision making at all levels on an equal footing. As part of the SAARC Decade of the GIRL Child, all national governments including India prepared a Plan to operationalise various aspects of the development of the girl child to include health and education.

Major Committees and Commissions

Report of the Durgabai Deshmukh Committee on Education of Women (1959) made comprehensive suggestions and became a policy document guiding the subsequent five year plan formulation. The need for undifferentiated curricula for both boys and girls was highlighted as also to treat education of girls as a special problem. Undifferentiated curricula was upheld by Hansa Mehta Committee on Differentiation of Curricula (1964); Education Commission (1964-66); National Policy on Education 1986 (revised in 1992) and its Programme of Action. The Report of the Committee on Status of Women (CSW) 1974, revealed a declining proportion of women in the population, low female literacy and education, higher female mortality, waning economic participation and poor representation of women in political processes. The UN Development Decade (1975-85) saw growth of institutional mechanisms such as the Department of Women and Child Development, Women’s Development Corporations, integrating women in the mainstream, Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA); women as special groups for poverty removal, skill development TRYSEM, ICDS. Movement from “welfare” to “development” and finally to “empowerment’ in the Eighth Plan. The National Perspective Plan for Women (1988 – 2000) chalked out the national gender agenda till the turn of the century with a strong focus on rural and disadvantaged women. Shramshakti, Report of Committee on Women in Informal Sector documents trials and travails of 94 percent of all women workers who are employed in the informal sector. Ramamurthy Review Committee: Towards an Enlightened Humane Society underscored the need for redistribution of educational opportunities in favour of girls belonging to rural and disadvantaged sections with adequate support services (water, fodder, fuel, child care) and also asked for 50% share for girls in educational resources. The National Policy on Women’s Empowerment: One of the landmark achievements of the year 2101 was the approval of the first ever National Policy for the Empowerment of Women. The main objectives of this Policy are to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and to ensure their active participation in all spheres of life and activities. The Policy prescribes affirmative action in areas such as Legal System, Decision Making Structure, Mainstreaming of Gender Perspective in Development Process, Economic Empowerment through increased access to resources like micro credit, better resource allocation through Women’s Component Plan, Gender Budget exercises and development of Gender Development Indices and

Social Empowerment of Women through, inter-alia, universalisation of education, adoption of holistic approach to women’s health etc.

The Proactive 1990s

The 1990s were a very special period in the evolution of education of girls in India. The historic NPE reiterated the Constitutional commitment to equality between sexes and gave the National system of education to play a positive interventionist role in the empowerment of women by fostering new values through redesigned curricula, text books and orientation of all educational personnel. Accent was on reaching out basic education to women and girls, removal of female illiteracy and provision of special support services, setting up of time targets and effective monitoring. Further, girls were to be encouraged to take up vocational technical and professional courses especially in non-traditional areas of study and in newly emerging technologies. Women’s studies were to be promoted with a view to encouraging educational institutions to take up programmes of women’s development, The Eighth and the Ninth Five Year Plans saw education of girls and women’s empowerment as the sheet anchor for national development As such, education of the girl child and women’s empowerment, inextricably linked as they are, remained the dominant themes for the 1990s and girls and women have made faster progress as we see from the literacy rates and educational participation rates. The year 2001 was declared as the Year of Women’s Empowerment by the government. A special national scheme on Free Education for Girls is on the anvil. The Post NPE / Jomtien efforts in the area of girls’ education appear to be giving positive results, a major yardstick being sharp increase in female literacy levels and greater retention and transition of girls to successive higher levels of education. There are two clear axes of promotion of girls’ education viz., expansion of educational facilities at all levels and following the accepted policy of undifferentiated curricula and reorienting the content and process of education to make it gender sensitive and a vehicle of women’s equality and empowerment. Indicators employed for Gender Audit of education of girls are : (a) access; growth rate of female enrolments at the elementary stage; girls as percentage to total both in school and out of school; enrolment ratios; dropout rates; retention; internal efficiency; achievement levels, and (b) measures to enhance women’s empowerment and promoting gender equality through curriculum.

Female Literacy

Female literacy is considered to be a more sensitive index of social development compared to overall literacy rates. Female literacy is negatively related with fertility rates, population growth rates, infant and child mortality rates, and shows a positive association with female age at marriage, life expectancy, participation in modern sectors of the economy and above all with female enrolments. Urban females were twice as well off in literacy compared to their rural counterparts. Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) females were at the bottom of the heap. (Urban male-81%; Urban female-64%; Rural male-58%; Rural female 31%; Urban SC male-50%; SC female -24%; Rural ST male -41% and ST female-18%).

The Census 2001

• According to the Census of India 2001, the literacy rate for the population aged seven years and more works out to be 65.00; this rate being 75.85 for males and 54.16 for females. Thus, three fourths of the males and more than half of the females are literate in a population of over a billion. The overall literacy rates have gone up from 52% to 65% during 1991-2001 for population aged 7+; female literacy for this period has moved up from 39% to 54%.

• The progress during 1991-2001 is a record jump of 13.17 percentage points from 52.21 in 1991 to 65.38 in 2001. The increase in female literacy rate is higher being 14.87 percentage points compared to 11.72 percentage points for males. Thus, the increase in literacy rates observed during 1991-2001 in respect of persons, males as well as females have been the highest recorded in comparison to earlier decades since 1951 except in the case of males during 1951-61. The gap in male female literacy rates of 18.30 percentage points in 1951, increased to 26.62 in 1981 but is seen as decreasing since. In 1991, this gap was marginally reduced to 24.84 and in 2001 it has further narrowed to 21.70 percentage points. It is heartening to note that for the first time since independence, the absolute number of illiterates have shown a decline. The decline is as large as 31.96 million, the same being 21.45 million among males and 10.51 million among females. However, the numbers of illiterates are still huge, 296 million in all out of whom 190 million (64%) are female.

• Mizoram has recorded the minimum gap in male female literacy rates of 4.56 percentage points. In Kerala this gap is 6.34 percentage points and in Meghalaya it is 5.73 percentage points in 2001. It is important to note in the case of Meghalaya, although the combined literacy rate in the state is below the national average, male female literacy gap is very small. This can perhaps be attributed to the relatively more advantageous position of women in this matrilineal society. Male female differentials are as high as 32.50 percentage points in Gujarat, these figures being 32.12 for Rajasthan; 30.33 percentage point for Dadra & Nagar Haveli; and 23.75 percentage points in Uttaranchal; Haryana (23.24); Chhatisgarh (25.46); Orissa (25.02); Madhya Pradesh (26.55); Uttar Pradesh (27.30); Jammu and Kashmir (23.83); Jharkhand (29.56); and Bihar (26.80).

• Kerala continues its lead on the literacy rate with 91.00% followed by Mizoram 88.49%. Bihar has recorded the lowest literacy rate of 46.94 percent in the country. Kerala continues to retain the top spot in the country with 94.20% literacy rate for males and 87.86% for the females. Bihar has recorded the lowest literacy rate both in case of males (60.32%) and females (33.57%).

• Seven states / union territories have less than 50% female literacy, namely, Rajasthan (44.34%); Arunachal Pradesh (44.24%); Dadra and Nagar Haveli (42.99%); Utter Pradesh (42.98%); Jammu and Kashmir (41.82%); Jharkhand (39.38%); and Bihar (33.57%). The states and union territories with literacy rates below the national average are Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh in north, Rajasthan and Dadra and Nagar Haveli in west, Andhra Pradesh in south, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh in the central parts and Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya in the north eastern part of the country. The state and union territories with literacy rates below the national average in respect of all three categories, i.e. persons, males and females are Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Dadar and Nagar Haveli, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Female Education Access

India has the second largest educational system in the world after China. As on September 30, 2001, India had a total of 1025588 educational institutions comprising 242 Universities; 7926 Arts, Science and Commerce Colleges; 680 Engineering, Tech. & Arch. Colleges; 709 Medical Colleges; 834 Teacher Training Colleges; 4417 Tech. Indust. Arts & Crafts Schools, 1155 Polytechnic Institutes; 1283 Teacher Training Schools; 38372 Higher Sec. Schools (10 + 2 pattern); 87675 High/Post Basic Schools; 206269 Middle Schools; 638738 Primary / Junior Basic Schools; and 37288 Pre-Primary Schools.

During 1950-51 and 2000-01 the number of primary schools has gone up from 209671 to 638738. The number of middle schools has increased from 13596 to 206269. The number of high / higher secondary schools has gone up from 7416 to 126047. Yet, for every 100 primary schools, there are only 32 middle schools, 14 High schools and less than 6 Higher Secondary Schools. Universalisation of elementary education would require complete elementary schooling (classes I-VIII) available to all children especially the girls within or close to their village. The Rural Urban Divide is large. In 1993 for 587247 inhabited villages there were a total of 511,849 primary schools; 127,863 middle schools; 48,262 secondary schools; 11,642 higher secondary schools. Going by pure averages, 13% villages were unserved by a primary school; 78% villages without a middle school; 92% villages without a high school and 98% villages without a higher secondary school. There were 11642 rural higher secondary schools compared to 11,882 such schools for urban areas. (Sixth All India Education Survey 1998, NCERT),

Of the total enrolment of 191.63 million, 80.54 million (42%) are girls. Further, girls form 44% of the 113.83 million children enrolled in the primary grades classes I-V; 41% of the 42.8 1 million at the middle stage (classes VI-VI11); 39% of the 18.99 million students in classes IX-X, and 38% of 9.6 million at the higher secondary stage (classes XI-XII); and 40% of the 7.73 million students enrolled in institutions of higher learning (MHRD, 2000-200 1 ).Girls form 38% of the students enrolled in B.A. /B.Sc./B.Com.; 41% of the M.B.B.S. students; 37% of those studying in M.A.; 45% enrolled in M.Sc. ; 38% in M.Com.; 43% of the B.Ed. trainees; 51 % of the student teachers enrolled in J.B.T. courses; 30% of the students enrolled for the doctoral programmes; 22% in Engineering and Technology courses; 20.8% in Polytechnics. The share of girls in various faculties has increased very substantially in Arts, Science, Commerce, Education and Medicine in the last four decades. However, girls continue to be way behind in Engineering and Technology and in second level technical education institutions. Inter-state variations are large: States and UTs above National Average of 40% are Kerala (62.24%); Goa (59.7%); Chandigarh (56.71%); Punjab (53.32%); Pondicherry (53.18%); Karnataka (52.47%). Andaman & Nicobar Islands (52.01%), Delhi (49.22%), Tamil Nadu (49.18%); Manipur (47.22%); Meghalaya (47.30%); Daman and Diu (46.27%); Gujarat (45.69%); Mizoram (42.15%); Nagaland (42.79%); Haryana (42.57%); West Bengal (41.04%) and Himachal Pradesh (40.97%). States and UTs below the National Average are Tripura (39.38% Sikkim 38.97%); Madhya Pradesh (38.44%); Maharashtra (37.71%); Jammu & Kashmir (37.54%); Andhra Pradesh (36.04%); Rajasthan (34.65%); Uttar Pradesh (34.05%); Assam (33.86%); Arunachal Pradesh (28.46%); Orissa (24.99); and Bihar (18.32%).

Vocationalisation of Secondary Education

Under the centrally sponsored scheme of vocationalisation of secondary education, financial assistance is provided to the states to set up administrative structure, areawise vocational surveys, preparation of curriculum text books, work books, curriculum guides, training manual, training programme, strengthening of technical support scheme for research and development and evaluation. It also provides financial assistance to NG0s and voluntary organisations for implementation of specific projects. Presently the scheme has covered 18,862 sections in 6519 schools and thus providing for diversion of about 10 lakh students at the + 2 level. The scheme is supporting 150 courses under the six major disciplines namely Agriculture, Home Science, Business and Commerce, Engineering and Technology, Paramedical Courses and Health along with other courses like Garment Manufacturing, Dress Designing, Electronics and Computer Applications.

Assistance is provided to universities and colleges for setting up centres and cells for women’s studies. UGC has so far assisted 22 universities and 11 colleges to set up women’s studies centres and cells to undertake research, develop curricula and organise training and extension work in the areas of gender equality, economic self – reliance of women, girls’ education, population, issues of human rights and social exploitation. A scheme “Technology for Women” was introduced in Universities in 1998-99 for providing financial assistance for the introduction of under – graduate courses in Engineering and Technology.

Distance Education

Keeping in mind the declaration of SAARC Decade of the Girl Child, greater thrust was given to the introduction of open school, distance education system and other innovative educational programmes, especially for girls in rural / remote and slum areas. It has been found that a large number of girls are beneficiaries of correspondence courses.

Technical Education

During the last five decades there has been a phenomenal expansion of technical education facilities in the country since technical education is considered as one of the significant components of human resource development. Participation of women students in polytechnics was one of the thrust areas under the World Bank assistance. In 1998-99, there was a total of 3,57,174 students enrolled in polytechnic institutes from different States and UTs , of whom 60,104 ( 16.82% ) were girls. All the polytechnic institutes are converted into coeducational polytechnics. Besides, in existing and new women polytechnics, 9535 additional seats have been created for girls and additional hostels to accommodate 7085 girls have been provided. The scheme of Community Polytechnics was launched in 1978-79 for bringing community rural development through science and technology applications and through skill-oriented non-formal training focused on women, minorities, SC/ ST/ OBCs and other disadvantaged sections of the society. About 9 lakh persons have been trained in various job oriented skills. Presently, there are seven degree level institutions and 116 diploma level technical institutions in the country exclusively for women. AICTE has constituted a Board on Women Participation in Technical Education for developing strategies to induct more women in technical education. And special incentives like scholarships, stipends etc. are to be provided to attract women in professional education.

Enrolment at the Elementary Stage

A fairly strong gender focus has resulted in greater participation of girls in elementary schooling but the male female gap in enrolment ratios and share of girls in total enrolments are still below par for the country as a whole and is very marked at the post primary stages of education. Intra female disparities as between rural / urban areas and among general populations, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and some minorities are sharp. The enrolments of girls at the elementary stage have grown steadily over the last five decades. The number of girls at the primary stage has gone up from 5.38 million in 1950-51 to 49.82 million in 2000-01. The number of girls at the middle stage has increased from 0.53 million in 1950-51 to 17.52 million during this period. At the high / higher secondary stage, the number of girls has increased from 0.2 million to 11.14 million. In fact, the growth rates for girls have always been higher than that for boys for both starting from a much lower base but also on account of sustained state effort to promote education of girls as an important part of planned development. It may be noted that even during the period 1990-91 to 2000-01, the growth rate for girls at the primary stage (I-V) is twice as high as that for boys and more than double at the middle stage (V1-VIII).From 1990-91 to 2000-01, enrolments at the primary stage increased by more than seventeen million, girls accounting for close to ten million of the increase compared to boys whose share was a little over seven million. At the middle stage, enrolments increased by 8 million, girls accounting for 4.4 million of the enhanced enrolments.

Percentage Share of girls to Total

The percentage of girls to the total has shown a steady increase since independence at all levels of education Between 1950-51 and 2000-2001, the percentage share of girls among the children enrolled at the primary stage went up from 28% to 44% and from 16% to 41% at the middle stage; from 13.3% to 39% at the Secondary / Higher Secondary level and from 10% to 40% in higher education. The regional variations in the share of girls to total number of students ranges from: 37.7% in Bihar to 49.9% in Meghalaya at the primary stage; 31.34% in Uttar Pradesh to 50.48% in Sikkim at the upper primary / middle stage; and from 18.32% in Bihar to 52.24 % in Kerala at the secondary/higher secondary level.

Percentage Share of SC/ ST Children

Since independence, India has followed a policy of protective discrimination in favour of the historically disadvantaged groups of population, the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe and is evident in the enhanced educational participation of these groups of population. It is evident from the data that the percentage share of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe girls to the total SC, ST children is not very remarkably different from the overall percentage share of girls in general population at the primary stage. At the middle stage SC and ST girls are way behind. It is perhaps pertinent to state that the percentage share of SC, ST children to the total is similar to the ratio proportion of these groups in the total population at the primary stage but the situation is not satisfactory for both SC, ST boys and girls at the middle stage. The SC and ST population constituted 16-33% and 8.01% respectively at 1991 Census. The gender divide is nearly similar in all groups in educational participation with girls forming 41-42% of the total number of students in all groups of population.

Rural urban divide is much larger than the gender divide. There were only 0.72 million rural girls at the higher secondary stage compared to 1.77 million girls in urban areas in 1993. At the secondary level (XI-XII) also, the urban girls enrolled numbered 2.80 million compared to 2.71 million in rural areas. In 1993, for every 100 children, there were only 6 rural boys and 3 rural girls in class XII compared to 31 urban boys and 23 urban girls. While girls trail behind boys in most cases, a phenomenon that is not receiving enough attention is the comparatively lower participation of boys in some states and union territories. Boys are falling behind girls at the primary stage in Haryana, Punjab and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and in Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Chandigarh, Delhi and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the middle stage. Similar trends were noted by earlier studies for Mumbai, Calcutta and Delhi (Nayar, 1993, 1997, 2000).

Enrolment Ratio

Enrolment ratios moved constantly upto 1990-91 giving gross figures of 86 for girls and 114 for boys at the primary stage and 47 for girls and 77 for boys at the middle stage. The enrolment ratios appear to be moving towards net figures in 1999-2000; these ratios being 85 for girls and 104 for boys at the primary level and 50 for girls and 67 for boys at the upper primary stage. This is likely on account of improved enrolment at the right age and better retention. However, unless an attempt is made to collect age specific ratios separately, it would be difficult to come to any conclusion, because girls still continue to enter late and drop out earlier. The regional variations in enrolment ratios for all groups are very vast ranging: from 61.46 in Bihar to 138.48 in Sikkim for girls and from 66.30 in Chandigarh to 153.43 in the union territory of Dadar and Nagar Haveli at the primary stage; from 22.04 for Bihar to 93.36 in Kerala for girls and from 41.38 for Bihar to 105.89 in Rajasthan for boys at the upper primary / middle stage. The regional variations in enrolment ratios for all groups are very vast ranging.

Here, it may perhaps be necessary to look at the cultural variations and large city syndrome that might explain in part the lower educational participation of girls and boys. Meghalaya is a matrilineal society and girls are favoured more, Sikkim is very gender egalitarian and Nagaland though patriarchal and patrilineal, does not discriminate between boys and girls in matters of education like Mizoram. The union territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshadweep are also gender egalitarian though for different historical reasons. The former is a conglomeration of Indian people of different religious persuasions, different ethnic and linguistic groups and comprising the descendants of the British Penal settlements and later immigrants and hence the gender norms are very different. Lakshadweep is a matrilineal society with an overlay of Islam, treats its women very tenderly. Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta represent a peculiar amalgam of urban well being and affluence and islands of poverty where perhaps boys are freer or more likely to get odd jobs for livelihood compared to girls and where middle class girls continue to study more and more. Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana are affluent and rife with the crime of female foeticide on the one hand and the predominance of girls in primary education and in higher education as well.

We have separate data on the Scheduled Castes who are a socially, economically and educationally deprived segment of the majority Hindu population. For giving them protection, we could drop our secular band of democracy and would it not be just if we give the religion and caste wise break-up of our social and educational indicators like the literacy rate, enrolment ratio, percentage share to total number of students and teachers, the drop out rate, the retention figures and the achievement levels of all communities. No educational data is available for the minorities even though special programmes are being planned for the minority (Muslim) concentration districts of the country. These information gaps caused by political and bureaucratic failure lead to shoddy haphazard planning and poor implementation. For instance, several schemes are being addressed to the educationally backward Muslim minority by identifying districts and blocks with a substantial Muslim presence and they all have poor female literacy rates. One has yet to come across any tangible quantitative evidence on how many Muslim girls have benefited from these schemes and whether any change has occurred in their enrolment, retention and achievement as a result of these schemes.

Drop Out Rate

There is increased enrolment and improved retention. The dropout rate for the primary classes (I-V) has gone down from 62% to 39% for boys and from 71% to 42% for girls during the period 1960-61 to 1999-2000. At the middle stage the dropout rate has come down from 75% to 52% for boys and from 85% to 58% for girls during the same period. The male female gaps in dropout rates are not very high as in the past which augurs well for educational participation of girls. To state it in terms of synchronic data, for 100 children in class I in school, only 60 are found in class V; 45 in class VIII and only 32 in class X; the corresponding figures for girls being 58, 42 and 29, and, for boys 61, 49 and 33 respectively. Due to enhanced availability of primary schools, extensive mobilisation carried out for enrolment under EFA projects, incentives like free noon meal, free books etc., the impact of the Total Literacy Campaigns and pro-girl child policies and programmes, the enrolments during the 1990s have picked up but the dropout rate has not declined very appreciably. The Inter State Variations are large.

Dropout Rate in classes I-V: All centrally administered union territories with the exception of Dadar and Nagar Haveli have registered drop out rate of below 6% as also Goa. The union territories of Chandigarh has registered minus drop out rate of -66.70 and so do Kerala with -7.05, and Pondicherry with -6.32. In Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Karnataka the dropout rate for girls is lower than that of boys. Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura andWest Bengal have drop out rates above 50%.

Dropout Rate in classes VI-VIII: As noted above, only 42% girls and 48% boys who join class I survive till class VIII. The inter-state disparities are large, ranging from minus rates in Chandigarh and Kerala for all children and for girls in Lakshadweep. Meghalaya has a drop out rate of 78% for all children followed by West Bengal (70.88%), and Sikkim (70.33%). Drop out rates for girls are higher than those for boys by and large. Bihar has the highest drop out rate for girls at 81% and these rates are between 70 to 78 percent in Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal and are between 60 to 70% in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Mizoram, Orissa, Sikkim, Tripura and Dadar and Nagar Haveli. Looking at the exorbitant drop out at the Elementary Stage (classes I-VIII), it is unlikely that we achieve universal elementary education. The mean years of schooling for our population as a whole are 2.4; 3.5 years for males and only 1.2 years for females. The burgeoning out of school population in the age group 6-18 years is a testimony to our failure to provide access to high quality primary and upper primary education and the possibility of universalizing general education of ten years is even more remote.

Table: Rates of Efficiency ( Primary Stage)
Promotion rate Drop-out rate Years Input per Graduate
Boys 67.8 25.6 7.2
Girls 67.3 26.0 7.8
Total 67.6 25.8 7.5
Source : Sub-Table 18 of EFA-2000 assessment: Core EFA Indicators, Department of Education, MHRD, 1999.

As the above table shows, there is very negligible male female difference in the Promotion Rate or the Dropout Rate; only girls take on an average about a year longer to complete five years of primary schooling compared to the boys.

Out of School Education of Girls

       A premier area of concern in the education of the girl child is the formulation of action programmes in the area of elementary and secondary education focusing on the education of out of school girls. A major chunk of girls in the age group of 10- 18 are out of school.

• With respect to the UEE, the estimated out of school children in the age group 6-14 years was more than 40 million in 1997-98,’ of these, 67% are girls.

• In the age group 6-11 years (classes I-V), there were more than twelve million children out of school, of whom 89% were girls.]

• In the age group 11-14, estimated out of school children were to the tune of 28 million, of whom 58% were girls.

• In absolute terms, a total of 27 million girls were out of school, 11 million in the primary age group and 16 million in the upper primary age group.

• Assuming that there are 20-25% overage / underage children in the system, the number of out of school children in the specific age groups could even be higher.

• The NSSO (1998) data on attendance rate estimates 89.64 million children not attending school in 1995-96; 65.52 million in the age group 6-11 years and 24.12 million in the age group 11-14 years. (Quoted from Takroo, 1999)

• The MHRD Draft EFA 2000 Assessment on Core EFA Indicators put this figure at 35.06 million in the age group 6-11 years after allowing for 21.54% underage and average children in classes I-V. None the less, it is clear that the problem exists even if different figures are arrived at by different agencies.

Women Teachers

The number of teachers at the school stage has increased phenomenally. During 1950-51 to 1999-2000, at the primary stage, their number has gone up from 538 thousand to 1.92 million; at the middle stage their number has gone up from 86 thousand to 1.3 million. As regards high / higher secondary stage, their number has gone up from 127 thousand to 1.7 million. The primary stage continues to suffer from shortage of teachers in that the phenomenon of two to three teachers managing a primary school is a common sight in rural areas. In the OB scheme while phasing out single teacher schools, it was mandatory that the second teacher to be added under this central scheme would be female in case the earlier teacher was male. Many states made sincere efforts to place women teachers in rural schools under the scheme and even increased their quotas in teacher training institutions. This has borne results in that the women teachers have improved their share in the total from 15% to 36% at the primary level; 15% to 36% at the middle stage; and 16% to 34% at the high / higher secondary stage. Inter-state disparities are extremely large. In 1999-2000, the percentage of female teachers to total in the states and union territories ranged from 19% in Bihar to 98% in Chandigarh at the Primary Stage; 15% in Orissa to 90% in Chandigarh; and 15% in Bihar to 84% in Chandigarh at higher stages.

Rural Urban Divide is immense. Analysis of the Sixth All India Educational Survey (1998) shows vast rural urban inequalities: At the primary stage, the share of women teachers to total number of teachers ranges from 12.62% in Madhya Pradesh to 65.64% in Kerala and it is 92.55% in Chandigarh. At the upper primary stage, the percentage of women teachers to total varies from 10.81% in Madhya Pradesh, 63% in Kerala to 85% in Chandigarh.

Premier Intervention Strategies

• Setting up of commissions and committees on education and more particularly on the education of women and girls -recommendations form the basis for further policy formulation and planning and management of programmes and schemes, prominent being Durga Bai Deshmukh Committee on Women’s education ( 1958-59); Bhaktavatsalam Committee ( 1963 ); Hansa Mehta Committee ( 1962-64 ); The Committee on Status of Women in India ( 1971 ).• Education of girls and women in the Five Year Plans – the thrusts, the programmes, the processes, the schemes, the allocations, the structures.

• Conceptual shifts and modification of approaches – from macro centralised to decentralised, disaggregated micro, people based planning and management; from human capital to human resource development to human development; from gender neutral to the Girl Child focus and women’s empowerment as the central organizing principle.

• Policy research and research based educational planning; researches influenced by the NPE 1986 (revised in 1992 ) and by perspectives from women’s movement and women’s studies.

• EFA initiatives with strong gender focus: TLC, Bihar Education Project, Lok Jumbish, Shiksha Karmi, District Primary Education Programme, (DPEP) Mahila Samakhya, among others. Higher financial outlays on primary education and additionally, international funding.

• Strong advocacy for the girl child- demand generation: Impact of TLC, ECCE (ICDS Anganwadis), Mahila Samakhaya, , Integrated Women’s Development Project, Haryana, and similar awareness generation and empowerment projects of several ministries of the government of India and a large number of voluntary agencies.

• Special measures for children of the disadvantaged groups to include, free uniforms, free text books, pre-matric and post matric stipends and residential schools and hostels. Additional incentives like free noon meal in all primary schools and free textbooks in DPEP for all children in primary classes and free education for girls up to higher secondary and even in higher education in several states.

• Alternative schooling and other innovations to educate girls and empower women – NFE, Junior / part schools, ShishuKendras, Education Guarantee Scheme in Madhya Pradesh,,Mahila Shikshan Kendras, Balika Shivirs, Sahaj Pathshala, Prehar Pathshala, , SaraswatiYojana , stipends to girls for schooling under the Haryana IWDEP, Jagiagicentres of Mahila Samakhya, Bihar, among others.

• Role of women’s movement and women’s studies – , NGOs, UN Agencies and other international funding agencies.

• Gender sensitisation and orientation of educational personnel.

• Mobilisation of women and the communities.

• Gender Equality through Curriculum- Elimination of gender bias from textbooks and preparation of handbooks, resource materials and exemplar materials.

• Women’s Empowerment Year 2001

• Breakthrough in literacy: female literacy has increased at a faster pace, among them rural females have progressed; also educationally backward states have shown improvement, maximum progress among the seven North Eastern states.

• Improved access at the primary stage.

• Enhanced educational participation among girls, faster growth.

• Reduced dropout, better retention among girls.

• Closing in of gender gaps in enrolment, retention and achievement, more notable in EFA projects with girl child focus.

• Development of a positive self image and self confidence in girls as also higher educational and occupational aspirations.

• A positive climate and acceptance of the need for educating girls by the parents, the communities

• Better sensitised teachers, teacher educators and the bureaucracy

• Adoption of a large number of pro-girl child schemes and programmes by the Central and State governments

• Entry of girls into non-conventional courses, how so ever limited.

• Better presentation of women’s roles and contribution to society.

• Mobilisation and empowerment of women and communities.

Issues that remain Literacy and skill deficiency of women

• Female literacy has just crossed the half way mark. In 2001, 54% females aged 7+ were found literate compared to 76% males. The number of female literates has gone up from 129.5 million in 1991 to 225 million in 2001 and the number of illiterates has come down from 200 million to 189.6 million, a decline of 10.4 million during this period. Urban female literacy rate is double of the rural female literacy rate and SC and ST women are at the bottom of the heap.

• The skill deficits of rural women are huge on account of lower literacy and extremely poor access to secondary /higher secondary education. Ten to twelve years of schooling is the requirement for entry to second and third level, technical and professional education. There is poor availability of technical and professional training opportunities in rural areas. Rural female productivity is not only poor but often negative due to low skill formation, poor health and nutrition, unemployment and under-employment. Unless we wake up, rural females have little chance of surviving in the new Machiavellian economic order which is more capital and technology intensive and less labour intensive. And further, it is based on principles of ruthless competition, high layoffs, ‘you prove or perish’. Social Darwinism has little space for the illiterate, the unskilled, the poor, the handicapped.

• Five decades away from the adoption of the Constitution, we are still unable to fulfil the Constitutional Directive of Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE), Rural urban disparities grow wider with every successive higher level of education in terms of access and enrolments. Post primary education for girls from rural/ remote areas

• Accessing post primary education to girls in rural and remote areas and from disadvantaged groups. There is acute shortage of middle and secondary/higher secondary schools in rural areas. Inter-state disparities are very prominent. Girls do not cross village boundaries ordinarily. The 3 Km radial distances for a middle school is forbidding at times due to terrain or reasons of personal safety. Lack of all weathermotorable roads to all villages is also an impediment.

• There has been largescale expansion of the educational system since independence. The number of primary schools since the First Five Year Plan has increased more than three times. However, the middle schools have multiplied fourteen times and the high / higher secondary schools have increased sixteen fold. For every 100 primary schools, there are only 30 middle / upper primary schools, 13 high schools and less than 5 higher secondary schools. The access ratio in many states is 1:10 or even more. Even in a state like Tamil Nadu there are only 18 middle schools for 100 primary schools. ( MHRD, 1999-2000).

• The situation in rural areas would be far worse. The last available rural-urban statistics show that at that point, on an average, something like 13 % villages had no primary school, 78 % villages had no middle schools and high schools were available only in 8 % villages and only 2 % villages had a higher secondary school. It is ironical that three fourth of the population live in rural areas. Only half of the close to a million habitations had a primary school within the habitation. Further, more than fifty percent of the higher secondary schools are located in urban areas. The regional variations are extremely large.

• Considering universalisation of elementary education (UEE) is both a Constitutional obligation and a fundamental human right of children, the number of middle schools fall far short of the requirement. In the Eighth Five Year Plan it was decided that the then existing ratio of four primary schools is to one middle school would be brought down to 3: 1 in that Plan and subsequently to 2: 1. It is not possible to think of UEE without universal provision of elementary schooling facilities. In any case, the rural girls do not cross the village boundary and therefore, have a limited outreach. The three kilometre yardstick for accessing a middle school is forbidding for rural girls especially when the terrain is unfriendly and there is lack of safe and frequent bus services. Further, in the desert of Rajasthan, the forests and ravines of Central India, in the rugged north and north eastern mountain ranges, the population is often scattered over large expanse, at times just a few households at one place. The revenue village is spread over several kilometres and small habitations do not have any development infrastructure. A rural girl has a near zero chance of reaching higher technical and professional education.

• The absolute numbers of boys and girls enrolled in classes XI and XII of general education in urban centres is far greater than that of their rural counterparts. Besides, majority of the second level technical education institutions and most of the higher education facilities are available largely in urban areas. Vocationalisation of general secondary education has not met with much success, being seen as the last resort for the academically low achievers and which carries some meaning in that social class does become a major determinant of academic achievement.

• The availability of secondary and higher secondary being so low in rural areas the shortage of women teachers in rural areas would continue as it is only after twelve years of schooling girls can enter in teacher training courses and for that matter entry into any post secondary or higher general or technical education is a remote possibility for rural girls. Only 3 out of every 100 girls in class I in rural areas are likely to make it to class XII compared to 23 girls having this opportunity in urban areas.

• Studies and field observation indicate that the transition rates of girls are as good as that of boys in villages where there are complete middle/ secondary/ higher secondary schools. Availability of secondary schooling facilities for rural girls are extremely poor and there would be perhaps a handful of colleges or general education with courses such as languages, philosophy, music, a few Arts subjects without much future avenues.

Gender Stereotyping of Curricula

• The policy of undifferentiated curricula does not get translated into action on account of gender stereotypes that continue to dominate the thinking of the educators as much as the parents and the girls. The ‘home science’ syndrome afflicts girls’ chances to go in for non-traditional areas. In many states, a restrictive policy in providing vocational courses to girls is followed. Only soft options such as tailoring, dress designing, cooking, secretarial practice etc. are made available to them. More often than not, a pre-conceived technological illiteracy keeps girls away from modem, technological and scientific courses. There is general absence of adequate educational and vocational guidance services in girl’s institutes. Most of the training institutions imparting skill training are located in urban areas. In rural areas there is general lack of facilities for non-traditional skill courses. There are limited job opportunities in rural areas. Even the attitude of public and private employers in urban areas is of not accepting female employees. Poor quality of on-the-job training, weak school – industry linkage result in non-achievement of targets in terms of both quality and quantity which qualifies vocational education as a “failed venture”, especially for girls.

• At the secondary level participation of girls is affected in Science and Maths courses because of lack of facilities in girls’ schools. Shortage of science teachers also poses a big barrier. Lack of adequate foundation in Science and Mathematics also keep girls away from non-traditional courses related to technology, para-medical, business, commerce and agriculture.

• Gender stereotyping of curricular offerings continues especially in technical education on account of the limited gender role perceptions of administrators and even parents and the future employers. There is, thus, still need for gender sterilisation of the educational personnel, the communities and the society at large.
Participation of SC, ST, OBC girls

• Enrolment of SC, ST, OBC girls at the primary level is somewhat satisfactory but their retention is not ensured despite a large number of special schemes and programmes for them. Management of these schemes is far from satisfactory.
Education of Muslim Girls

• Problem of girls belonging to educationally and economically backward minority, the Muslims, is riddled with issues of poverty, sex segregation, purdah, demand for single sex schools, teaching of Urdu regardless of the regional affiliation, be it in Kerala or Tamil Nadu, Assam or Kashmir, anywhere. Across board, our field studies show a persistent demand for teaching of Urdu as an additional language and not necessarily as medium of instruction even though functionally all children study through regional and even international languages to move on to higher general and technical education.
Education of Out of School Girls in the Age Group (10-18 years)

• There is a huge mass of out of school population, majority being girls. These include drop outs and never enrolled children in the age group of 6-14 years who are receiving attention under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan which emphasises accessing quality elementary education to all children in this age group by 20-10. We are ignoring at our peril the out of school age group of 14-18 years. Barring the NGO initiative on a limited scale, there is no concrete programme for bringing these youth back to education to make them responsible and productive citisens. Even the present open learning systems are not catering to elementary education. Left unattended, they take recourse to nihilistic activities, be it intolerance, drugs, or armed violence.

• Girls form 89 % of the estimated 12.4 million out of school children in the age group, 6-11 years; 58 % of the 28 million non enrolled children in the age group, 11-14 years. Add to this several million girls in the age group 14 to 18 who have either never been to school or have incomplete schooling.

Shortage of Women Teachers in Rural areas

• Shortage of women teachers in rural areas is a major barrier to girls’ education in rural areas and in some communities especially at the upper primary and the secondary stages. And, this has backward linkages with low availability of post primary/ secondary education facilities for rural girls who do not fulfil the essential entry requirement into teacher training courses. In several previous plans, mention is made for schemes for preparing women teachers for rural areas. In the Second Plan (1961-66), the shortage of women teachers was seen as an impediment. Towards this the emphasis was on providing housing facilities to women teachers in villages. States were given assistance for providing free accommodation for teachers in rural areas ; stipends for women for teacher training courses; stipends for high school students to take up teaching ; and for construction of hostels for secondary schools for girls. In the Third Plan special emphasis was laid on increasing the number of women teachers from rural areas who could take up teaching and inducing women from urban areas to accept posts as teachers in rural schools. In order to overcome the inadequate supply of women teachers of science, it was proposed to select promising students at the post matriculation stage and assist them with scholarships and stipends through the entire period of training. Promising female students at the post secondary stage were to be assisted with scholarships and stipends to train as teachers. The Sixth Plan envisaged making vigorous efforts to appoint women teachers in primary schools in the nine educationally backward states. During the Ninth Plan special emphasis was to appoint additional teachers both at the primary and upper primary stage of which 50% would be women. Despite all these efforts the rural areas are still facing acute shortage of women teachers at all levels of school education.

Administrative Issues

• No worthwhile co-ordinating mechanisms for planning and monitoring of women’s education. Policy performance gaps persist for lackadaisical partial implementation of schemes, programmes, largely sectoral, segmented and truncated approach. No holistic approach. No organic linkages among and between levels, concerned departments and desks within departments.

• Lack of inter sectoral convergence: Education- health – nutrition of children and adolescents.

• Lack of functional relationship of education department with the Panchayat Raj institutions.

• Lack of gender statistics in several areas; no gender break-up of schemes for the SC and ST; for ECCE, ICDS; for that matter, data on reservations of seats and jobs for SC ST and OBC.

• Lack of regular inflow of rural urban statistics; absence of data in the case of educationally backward minorities. Rural-urban data is available only at long intervals. There is no national management information system for women in vocational and technical education as well as in professional employment.

• Low participation of communities and women’s groups.

Proposed Interventions

The last ten years have witnessed intense EFA activities with a strong rural and gender focus, additional outlays for primary education, innovative child / people centred projects and community mobilisation. The National policies are designed to reach out to the rural and remote areas and education of rural girls and women. The continued underdevelopment of rural areas, lack of roads, communication, transport facilities still hinder rural female education. And the burgeoning slum population in Metropolitan areas remains unserved by the urban authorities as far as any basic amenities are concerned, leave alone schools. Much has happened and yet much remains to be done to reach out ultimately to the last girl, the last woman in the country.

• Draw up a carefully designed national plan of action with clear time frame, allocation of resources and assigning definite responsibility to concerned government agencies and involving NGOs.

• Make all-weather motorable roads to all villages as a first charge and provide free school bus service to all elementary schoolchildren (I-VIII) and to girls up to the higher secondary level. The trade-off between expenditure on building additional classrooms/ motorable roads and the large array of the existing incentive schemes needs to be studied.

• Junior/Part/Alterative schooling in small unserved habitations; Upgrade all primary schools to middle schools. Girls do not cross village boundary ordinarily. The 3 Km radial distances for a middle school is forbidding at times due to terrain or reasons of personal safety. Moreover, we have to be practical. If all the feeder primary schools are able to retain all entrants in class I and nearly all of them pass out of class V, the present serving middle school can by no means take in all primary school graduates. Further, there is enough evidence that girls continue on to higher classes wherever there are complete middle/secondary or higher secondary schools within the village.

• Girls’ primary level boarding schools/ashrams also are needed in extreme circumstances like scattered populations in forests, deserts, mountains, for instance. Successful experiments of Madhya Pradesh TWD blocks and LokZumbish need to be studied before taking any major policy decision.

• Need to move to block based holistic intersectoral approach to education and training of girls and women. It is of prime importance to open exclusive BalikaVidya Peeths in every block with provision for general and vocational education up to class XII with residential facilities for all girls of the villages which do not have a middle or a high school. Vocational courses could include modem trades and among others, elementary teacher’s training, training as para-health workers, Anganwadi workers, pre-school teachers, Gram Sevikas etc. One girls’ hostel attached to a higher secondary school in each block to accommodate at least 200girls from class VI onwards.

• Distance education potential is immense and needs to be tapped for educating girls living in difficult areas and the large number out of school girls’ population. No fee to be charged from girls entering distance education courses.

• Let us not put the problem of education of Muslim girls under the carpet. Census needs to give us figures about their single year age-wise enrolments/ participation rates for developing special strategies at par with other educationally and economically disadvantaged groups. Action Plans for education and health requirements of women and girls need to be developed and operationalised in blocks with heavy concentration of Muslim populations.

• Shortage of women teachers poses a major barrier for girls’ schooling in rural areas. Four year residential courses for middle class rural girls be designed to prepare women teachers for the elementary stage in all three streams (languages, science and mathematics, social sciences) with pedagogical input. Some states are offering Elementary Teacher’s Training as part of the Vocational Courses being offered in school for general education at the higher secondary stage. A scheme of scholarships for residential courses needs to be developed for meeting the shortage of women teachers in rural areas.

• Schemes like Apni Bet Apna Dhan (Haryana), Rajyalakshmi and Sarawati Yojana of Rajasthan and similar other attempts to secure the fundamental right to life need to be strengthened and linked to education for long term effects.

• The revised POA recommendation for setting up of women’s / girls’ education cells/bureaus in MHRD / Planning Commission / National agencies and an inter ministerial/ inter departmental steering / monitoring group has not been operationalised. We need to do this at the earliest.

• We need a strong cell / bureau in the Department of Education, MHRD and corresponding structures in the States / UTs to look into the problems of girls from rural areas, educationally backward minorities and other disadvantaged groups, with state counterparts. Standing Committee on Girls Education of MHRD has never met so far. This should be activated. Specifically, to evolve coherent training policies and programmes for women need to be pursued. Further, there is no coordinating mechanism for looking at the programmes of general, technical and skill development for women under a multiplicity of agencies and departments. The National Council for Women’s Education which was functioning till 1974 needs to be revived and made a hub for holistic planning of education and training of women and girls to include vocational, technical and professional training.

• Inter departmental coordination and convergence of efforts are direly needed even among the departments of MHRD itself. The formulations of the DWCD on education of girls and women’s empowerment are far more potent and comprehensive compared to those of the department of education in the Ninth Plan Document. Education- health – nutrition of children and adolescents need inter-sectoral convergence.

• Need to develop functional relationship by education department with the Panchayat Raj Institutions. Wherever Panchayats are even partially functional, even when lacking the teeth of funds and have owned up their school, things have improved for children’s education in general and for girls in particular. Greater cooperation and participation of PRIs is needed.

• Articulation and organisation of village women around issues of daily survival include their concern for education of their sons and daughters. Mahilamandals / samoohs need to be strengthened and revived as a major plank of rural development and women’s empowerment.

• Expanded programme of formal and non-formal vocational training for rural girls in health, employment etc. Transition rates for rural girls need to be improved both at middle and secondary level.

• A national programme of strengthening science and mathematics teaching in all girls’ schools along with a scheme to meet shortage of science and mathematics teachers in girls’ schools. Special focus is to improve access of girls to secondary and technical education in rural areas.

• Studies are needed on impact of incentives; institutional structures/ delivery systems to include EFA projects, open learning and alternative schooling.

• Effective strategy to reduce huge illiteracy of women to include provision of 8-10 years of general education.

• Encourage participation of girls in non-traditional courses for which there is need to provide adequate hostel facilities for girls to study in technical and management institutions.

• Provision of guidance and counselling services for girls also needs to be specially catered to.

• Creating public awareness and acceptance of women in work roles. Create support structures for working women in the area of domestic services and child care in particular.
Adopt totally non restrictive policies while opening courses. More courses needed leading to self employment.

• Rural poverty and lack of employment opportunities in rural areas need direct and indirect interventions. There is need to improve the out-reach of basic services of education, health, housing, sanitation and communication to rural areas. A conscious effort needs to be made to generate employment and higher productivity through application of science and technology and setting up of rural industries and rural services as also relevant technical training institutions and programmes in rural areas.

• As the case studies show, urbanisation and more importantly industrialisation gives rise to demand for literates qualified, skilled workers, technicians and professionals and additional services like banking, insurance, management training etc. Women tend to benefit to the extent which the cultures are gender egalitarian and permit them to cross the gender lines in occupations. Political will and State policies determine implementation of national policies.

• Need to match policies with commensurate resource allocations, appropriate institutional structure and expertise.

• Need for regular inflow of rural urban statistics.

• Need for adequate MIS on women education and training and gender sensitive planning and gender inclusive curriculum.

The implementation of the Ninth Plan provisions for education of girls and women’s empowerment need to be reviewed urgently. The Prime Minister’s Special Action plan has identified expansion and improvement of educational /social infrastructure as a critical area and women’s empowerment as one of the nine primary objectives of the Ninth Plan. To this effect, several strategies were proposed to ensure easy and equal access to women and girls for eradication of illiteracy; to eliminate gender bias in all educational programmes; appoint additional teachers at primary and upper primary level, women to form at least 50% of these; to reduce drop out of girls and to increase their retention through incentives, improved quality of education, distance education and self studyprogrammes; to expand and diversify existing secondary level vocational and technical education especially in non-traditional and emerging areas; to institute plans for free education of girls up to college level, including professional courses; special package for girl child from poverty groups announced on 15th August, 1997; special attention to low female literacy pockets, SC,ST, OBC, Minorities, disabled, working children and children from deserts, hilly areas and coastal areas, deep forests, children of migratory populations; and hostels for girls at the secondary stage in remote areas, among others. It is perhaps necessary to point out that contours and implementation of free education for all girls and the special package for the girl child, for instance, are not very clear. We need to concentrate on the education of rural girls and women or may we say adopt a RURAL SHE APPROACH to all development. The following national programmes need to be worked out:

i. Rural Girls Education Fellowship Programme: a five year programme to help rural primary school girl graduates to complete ten years of general education; a two year fellowship for completing two years of general and technical Plus Two level education.

ii. Rural Women Teachers Fellowship Programme: for primary and secondary levels.

iii. Strengthening of teaching of Science and Maths in rural (Girls) schools.

iv. An integrated programme for education training and development of the out of school girls and young women (10-35 years) both rural and urban including health and legal awareness and income generating inputs.

v. BalikaVidyaPeeths in each block with provision for general and vocational education up to class XII with residential facilities for at least 200 girls from villages without a middle or a high / higher secondary school.

vi. At least one rural degree college with vocational and general education courses for girls in every district; reservation of seats for rural girls in college hostels.

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Nayar, Usha. A Study of Factors for Continuance and Discontinuance of Girls in elementary Schooling. New Delhi: Department of Women’s Studies, NCERT, 1992.

Nayar, Usha. Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children in Asia and the Pacific, Background Document for UNCHR – Seminar on “Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of women and Children in Asia and the Pacific”, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1994.

Nayar, Usha, “The Girl child in India: Survival, Protection Development”, UNICEF, Delhi Office, Country Paper presented in Inter-Regional Consultation on The Girl Child, Anand, Gujarat, India, 1994.

Nayar, Usha. From Girl Child to Person. Resource Materials for Teachers and Head Teachers of Primary Schools in India, New Delhi: UNESCO, 1995.

Nayar, Usha. “Planning for UPE of Girls and Women’s Empowerment: DPEP Gender Studies in School Effectiveness and Learning Achievement at Primary Stage”, International Perspective, New Delhi: NCERT, 1996.

Nayar, Usha. 1992-1998, Shiksha Lehar. UNESCO Innovative Pilot Project on Universalisation of Primary Education for Girls and disadvantaged Children in Rural Areas of Haryana., NCERT, 1998.

Nayar, Usha. Fifty Years of Women’s Education in India. New Delhi: Department of Women’s Studies, NCERT, 2001.

 Was formerly Head, Department of Women Studies, National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT). Presently Chairperson ‘Tinnari’ Centre for Comparative Education and Women’s Studies. Has done several action projects on education of girls/women and disadvantaged groups. Her professional experience lies in the area of empowerment of women, gender training, reproduction rights, gender bias in education, education of girls, literacy campaigns and legal literacy. Has been a consultant to UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UNCHR, SAARC, BAFED/SERI, APDC, USEFI, SIDA, USAID and several other organisations.

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Was formerly Head, Department of Women Studies, National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT). Presently Chairperson ‘Tinnari’ Centre for Comparative Education and Women’s Studies. Has done several action projects on education of girls/women and disadvantaged groups. Her professional experience lies in the area of empowerment of women, gender training, reproduction rights, gender bias in education, education of girls, literacy campaigns and legal literacy. Has been a consultant to UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UNCHR, SAARC, BAFED/SERI, APDC, USEFI, SIDA, USAID and several other organisations.

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