Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Girls' and Women's education in India

Girl’s Education

“…there is no tool for development more effective than education of girls.” – Kofi A. Annan.

Why so much focus?
It has been said that the educating a woman means educating the whole family. And how true! Given that a woman has the responsibility of the whole family on herself, an educated woman is better capable of taking care of the health and nutrition. The effect of a mother’s education on her child’s health and nutrition is so significant that each extra year of maternal education reduces the rate of mortality for children under the age of 5 by between 5 per cent and 10 per cent, according to a review of extensive evidence from the developing world. She would be able to lower infant and maternal mortality. The effect of schooling in reducing the number of births means that for every 1,000 women every additional year of education will prevent 2 maternal deaths. She would educate her children and be a part of social and economic development of the community. Education has a direct impact on women empowerment as they become aware of their rights, their capabilities and get a chance to become independent.

Current Affairs (Source: Census 2001)
· Female Literacy Rate – 53.7%
Compared to Male Literacy Rate – 75.3%
Lowest in Bihar – 33.57%; Highest in Kerala – 87.86%
10-15% functionally illiterate
· Increase in literacy rate higher for females
14.87% as compared to 11.72% for males
· Male/Female differential – 22%
Rural gender gap – 22.27%
Urban gender gap – 16.8%
· Drop-out rates are comparable for boys and girls, the rates for girls look like:
33.72% in primary level (Class I - V)
53.45% in elementary level (Class I - VIII)

Within this overall dismal women’s literacy scenario — and it’s pertinent to note that literacy is far from being synonymous with education — women within some of India’s myriad communities are doubly disadvantaged. According to an ORG-Marg Muslim Women’s Survey conducted in 2000-2001 in 40 districts of 12 states, almost 60 percent of the 60 million Muslim women in the country are illiterate with the enrollment percentage of Muslim girl children being a mere 40.66 percent. As a consequence the proportion of Muslim women in higher education is a mere 3.56 per cent, lower even than that of scheduled castes (4.25 percent).

Barriers to girls’ education

Poverty is attributed as one of the main causes of deprivation of girls from education. They need to either take care of their siblings at home, and do household work or work outside and contribute financially to the family. A recent report on the extent and depth of child poverty in the developing world found there to be some 135 million children between 7 and 18 years old without any education at all, with girls 60 per cent more likely than boys (16 per cent compared with 10 per cent) to be so ‘educationally deprived’.

Inadequate school facilities is another barrier. According to the PROBE report, 44 % of schools do not have a playground. 54 % of schools did not have drinking water, 72 % of schools did not have a library, 84 % of schools did not have a toilet and 2 % of schools had a single teacher. Parents are hesitant to send their girls to schools that have only male teachers. Lack of qualified female teachers is a major barrier to girls’ education. The problem of access to schools is big. Schools within walking distance, closer to the place of dwellings are required. Lack of transport facilities prevents girls from attending schools that are not close to their homes. Fear of sexual harassment is another important aspect in deterring girls from attending schools and a factor contributing to the high drop out rate. Fixed schooling hours do not suit girls in rural areas, as they are needed for domestic work at home or in farms and fields during these hours. This is one of the causes of lower participation rates of girls in education.

Things to do
Making education free and compulsory is the keystone of any national plan to eliminate gender disparity in education and achieve universal education. Faced with an economically driven choice between sending sons or daughters to school, poor families often send their sons. Removing fees or offering financial support to families with daughters in school, as well as explaining the advantages of sending girls to school, can make a real difference.

Some strategies to follow inside the classroom:
· Making the classroom more child-centered and gender-sensitive
· Recruiting and training teachers who are sensitive to gender and child rights, and giving them a regular and living wage
· Promoting health in schools
· Promoting sports in schools
· Eliminating gender bias from textbooks and learning materials
· Scheduling lessons flexibly
· Teaching in local language

Strategies for outside classroom:
· Gathering gender specific education statistics
· Providing early childhood programs
· Enabling young mothers to return to school
· Taking special measures to reach the most disadvantaged girls
· Providing alternate education for girls who drop out
· Making a safe and productive environment
· Encouraging girls’ participation and activism for education
· Involving local community
· Supplying safe drinking water and toilets
· Decreasing domestic workload

These recommendations can be found in Indian Government policies and some action has been taken with respect to them. But, it is at a micro-level not up to the level that we would like to see.

UNICEF, The state of the world’s children, , 2004.
Long and arduous road,, 2004
NCERT action plan,'%20education/Action_plan.htm
NCERT Partner Organizations,'%20education/partner_organisation.htm


At 11:37 AM, Blogger Sunil said...

Very good post. I agree with all the suggestions, but have some more questions...

Some strategies to follow inside the classroom:
· Recruiting and training teachers who are sensitive to gender and child rights, and giving them a regular and living wage

#### What kind of training do teachers need to have to develop this sensitivity?
Salaries currently (in government schools) are quite attractive, but recruitment usually follows a policy of favoritism and bribery, not qualifications. So, the best teachers don't get the job. Secondly, absenteeism is massive in government schools. This does play a major role in destroying any attempts at giving a child a decent education. How should this problem be addressed?

· Promoting health in schools
· Promoting sports in schools

##### both urgently needed, and largely missing. Good point.

Strategies for outside classroom:
· Enabling young mothers to return to school
· Taking special measures to reach the most disadvantaged girls

What kind of measures can be taken to encourage these? What can be effective?

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Raghav said...

Interesting points, Yogita and Sunil. Agreed with all. We can add a couple more:

1. I don't think it is a coincidence that the Indian states where female literacy (and in general, empowerment) is higher - Kerala and HP - also have higher literacy/education rates. I think addressing gender inequity directly and significantly impacts overall development.

2. One step in the is the construction of more Anganwadis. This certainly increases girl child enrolment.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Swati said...

To continue the discussion:

I think increasing accessibility in addition to having Anganwadi's will address many problems. By accessibility I mean:

* reducing travel time to school - i.e. there should be schools close enough
* schools should be suitable for older girl children - i.e. must have toilets.
* have a creche attached to school - so that the elder girl child can leave her siblings there.

Some NGO in or near Pune devised a scheme where they trained the girls to ride bicycles & then gave each pair of girls one bicycle. The idea was that they would take turns to double carry the other & as a pair will be have better security during the travel than they would have alone. Not sure how feasible this can be on a large scale. But does appear to be a solution towards empowering the girl children.

At 9:24 AM, Blogger pc said...

Went through the blog and comments. Interesting read specially for those coming from homes where we take education (even for girl children) for granted.
I agree that educating girls (and potential mothers) will go a long way in the spread of education. An educated mother means an educated and healthy child and household.
Again, in continuation of the discussion, I think the following will be worthwhile to read up/research:
a)to what extent does having a school in close proximity help (esp. girls)?
b)role of school meals as an incentive in increasing school attendance.
c) enabling young mothers to return to school not only as students but also as potential peers (in the sense they can take up teaching smaller kids and/or managing school-associated creches). In addition, can they take up alternative education classes (like vocational training) rather than conventional math/history/geography? I think in many cases, the former choice is more practical. Additionally, is it possible to ensure that children can decide early on whether they want to go for "conventional" or "otherwise" education. Obviously, this means that we have to have better and motivated trained teachers who can guide these kids better.
d)sexual harrassment (esp., "eve-teasing") stems from gender biases, inequality and stereotypical representation of sexes in our society. I know this may seem ludicrous, but is "sex education" esp. for older kids feasible in the current setting in our country? Again, I really haven't read up much, but how much role does segregating boys and girls in different schools/sections in the same school play in this? Of course, we have to remember the present socio-cultural milieu (the fact that many parents are loathe to send girls to co-ed schools).
e)what can we learn from other (typically western) societies where basic education is more pervasive? How did they come about this?
f) I think poverty is one of the greatest factors acting as a deterrent here. Government subsidies in terms of free schooling and other related amenities (eg., ensuring drinking water, working toilets as well as a library) should be in place. What can we do to ensure this?

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Tulika said...

Thanks! pc for reading and posting comments! Here are some tidbits from me.

We plan to research these topics, but from initial research I have some comments
a. Proximity does have a significant effect specially at the middle school level. Almost all places in India have a primary "school" within 1 Km and a secondary school within 5Km. Girl drop out rate is higher at secondary school level due to distance. To get exact numbers watch out blog. There are lot of infrastrcuture (toilets, creche) which have a large effect on these.

b. School meals have a large effect. In studies done after mid-day meal program was implemented in some places it was found that female enrollment increased upto 10-12%. and abstenice rate decreased also to that extent.

c. This is from my personal experience from NGO project. In this place they provided vocational courses 2-3 months to women in several rudimentary skills. I visited one girl who had done this course a couple of years back. She had totally transformed - confident, running her own small business with her husband, earned money to build a house etc ..

d. No data.

e. We dont have to learn necessarily from western socities. We have to learn from within India itself. The disparities in India are huge. In Kerla, Himachal Pradesh we have near universal literacy from males and >85% literacy for females. HP specially was worse in these measures in 1961, but in 40 years it has these levels which is just marvelous. Now look at U.P., M.P, Bihar (unfortunately our most populous states) they have female literacy levels of around 30%. Why do we have so much disparity?. I will have a blog on this soon.
Even China is a great example in this respect.

f. There needs to be mass public movements. It has been seen at all places across the world that only mass movements bring about changes.

At 10:50 PM, Blogger pc said...

Hey Rahul..thanks for your reply. I wanted to clarify one thing..when you are talking of literacy rates throughout India, I know the Kerala picture is really promising. However, how much of this is functional literacy, i.e., how much of this education is put to everyday use, esp. by women? The ability to sign your name is one thing and being independent and self-sustainable because you have an education (maybe, vocational) is another thing. Also, how much has the attitude of Keralite males (or for that matter, Chinese) changed towards females because of this increased literacy rates? Maybe, these are aspects you can incorporate in your blog.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger Rahul said...

My answers to your questions:

1. functional literacy?
Kerala/HP the literacy numbers are good. And also if you look at other aspects of women's empowerment numbers like women's participation in workforce, women's independent decision making power (in terms of spending money, making decisions about family etc) they are far better than any of the other states.
I will cover this more detail in my blog over the weekend.

2. men's attitude?
This is tough to answer and will do some research before answerig this.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Sandhya said...

Thank you for raising the questions and also I appreciate you Rahul for prompt responses. My own thoughts are as follows:

1) How can we rationalize why poverty affecting women disproportionately –

The fundamental issue/reason is gender discrimination & oppression against women in every aspect of life.

If I can oversimplify, in a household family, women’s interests (health, economy etc) are never for consideration; she is least priority in family structure and may be I should correct my self to say she is not even in the priority list. Simple example can be women usually take their meals only after husband and children, and in general we glorify so much about mother’s and wife’s sacrifices. Glaring example can be if a family lack enough resources to continue to provide education for both daughter and son, the obvious choice is to pull the daughter from the school.

Important to note that high percentage of people under poverty are in rural areas, and rural women lack access or limited access to power, education, training, economic power, opportunities, productive resources etc. In India we have issue of social discrimination & women are hardly recognized as independent and they are subjugated.

May be I can state what I know/heard from personal visits/experience of close friend to our own district in A.P., in some of the villages there is utter poverty either due to famine in the region or lack of economic opportunity, farming men are forced to become daily laborers resulting in migration to other regions. However, the women are left in their homes without any resources. They don’t have any rights over property either in their house or land and absolutely no power in decision making. Additionally, they carry burden of household duties including elder’s care/child care, property maintenance, and work in their lands without any pay or recognition. Thus it shows that they are in completely helpless conditions definitely worse than men in their family.

You may check the following UN link on this issue; (Women and Poverty) (discusses how women are overworked than men along with other issues of poverty)

2. Inheritance rights?.
My two cents -
Though there is an attempt to bring some changes through legal reforms, what I have seen around me in A.P. is in spite of recognition of women’s property right in 1986, the practice of dowry is still prevalent and accepted social custom in all sections including well educated and NRIs . There might be some truth and to some extent for certain period of time probably dowry ensured women’s right in some property as a safety net when she gets married, but in present times in almost all the cases turns out to be paying price to get married.

Again, the social structure/discrimination/customs makes it very difficult for women/girls to claim their rights on their own choice in addition to their own lack of awareness. To some extent women as mother or wife are able to claim right to maintenance but most of the cases it usually meager amounts.

Recently an amendment to Hindu Succession Act recognizing daughter’s right in the ancestral property in par with son’s rights was passed, though it is definitely positive change, its enforcement and claims depend much on social change and acceptance.

You may read the following link about the amendment. (discusses most recent amendment to Hindu Succession Act recognizing the daughter’s right in ancestral property)

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Sandhya said...

sorry guys I posted my response at the wrong place.. I am not sure If can delete it.

Anyway I just like to add here that one of the seminar paper (based on NFHS study of various states in India) referred in my article suggest that where husband is highly and more educated than wife, wife exercised more autonomy/decision making power, also where there is age gap of 10 years or so the wife excercised more autonomy. It also mentioned that in case of better educated wife than her husband she has not excercised much of autonomy.

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am interested in knowing more about the facts that influence or encourage or motivate muslim women education, particularly higher education. Whoever is willing to share info with me can kindly do so.

Thank You,

At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am interested in knowing more about the facts that influence or encourage or motivate muslim women education, particularly higher education. Whoever is willing to share info with me can kindly do so.

Thank You,

At 7:29 PM, Blogger kaja said...

u may contact me
i and i wil send u the detail notes of girls rights in islam.
in short "girls shud be consider as a dimond in islam and educatiuon is compulsory for girls

At 11:45 PM, Blogger Dipika said...

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Gandhi has said is the best, "be the change you seek in the world."

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