Women Education In India


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Women Education In India

  1. 1. Women of the World By Victoria A. Velkoff International Programs Center Issued October 1998 WID/98-1 The Indian government has ex- Figure 1. pressed a strong commitment to- Infant Mortality Rates, by Mother’s Educational wards education for all, however, Level: 1992–93 India still has one of the lowest fe- male literacy rates in Asia. In 1991, less than 40 percent of the 330 million women aged 7 and Illiterate over were literate, which means today there are over 200 million illiterate women in India. This low level of literacy not only has a neg- Literate ative impact on women’s lives but Completed also on their families’ lives and on middle school their country’s economic develop- ment. Numerous studies show that illiterate women have high lev- els of fertility and mortality, poor High school nutritional status, low earning po- and above tential, and little autonomy within the household. A woman’s lack of 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 education also has a negative im- Deaths per 1,000 births pact on the health and well being of her children. For instance, a re- Source: International Institute for Population Sciences, 1995 cent survey in India found that in- fant mortality was inversely related to mother’s educational level (Fig- both sexes in India over the last constitution with an article promis- ure 1). Additionally, the lack of an several decades. In 1971, only 22 ing “free and compulsory educa- educated population can be an im- percent of women and 46 percent tion for all children until they com- pediment to the country’s econom- of men were literate (Figure 2) plete the age of 14” (The World ic development. (Register General and Census Bank, 1997b). The National Policy The Indian government’s commit- Commissioner (RGCC), 1977).1 on Education, which was updated ment to education is stated in its By 1991, 39 percent of women in 1992, and the 1992 Program of and 64 percent of men were liter- Action both reaffirmed the govern- ate (RGCC, 1993).2 Thus, there ment’s commitment to improving has been a large increase in the literacy levels, by providing special proportion of women who are liter- attention to girls and children from ate in just 20 years. Despite the scheduled castes and scheduled improvements in literacy, there tribes. continues to be a large gap be- tween the literacy levels of men Literacy Levels and of women. For India as a Improving Over Time 1 These rates refer to the population Although literacy levels are low, U.S. Department of Commerce aged 5 and over. there has been progress in im- Economics and Statistics Administration 2 These rates refer to the population proving educational attainment for aged 7 and over. BUREAU OF THE CENSUS
  2. 2. 2 Women of the World whole, the gender gap in literacy Figure 2. has been decreasing since 1981; 1971 Literacy Rates by Place of Residence: 1971–91 in some states, however the dis- 1981 parity in literacy between the 1991 Percent 100 sexes has been growing. There are dramatic differences in 80 literacy rates by place of resi- dence, with rates in rural areas 60 lagging behind rates in urban areas. In 1991, the urban female literacy rate was more than twice 40 that of the rural rate, 64 and 31 percent, respectively (RGCC, 20 1993). While there have, however, been substantial increases in liter- 0 acy rates in both urban and rural Total Urban Rural Total Urban Rural areas, the gap between the two Male Female sectors has not narrowed appre- ciably (Figure 2). Rates are for the population aged 5 and over for 1971 and 7 and older for 1981 and 1991. Source: Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, 1977 and 1993 Large Differences in Literacy Among the States The differences in literacy rates among the states are also extreme (Figure 3). Kerala has the highest female literacy rate, with over 86 Figure 3. percent of women literate in 1991. Female Literacy Rates, by State: 1991 The state with the second highest female literacy is Mizoram, where Kerala nearly 79 percent of women are Mizoram literate. On the other hand, there Goa Nagaland are several states that have litera- Maharashtra cy rates of less than 30 percent, Himachal Pradesh including Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu the two most populous states. To- Punjab gether these two states have over Tripura 63 million illiterate women. These Gujarat literacy levels are highly correlated Manipur Sikkim with the health status of the popu- West Bengal lation. Kerala has the lowest infant Meghalaya mortality rates and the highest life Karnataka expectancies of all the states. Assam Conversely, Uttar Pradesh and Bi- Haryana har have some of the lowest life INDIA expectancies found in India (India Orissa Andhra Pradesh Registrar General (IRG), 1996; Arunachal Pradesh IRG 1995). Madhya Pradesh As with India as a whole, many Uttar Pradesh Bihar states have large rural-urban dif- Rajasthan ferences in female literacy. In 6 of the 24 states, 25 percent or less of 0 20 40 60 80 100 the women in rural areas are liter- Percent ate. In Rajasthan, less than 12 Rates are for the population aged 7 and older. percent of rural women are literate. Source: Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, 1993
  3. 3. Women of the World 3 Figure 4. Educational Attainment of the Literate Population: 1991 Male Female Less than Less than Primary primary primary Primary 24% 27% 31% 28% 13% Higher secondary 9% 21% Higher secondary and above 21% 14% and above Middle 11% Middle 10-year secondary 10-year secondary Primary is 5 years of completed schooling, middle is 8 years, 10-year secondary is 10 years, and higher secondary and above is 12 years or more. Source: Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, 1993 estimated that 45 percent of girls highly gender-stratified society Three Out of Five Girls and 41 percent of boys drop out of such as India (Jeffery and Basu, Attend School Versus school between grades 1 and 5 1996; Jejeebhoy, 1995). Of the Three Out of Four Boys (The World Bank, 1997b). Girls literate women in India, 59 percent Although literacy rates in India are are often taken out of school to have only a primary education or low, there has been a concerted help with family responsibilities less (Figure 4). This level of effort to encourage girls to attend such as caring for younger siblings. education may not be sufficient to school, which should lead to high- Girls are also likely to be taken out meaningfully improve the status of er literacy rates in the future. In of school when they reach puberty these women. Only 41 percent of 1992-93, 75 percent of boys and as a way of protecting their honor. the literate population, or 13 per- 61 percent of girls aged 6 to 10 The data on school attendance by cent of all Indian women, have years were attending school. As age show the proportion of girls at- more than a primary education. with literacy measures, there are tending school decreases with age Gender Gaps in University large differences in school atten- while for boys it remains stable. In Education dance by state. In six states, over 1992-93, only 55 percent of girls 85 percent of girls aged 6 to 14 aged 11 to 14 were attending Currently, a very small proportion were attending school. Not sur- school compared with 61 percent of both men and women have a prisingly, these states also had fe- of the younger age group (IIPS, college education, just over 3 per- male literacy rates that were 1995). cent of men and 1 percent of above the national average. In all women. Although a very small Beyond Literacy states except Bihar, Rajasthan, proportion of the Indian population and Uttar Pradesh, more than half attends college, women account Although there are numerous stud- of the girls aged 6 to 14 were at- for a third of the students at this ies demonstrating a link between tending school. Although Bihar level (Ministry of Human Resource education and a variety of demo- has the lowest enrollment for both Development (MHRD), 1993). graphic indicators (i.e., fertility, infant boys and girls, there was still a This sex ratio is found for most and child mortality and morbidity), large gender gap, with only 38 per- fields of study except: 1) engineer- more recent studies are finding that cent of the girls attending school ing and commerce, where women there is a minimum threshold of compared to 64 percent of the account for a much smaller pro- education (more than 5 or 6 years) boys (International Institute for portion of the students; and 2) that must be achieved before there Population Science (IIPS), 1995). education, where women account are significant improvements in fe- for nearly half of all students. male autonomy3, particularly in a A major educational problem fac- Alternative Education ing both boys and girls in India is 3Autonomy is defined as decision making that although they may be enrolled The Non-formal Education (NFE) power within the home, economic and social self-reliance, confidence in inter- at the beginning of the year they program was created by the Indian acting with the outside world (Jejeebhoy, don’t always remain in school. It is Government in 1979-80 to reach 1995).
  4. 4. 4 Women of the World children that were not in the formal because daughters will eventually India Has a Shortage of education system, particularly girls live with their husbands’ families, Female Teachers and working children. Classes are and the parents will not benefit di- Lack of female teachers is another held at times that are convenient rectly from their education. Also, potential barrier to girls’ education. for the students, and the curricu- daughters with higher levels of Girls are more likely to attend lum is adapted to their needs. The education will likely have higher school and have higher academic teacher is a local person who has dowry expenses as they will want achievement if they have female been trained to run the NFE center a comparably educated husband. teachers. This is particularly and the classes are held either in However, education sometimes true in highly gender-segregated the teacher’s home or after hours lowers the dowry for a girl because societies such as India (Bellew in already-existing schools. In it is viewed as an asset by the and King, 1993; King, 1990). 1994, there were 255,000 centers husband’s family. Currently, women account for only serving 6.4 million children. 29 percent of teachers at the pri- Approximately 40 percent of the mary level (MHRD, 1993). The Inadequate School centers are exclusively for girls proportion of teachers who are fe- Facilities (The World Bank, 1997b). While male is even lower at the universi- the NFE program has the potential ty level, 22 percent of instructors Another barrier to education in to solve many of the problems with (CSO, 1992). These proportions India is the lack of adequate access to education, as with any reflect the historic paucity of school facilities. Many states type of education program, the women with the educational quali- simply do not have enough class- quality varies from location to loca- fications to be teachers. However, rooms to accommodate all of the tion (Rugh, 1994). the proportions are likely to school-age children. Furthermore, change in the future as women the classrooms that are available currently account for nearly half of often lack basic necessities such Barriers to Education those being trained as teachers. as sanitary facilities or water. In Again there are differences among There are several reasons for the Uttar Pradesh, a recent survey the states; the states with the high- low levels of literacy in India, not found that 54 percent of schools est the least of which is the high level did not have a water supply and literacy rates are also the states of poverty. Over one-third of the 80 percent did not have latrines with the highest proportion of fe- population is estimated to be living (The World Bank, 1997b). Lack male teachers. below the poverty line (The World of latrines can be particularly detri- Bank, 1997a). Although school at- mental to girls’ school attendance. Gender Bias in Curriculum tendance is free, the costs of Still Exists books, uniforms, and transporta- In some states, the inadequate tion to school can be too much for supply of classrooms is further As long ago as 1965, the Indian poor families. Poor families are compounded by the large increase government agreed to rewrite text- also more likely to keep girls at in the number of school-age chil- books so that men and women home to care for younger siblings dren due to high population growth would not be portrayed in gender- or to work in family enterprises. rates. For instance, in 1993, Uttar stereotyped roles. However, a If a family has to choose between Pradesh needed to build 284,000 study of Indian textbooks done in educating a son or a daughter be- additional classrooms to achieve the 1980s found that men were the cause of financial restrictions, typi- full enrollment of children age 6 to main characters in the majority of cally the son will be chosen. 10 (The World Bank, 1997b). The lessons. In these lessons, men need for new classrooms will per- held high-prestige occupations and Negative parental attitudes toward sist as the population continues to were portrayed as strong, adven- educating daughters can also be a grow. On the other hand, in states turous, and intelligent. In contrast, barrier to a girl’s education. Many where population growth rates are when women were included they parents view educating sons as low (e.g., Kerala), the number of were depicted as weak and help- an investment because the sons primary-age children is beginning less, often as the victims of abuse will be responsible for caring for to decline and state governments and beatings (Kalia, 1988). These aging parents. On the other hand, can focus on improving the quality depictions are strong barriers for parents may see the education of of education rather than increasing improving women’s position in so- daughterss a waste of money the supply of classrooms. ciety.
  5. 5. Women of the World 5 References Bellew, Rosemary T. and Eliza- Jeffery, Roger and Alaka M. Basu, Registrar General and Census eds., 1996, Girls’ Schooling, Commissioner, 1977, Census of beth M. King, 1993, “Educating Women’s Autonomy and Fertility India 1971, Social and Cultural Women: Lessons from Experi- Change in South Asia, London. Tables, Series I-India, Part II-C(ii), ence,” in Elizabeth M. King and M. Anne Hill, eds., Women’s New Delhi. Jejeebhoy, Shireen J., 1995, Education in Developing Coun- Women’s Education, Autonomy, -----, 1993, Census of India 1991, tries, Baltimore. and Reproductive Behavior: Final Population Totals: Brief Anal- Experiences from Developing ysis of Primary Census Abstract, Central Statistical Organization, Countries, Oxford. 1994, Statistical Abstract India Series-1, New Delhi. Kalia, Narendra Nath, 1988, 1992, New Delhi. “Women and Sexism: Language Rugh, Andrea, 1994, “Situational India Registrar General, 1995, of Indian School Textbooks,” in Analysis of Girls’ Education in In- SRS Based Abridged Life Tables Rehana Ghadially, ed., Women dia,” paper prepared for the U.S. 1988-92, Occasional Paper No. 4 in Indian Society, New Delhi. Agency for International Develop- of 1995, New Delhi. ment, Washington, DC. King, Elizabeth M., 1990, Educating Girls and Women: -----, 1996, Sample Registration The World Bank, 1997a, India: Investing in Development, Bulletin, Vol. 30, No.1, New Delhi. Achievement and Challenges in Washington, DC. Reducing Poverty, Washington, International Institute for Popula- Ministry of Human Resource DC. tion Sciences, 1995, India National Development, 1993, Selected Family Health Survey, 1992-93, Educational Statistics, 1991-92, -----, 1997b, Primary Education in India, Washington, DC. Bombay. New Delhi.