Literacy and Education of Women in India!
Education is regarded as a key instrument for the empowerment of women. Education changes their worldview, improves their chances of employment, facilitates their participation in public life, and also influences their fertility. Several studies indicate that educated women have, on an average, fewer children and they take good care of their socialization.
Although considerable progress has been made with regard to literacy and education, the overall picture still remains unfavorable to women. At the beginning of the 20th century, the country as a whole was largely illiterate with just 5.3 per cent of the population counted as literate. Only 0.60 per cent women were then literate. In 1951, the first Census taken four years after independence, the picture was not much better.
The female literacy rate stood at 7.e93 per cent, as compared to 24.95 per cent for men. The 2001 Census suggests a 65.38 per cent literacy rate for India, with 75.85 per cent for males, and 54.16 per cent for females. Literacy is not evenly spread throughout India. There are 12 states and Union territories that are below the national average for female literacy.
The states of Bihar and Jharkhand have the lowest female literacy rates (33.57 and 39.38%, respectively). These data suggest that nearly half of India’s female population is still illiterate. This is not a small number. A massive programme is needed to make nearly 240 million women literate.
It is also to be noted that most of these women are located in rural and tribal areas. Another point to remember is that most of the women included in the literate category have not had education beyond the primary level.
The number of women goes down as we move to higher levels of education. However, women are to be found in all professions, including medicine and engineering. An idea can, however, be had by knowing the percentage of females by number of years of schooling.
The 1991 figures for educational composition of women, in terms of number of years of schooling, are given below:
The 1998 Year Book of the Institute of Applied Manpower Research provides figures regarding the enrolment of girls by stages of education.
These are reproduced in Table 3 which suggests that only 77.15 million girls were enrolled as students in different courses. The male enrolment figure was much higher – 109 million. Of course, over the years, the gap between boys and girls with regard to enrolment is getting smaller and smaller, but there is still need to accelerate the process of universalization of education among women.
Simultaneously, there is also a need to take measures to reduce the dropout rate, which is fairly high, particularly among village girls. The government realizes the importance of education in bringing about basic change in the status of women. Initially, the policy thrust was on welfare, which changed to development in the 1980s, and is now redefined as empowerment. Education is seen as a major contributor to the empowerment process.
In this regard, the following programmes undertaken by the government deserve special mention:
1. Mahila Samakhya:
Started in 1989, this scheme uses education as a tool for empowerment. This scheme is being carried out in 8,000 villages in 53 districts in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.
2. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan:
This is a campaign to universal primary education, as part of the international programme of Education for All (EFA). It is inspired by UNESCO’s regional programme called APPEAL – Asia Pacific Programme of Education for All.
In addition, there are other programmes of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, which also cover women’s education. These include Operation Blackboard, Non-Formal Education, District Primary Education Programme, National Literacy Mission, Navodaya Vidyalaya, and Vocational Education.
In the state of Rajasthan, which has low rates of literacy among rural and tribal women, an innovative programme called Lok Jumbish was launched with financial assistance from the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA) in 1992. This programme was, however, closed down in 2004.
Low Female Literacy Rate and Its Impact on Our Society
June 13, 2013
by Ramandeep Kaur
The development of any nation or region is indicated by the level of education and that too of both genders. That is why ‘education for all’ is strongly recommended and focused on by our government. India has made a considerable progress in this sector and with all the efforts the literacy rate grew to 74.04% in 2011 from meager 12% in 1947. But still, India has not achieved what it should have during this period.
First of all, the progress made in this sector is very slow. Secondly, there a considerable gap between male and female literacy rates in India. It has been estimated that at the current rate of progress, India will attain universal literacy only until 2060. As per the census of 2011, an effective literacy rate for men was 82.14% whereas for women it was 65.46%. Though there has been seen a substantial increase in the number of literate women and this gap is narrowing, it still persists. Among such figures, there exists a ray of hope as well. According to the 2011 census, since year 2011, 110 million additional women had become literate as compared to 107 men that means that the number of literate women is increasing.
Females constitute about 50% of country’s human resource but lack of education snatches their chance to be a part of the progress and development of India. This means our pace of progress is less than the required pace. Even if females do not use education to work, total illiteracy has a huge negative impact on our society.
Region-based and state-based disparity
There is a dramatic difference in the female literacy rate based on various regions in India. Female literacy rate in urban areas is higher as compared to rural India. In Rajasthan, most of the rural women are illiterate.
Kerala has the highest female literacy rate (92% as per 2011 census) whereas Rajasthan (52.7% as per 2011 census) has the lowest female literacy rate in India. States such as Uttar Pradesh (59.3% as per 2011 census) and Bihar (53.3% as per 2011 census) that are the most populated states in India show low levels of female literacy. This is directly related to the health and infant mortality. Kerala has the lowest infant mortality whereas states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have a high mortality rate.
Low female literacy rate and its impact on our society
Low female literacy rate means an overall sluggish growth of India, as it impacts every arena of the development. India is struggling hard to stabilize its growing population through family planning programs. But if females are illiterate, then this has a direct and negative impact on these initiatives.
When a girl or a woman is not educated, it is not only she who suffers but the entire family has to bear the consequences of her illiteracy. It has been found out that illiterate women face more hardships in life than literate ones. They have high levels of fertility as well as mortality; they suffer from malnutrition and all other related health problems. In one of the surveys, it has been found out that infant mortality is inversely related to mother’s educational level. In such a scenario not only women but their kids also go through the same conditions. She, who does not know the importance of education in life, does not emphasize the same for her kids. This hampers the family as well as the nation’s progress as a whole.
Lack of education means lack of awareness. Illiterate women are not aware of their rights. They know nothing about initiatives taken by the government for their welfare. Illiterate women keep on struggling hard and bear harshness of life, family and even their husbands.
Why is female literacy rate low in India?
The negative attitude of parents towards the girl child and her education is one of the major reasons of low female literacy rate in India. In most of the families, boys at home are given priority in terms of education but girls are not treated in the same way. Right from the beginning, parents do not consider girls as earning members of their family, as after marriage they have to leave their parents’ home. So their education is just considered as a wastage of money as well as time. For this reason, parents prefer to send boys to schools but not girls.
Poverty is the root cause of many problems in India and also of low female literacy rate. More than one-third of population in India is living below the poverty line. Though government is putting efforts to make the primary education free but still parents are not ready to send their girls to school. To this is connected the accessibility to schools. In most of the rural areas lack of easy accessibility to school is another reason for low female literacy rate. Parents do not prefer to send girls to schools if these are located at a far distance from their village or home. Even if schools are there then lack of adequate school facilities becomes a hurdle. Some of the schools are really in pathetic conditions and do not have even basic facilities. As per a survey, 54% of schools in Uttar Pradesh do not have water facility and 80% do not have latrine facilities. Even some schools do not have enough rooms to accommodate all the students.
Another barrier to female education in India is the lack of female teachers. As India is a gender segregated society, it is a very important factor in the low female literacy rate in India.
But in spite of all reasons, women must understand and realize that education can actually end the vivacious cycle of poverty, their misfortune, so that they can live a life with pride. In case of any misfortune in life, it is education that would help her, not anything else. The government should really work towards the number, distance and quality of schools in rural as well as urban India. We should encourage the girl child in getting education to create a balanced and an educated society.
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