According to the Indian Constitution, both boys and girls are entitled to free basic education till the age of 14. Despite repeated affirmations, not all Indian children receive a primary education. According to the 1991 census, less than 40% of the 330 million women aged seven and older were literate, making the overall literacy rate for women 39 percent compared to 64 percent for men. This means that there are currently over 200 million illiterate women in India.
The literacy rate for women in urban areas is 64%, while it is only 31% for women in rural areas. Like the rest of India, many states have significant disparities in female literacy between rural and urban areas. Less than 25% of rural women in six out of the 24 states are literate. Less than 12% of rural women in Rajasthan are literate. This low rate of literacy has a detrimental effect on women’s life as well as the economic advancement of their families and nation.
Need for Education for Rural Women:
According to a number of studies, illiterate women had higher rates of fertility and death, poorer nutritional status, lower economic potential, and less autonomy within the home. The health and wellbeing of a woman’s children suffer as a result of her lack of education. For instance, a recent study in India discovered an inverse relationship between newborn mortality and mother’s educational attainment.
As a result, there needs to be a minimum level of education (more than 5 or 6 years) before there can be meaningful advances in female autonomy. In India, 59 percent of literate women have only completed their primary education. The position of these women might not be significantly improved by their level of education.
Barriers for Female Education:
There are four major barriers for girls’ education in India. They are as follows:
High Dropout Rate:
Girls, especially those from rural areas, confront a tremendous educational challenge since even though they may enrol in school at the beginning of the year, they do not necessarily stay enrolled. According to estimates, between first and fifth grades, 45 percent of girls leave school (The World Bank, 1997b). Girls frequently miss school in order to help out with household duties like caring for younger siblings.
Because virginity is highly prized, girls are also likely to be pulled out of school when they hit puberty. According to data on school attendance gathered by the World Bank in 1997, the percentage of girls who attend school declines as they become older. Compared to the lower age group, which had a 61 percent attendance rate, only 55% of girls aged 11 to 14 went to school in 1992–1993.
Priority to Son’s Education Compared to Daughter’s Education:
Due to budgetary constraints, a family will often decide to educate their male instead of their daughter. Another obstacle to a girl’s education may be unfavourable parental attitudes regarding educating their daughters.
Since that sons will be in charge of caring for their ageing parents, many parents see investing in their sons’ education as a wise decision. Yet, since daughters would eventually live with their husbands’ families and the parents will not directly benefit from their education, parents may view the education of daughters as a waste of money. Also, as they would prefer a partner who is similarly educated, daughters with higher levels of education will likely have higher dowry costs.
Lack of Adequate Number of Female Teachers:
Another potential hindrance to girls’ education is a lack of female teachers. If their teachers are women, girls are more likely to attend school and perform better academically. Only 29% of instructors at the primary level are women at the moment (MHRD, 1993).
At universities, there are just 22% of teachers who are female, which is much lower (CSO 1992). These ratios are a reflection of the historically low number of women who have the necessary educational credentials to be teachers. Yet, given that women make up over half of people pursuing teacher education now, the ratios are probably going to change in the future.
Gender Bias in Curriculum Still Exists:
The Indian government agreed to update textbooks in 1965 to remove gender-stereotypical representations of men and women. Nonetheless, a 1980s survey of Indian textbooks revealed that men dominated the majority of the courses. In these classes, men were portrayed as being powerful, courageous, and smart, and they occupied high-status jobs.
When women were present, however, they were portrayed as weak and helpless, frequently becoming the targets of abuse and beatings. For increasing women’s status in society, these representations pose significant obstacles.
The status of girls has generated a lot of debate, controversy, and discussion in India. The lack of equal medical, emotional, and educational support for female children as compared to male children can be attributed to a number of significant cultural and economic factors.
Now let us examine an Indian proverb that says, “Raising females is like watering someone else’s yard” in order to provide a solution. Girl children are initially viewed as burdens rather than blessings, as the recipients of extravagant dowries and eventual movers into the homes of their husbands. Women have a low rate of literacy as a result.
In 1991, just 39% of women and 64% of males could read and write (RGCC, 1993). So, in just 20 years, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of women who are literate. Despite advancements in literacy, there is still a sizable divide between men and women’s literacy levels in India.