Women education refers to every form of education that aims at improving the knowledge, and skill of women and girls. It includes general education at schools and colleges, vocational and technical education, professional education, health education, etc. Women education encompasses both literary and non-literary education.
Educated women are capable of bringing socio-economic changes. The constitution of almost all democratic countries, including India, guarantees equal rights to both men and women.
Primary and Secondary Education
Under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education, government has made education free for children of 6-14 years of age. One would expect that with this promise of free education, there would be an equal number of girls enrolling in primary education. However, in reality the picture looks much different. According to a 2008 government report, educational statistics indicate that the number of girls per 100 boys is around 80% for classes upto the VIII and a little over 70% for secondary higher education that covers
classes upto XII. Secondary education generally covers children in the age group of 14-18 years, which is roughly 88.5 million people according to the 2001 Census.
India's higher education system is the third largest in the world, after China and the United States. As of 2009, India has 20 central universities, 217 state universities, 106 deemed universities, 5 institutions established and functioning under the State Act, and various institutes which are of national importance, such as the IITs, IIMs and universities such as JNU. Other institutions include 16000 colleges, including 1800 exclusive women's colleges, functioning under various universities and institutions (Government Report, 2009). Despite these exceptional numbers and acknowledged quality of many institutions, it is surprising that women record a lower presence across most institutions of higher education.
Female literacy amongst the four large northern states - Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh - is lower than the national average (53.67%), while states such as Kerala, Goa and Mizoram record comparatively higher literacy rates for women (Census, 2001). The discrepancy between male and female literacy rates is also higher for states such as Bihar, Jharkand, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The differences in literacy rate for women also vary across urban and rural areas.
Barriers to Women's Education
Inadequate school facilities can sometimes serve as a deterrent for the girl child's participation in formal schooling. A report by the International Programs Centre for the U.S. Department of Commerce (Velkoff, 1998) lists the chief barriers to women's education in India as inadequate sanitary facilities, shortage of female teachers and gender bias in curriculum.
- Some of the barriers to women's education are sociological, rooted in gender stereotyping and gender segregation, and others are driven by economic concerns and constraints.
- Parental reluctance to educate girls is a huge factor inhibiting their access to education.There exist various factors that fuel the choices parents in Indian society make with regard to refusing or limiting the education of the girl child. The way a society views its women determines the roles it delegates to them and the choices made for them or those they are allowed to make.
- In many cases, women themselves are responsible for holding back their participation in education, working on preconceived notions that they will be unable to cope with the pressures of balancing work and home, assuming that mobility in employment can cause strain at the home front, or to confirm to socially induced images of feminity.
Conclusion: Until the middle of nineteenth century, girls and women were educated only for traditional household works. Now, the society is witnessing changes in the role-status of women. There is greater emphasis on education girls and women in the same way as we educate boys and men. The modern-day parents want to fulfill the aspiration of their children without gender parity.
The educated women should insist on exercising their civil, social, political and economic rights. This will help improve the overall condition of women in the society. We can hope for better days while all women of our country will be enlightened and educated.