Girls Child Education in India

From the advent of the human species, with or without schools, one keeps on taking education in some or the other way. It is one the basic necessities to be educated for human, as world out there is full of competition, where one needs certain amount of skills to survive and be a threat to others. Education gives an insight to the person to differentiate between good and bad. Webster defines education as the process of educating or teaching (now that’s really useful, isn’t it? Educate is further defined as “to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of… ” Thus, from these definitions, we might assume that the purpose of education is to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of students. Unfortunately, this definition offers little unless we further define words such as develop, knowledge, and character. Education may be seen as a means of empowerment; control over one’s life in more than just in economic sense.

Education is not merely a means for better income and employment, opportunities for individuals or for higher economic growth potential for their nations. The social benefits of education spread in many directions. Education leads to better health care, smaller family norms, greater community and political participation, less economic inequality and a greater reduction of absolute poverty-social benefits that a narrow economic approach to education fails to capture.

Education leads to many social benefits – improvement in standards of hygiene, reduction in infant and child mortality rates, decline in population growth rates, increase in labor production, greater political empowerment and democratization, and an improved sense of national unity and integrity. It has been accepted that the rate of return on education, primarily primary education, even more on the girl child, is very high. Still India has been struggling to universalize elementary education over half a century and yet has not been able to declare it as a fundamental right or make it compulsory.

Thus, the word education is not restricted to school education only, though in this essay I will discuss mainly about the school education and position of women in that. To start with, it’s a fact that men and women are equal. When God invented them, he didn’t differentiate or put any line of demarcation between them. Apart from some physical difference between them, both are equal. Every child or a human being that way important and specially girl child because they keep the human cycle going on.

The hallmark of culture and advancement of civilization consists in the fulfillment of our obligation to young generation by opening up all opportunities for every child, without any type of deprivement or discretion to enfold his or her personality and rise to his or her fall stature, physically, morally, mentally and spiritually. But the society has always been unjust and unfair with women. It has been a patriarchal world that always suppresses feminine emotions and let them set free.

Survival and development of girl child for which educating her is essential is not only the question of her survival only, it is the question of survival of the entire human race and should be looked upon as such. Moreover, when girl child will be properly educated, her mental faculties adequately developed than only in her later life she will be able to realize her true self, contribute to the development of her children, family, society and nation simultaneously maintaining her dignity and true worth by standing up for and demanding her own human rights, their protection and promotion in all fields of activity.

Education enlightens and enlightened women only can stand up for protection of her human rights and for those of her fellow sisters who may be being deprived and discriminated against due to various religious and socio-economic factors. By educating girl child we set in a process of empowering women, who will be able not only to defend their rights and live with dignity but also to contribute to the development of entire society. Here the questions arise as to why a girl child is discriminated against and deprived?

The root cause of this practice lies in various socio-cultural, economic and religious factors, which make us ignore the rights of girl child and our duty towards them with open eyes. There are various reasons why in India people prefer sons over daughters, and due to those reasons sons are given better lifestyle or treated in better manner then daughters. The three major factors that contribute to the preferences are: First, The continued belief is the economic utility of sons as family labor, wage earners as well as support for parents during old age.

Dowry also serves as an economic incentive to have sons just as it serves as a disincentive to have daughters. Second, Socio-cultural factors like patrilineal descent and inheritance as well as other aspects of kinship building serve to create conditions that sustain female disadvantage and inequality. Third, Within religion sons have been accorded the unique privilege of performing various rites and rituals, including the last rites for deceased parents. All these factors create a higher premium on having sons. The girl child in India is discriminated socially, psychologically, economically and in violation of laws.

She is considered a transitory member of family and a burden as she is to be married off with huge dowry. She is not, if she is at all born and alive, sent to school at all or made to depart soon after joining at the slightest pretext her rights take a back seat in comparison to those of a son or male child who would be a bread winner one day and heir of the family. She has to help in all household chores, fetch water, cook, bring fuel and fodder and look after the animals and siblings. If she goes to work to land a helping hand to family, she is paid less than boys.

She is taken to a hospital only in emergency and is given no immunization. As a great feminist wrote, “one is never born, but made to be a woman”, girls in India are never seen as an individual, but as daughters, wife, mother, sister etc. Although in the Vedic period women had access to education in India, they had gradually lost this right. However, in the British period there was revival of interest in women’s education in India. During this period, various socio religious movements led by eminent persons like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar emphasized on women’s education in India.

Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Periyar and Baba Saheb Ambedkar were leaders of the lower castes in India who took various initiatives to make education available to the women of India. However women’s education got a fillip after the country got independence in 1947 and the government has taken various measures to provide education to all Indian women. As a result women’s literacy rate has grown over the three decades and the growth of female literacy has in fact been higher than that of male literacy rate. While in 1971 only 22% of Indian women were literate, by the end of 2001 54. 6% female were literate. The growth of female literacy rate is 14. 87% as compared to 11. 72 % of that of male literacy rate. Either she is worshipped as a Goddess, who only gives and never demands or she is treated as a slave with no say even in matters concerning her own life. She is confined to house and kitchen, not expected to speak in a loud voice or even at independently not to speak of asserting herself. In such a scenario education can be a good help to the woman upliftment and creating awareness among women and making them aware of the rights which they enjoy.

This goal can be achieved by providing them proper education and making them stands on their own stand without and patriarchal support. Education in essence, has two main objectives; to instill broad based knowledge, including professional skills, which enables a person to deal with the material demands of his/her life, and secondly, to make him or her a particular kind of person – a person who can live at peace with himself and his fellow human beings and in harmony with animate and inanimate nature.

Education helps a person grow cognitively, intellectually and emotionally and enables a person to take right decisions on the basis of logic and reason. It is my firm belief that if women are to be empowered and their human rights protected and promoted in India, we will have to concentrate on educating the girl child who is often discriminated against and whose rights are relegated to background in comparison to those of the male child and the irony of all this is that she is not even aware of the prevailing situation which undermines her worth as an individual and makes her a second grade citizen.

India has the largest illiterate population in the world (429 million) which exceeds the total combined population of the North American Continent and Japan. But in some ways India’s progress has been remarkable too, the adult literacy rate has nearly tripled since 1951 from 18 percent in 1951 to 52 percent in 1991 and 65 percent in 2001. Since 1960 there is universal elementary education in India for children between six and fourteen years. Primary and secondary schools that are part-owned by the government are free of charge but they aren’t considered to provide a high standard education.

There are big regional differences in standards, as well as rural and urban standard differences. One example is the state Kerala where 90% of the population is literate while in the state Bihar the literacy is 39%. Another difference in education can be seen between female and male. The literacy for males is 75% and for females it is 64%. These differences mentioned above cause education to increase the inequalities rather than to decrease them. Even though child labor is prohibited in India, it occurs and even though public financed school is free, poor families can’t afford due to the opportunity cost.

Children can work on the farm and contribute to an immediate income increase instead of going to school which is free but then the family would be without the additional income that children can contribute to. This makes the private cost for poor families higher than for wealthier families, resulting in a lower school attendance and lower school performance for children from poor families. When females marry they move from their native village. Because of this parents of daughter don’t have the same long-run incentives to invest in education as they have for their sons.

Instead girls are often sent of to work. When males get married they stay with their parents and provide for and take care of them as they get older. This gives the parents incentives to invest in their son’s education, which sometimes is paid through the daughter’s employment. Empirical studies have shown that uneducated females hinder economic development and increase social inequalities. In most developing countries female education has a higher rate of return than the returns of male. The returns are even higher than investments in public infrastructure.

Female education contributes to higher labor force participation among women, lower fertility and improved health and nutrition for children. Educated mothers create better conditions for children to be educated and healthy than a higher income. A bad cycle is created when females aren’t educated; through the children of uneducated women and the children’s future and through them the country’s future. The cost of investing in girl’s education is more than covered through the positive side-effects from better health of children and other social benefits.

India mostly invests in higher education and not in primary or secondary which a larger mass of people could benefit from. Through investments on female education India has taken a step towards reducing the educational gender gap and other measures have been taken towards reducing the regional differences (landguiden. se). Girls total education enrolment has steadily increased at al levels but it is still below 50% at all levels. (selected educational statistics 2004-2005). In 1986 the Indian government set a goal of 6% of GNP going to education but this aspiration hasn’t been reached yet (Cheney, Ruzzi and Muralidharan, 2005).

In 2007 the Indian government spend 3,7% of GDP on education which is quite high compared to other LDC countries in Asia (landguiden. se). (note GNP and GDP are different measurements). Another problem in India is the teachers. In a survey done by The Public Report of Basic Education (PROBE) from 1999 they observed that only half of the teachers actually were teaching. This issue results in a high drop out rate because children even after 4-5 years of public school education experience that they don’t learn enough.

Teachers in India are well-paid since they are unionized but they are chosen on political affiliation criteria and not on knowledge or pedagogic criteria. In rural schools one teacher might be in charge of several primary classes with each class of 40 pupils on average. A new trend in primary schooling is low cost private schools both in urban and rural areas (Cheney, Ruzzi and Muralidharan, 2005). The constitution of India provides a large number of rights and freedom to the people of India. Certain civil, political and cultural rights and reedom, are secured as fundamental rights, enforceable against the state through constitutionally guaranteed remedies i. e. they are justifiable on the other hand, certain other rights perceived to be largely social and economic in nature, have been listed as directive principles of state policy and are not justifiable through courts of law. These rights in other words, if denied or neglected, cannot be procured by the citizen through the courts. Thus the classification of the rights of the citizen into these two categories, could be interpreted as placing mechanical values on these rights relative to each other.

Political will determines the manner in which laws are enforced. In fact, the very act of placing education in either category of rights can well be perceived to be the primary expression of such a political will. Right to education could not be made a fundamental right (as had been discussed with the Constituent Assembly of India due to various reasons) and was only accepted as part of directive principles of state policy. This could be taken, on reflective considerations, as a lack of political will even at that time.

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