WOMEN EDUCATION IN INDIA – ISSUES AND CONCERNS
Dr. K. Sailaja1*, V. Roja2
1 Assistant Professor, 2 Research Scholar,
Dept. of Economics, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam
India is emerging as a global leader and building an inclusive growth trajectory for its 1.3 billion plus population. In this context education of women, who constitute around 50 percent of the total population, plays a crucial role in harvesting the fruits of demographic dividend. Towards this several programs and schemes were launched to promote women education in India in the recent years. However, even after 72 years of India’s independence female literacy rate is found to be not only low but also lags the male literacy rate in the country. In this context, an attempt is made in this paper to examine the trends in the female literacy rate as well as the gender gap in literacy in different states.
Literacy Rates among Rural and Urban Population in India
Data relating to rural and urban literacy rates during the census period are presented in the Table 1. It may be observed from the data that total literacy rate is increased from 18.32 percent in 1951 to 34.45 percent in 1971, 52.21 percent in 1991, and to 74.04 percent by 2011.
Table 1: LITERACY RATES AMONG RURAL AND URBAN POPULATION IN INDIA (1951-2011)
|% increase in 2011 over 2001||26%||10%||14%||9%||3%||5%||22%||9%||14%|
Source: Census of India, Office of Registrar General, India.
However, growth in literacy rates among females and males presents a different picture. Data shows that the male literacy increased from 27.15 percent in 1951 to 45.96 percent in 1971, 64.13 percent in 1991 and further increased to 82.14 percent by 2011. On the other hand, female literacy increased from a mere 8.86 percent in 1951 to 21.97 percent in 1971, to 39.29 percent in 1991 and finally increased to 65.46 percent by 2011. This indicates that female literacy is lagging behind the male literacy in all the periods. However, the percentage increase in female literacy rate during the last decade is very encouraging. It is heartening to note that while male literacy rate increased by 9 percent, female literacy rate increased by 22.0 percent during the same period. This may be attributed to the fact that the government policies like Sarvasiksha Abhiyan, Katsturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Midday meal programme etc increased the female literacy rate.
Disparities in literacy rate are found to be prominent in the rural and urban areas of the country. From the data is may be observed that urban literacy rate increased from 34.59 percent in 1951 to 60.20 percent in 1971, further increased to 67.2 percent in 1991 and finally increased to 84.1 percent by 2011. On the other hand, total literacy rate among rural population increased from 12.1 percent to 27.9 percent, 36.0 percent and finally 67.8 percent during the corresponding periods. This indicates that rural literacy rate is found to be far below the urban literacy rate during the post-independence period.
Gender Wise Disparities in Literacy Rate
Gender wise disparities in literacy rate are more prominent in rural areas when compared to urban areas. The female literacy rate in rural areas increased from a mere 4.87 percent in 1951 to 15.5 percent in 1971, to 30.17 percent in 1991 and further increased to 58.75 percent by 2011. On the other hand, in the urban areas, the female literacy rate increased very remarkably from 22.33 percent in 1951 to 48.8 percent in 1971, further increased to 64.05 percent in 1991 and finally reached to 79.92 percent by 2011. From this analysis it can be inferred that, female literacy rate in rural areas is far behind the female literacy rate among urban areas.
However, it is very interesting to observe that the percentage increase of female literacy during the last decade (2001-2011) is found to be very high both in rural and urban areas compared to that of male counterparts. Female literacy rate increased by 26 percent compared to 10 percent in male literacy in rural areas. Similarly, female literacy rate increased by 9 percent in the urban areas compared to 3 percent in the male literacy rate during the same period.
State-Wise Literacy Rates of Males and Females in India
Data relating to the state-wise and gender-wise literacy rates for the period 1991 to 2011 are presented in Table 2
Table 2: STATE-WISE LITERACY RATES OF MALES AND FEMALES IN INDIA (1991-2011)
|A & N Island||65.5||79||73||75.2||86.3||81.3||82.4||90.3||86.6|
|D & N Haveli||27||53.6||40.7||43||73.3||60||64.3||85.2||76.2|
|Daman & Diu||59.4||82.7||71.2||70.4||88.4||81.1||79.5||91.5||87.1|
|Jammu & Kashmir||NA||NA||NA||43||66.6||55.5||56.4||76.8||67.2|
Source: Office of Registrar General, India
From Table 2, it may be observed that total literacy rate in the country has increased from 52.2 percent in 1991 to 64.8 percent in 2001 and further to 74 percent by 2011. However, there is wide gap in the growth of literacy among different genders. While male literacy rate increased from 64.1 percent in 1991 to 75.3 percent in 2001 and finally increased to 82.1 percent by 2011, the female literacy rate increased from 39.3 percent to 53.7 percent and further to 65.5 percent during the same period. This reveals that at all India level, about 35 percent of females are found to be illiterate in 2011 while a mere 18 percent of males are found to be illiterate.
State-wise analysis of male, female literacy rates shows that, Kerala, Mizoram, Tripura are found to be having highest literacy rate for the total population. On the other hand, states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh are found to be lagging in terms of total literacy rate during the three-decade period. It is disheartening to observe that, even by 2011, female literacy is very low in the states like Bihar (51.5 percent), Rajasthan (52.1 percent), Jharkhand (55.4 percent), Jammu Kashmir (56.4 percent), Uttar Pradesh (57.2 percent), Arunachal Pradesh (57.7 percent) and Andhra Pradesh (59.1 percent).
State-Wise Gender Gap in Literacy in India
Data relating to state-wise gender gap in literacy during the period, that is from 1991 to 2011 are presented in Table 3.
Table 3: STATE-WISE GENDER GAP IN LITERACY IN INDIA (1991-2011)
|State/Union Territory||Gender Gap||% decline in gap|
|A & N Island||13.5||11.1||7.8||18||29.3|
|D & N Haveli||26.6||30.3||20.9||-14.1||31.2|
|Daman & Diu||23.3||18||12||22.5||33.5|
|Jammu & Kashmir||23.6||20.3||–||13.9|
Source: Office of Registrar General, India.
From the table, it may be observed that gender gap in literacy at the all India level has steadily declined from 24.8 percent in 1991 to 21.6 percent in 2001 and further declined to 16.3 percent by 2011. Further percentage decline in gender gap has been significant during the last decade, that is from 2001 to 2011 (24.7 percent), when compared to the earlier decade, that is 1991-2001 (13.1 percent). The data reveals that the gender gap in literacy according to 2011 census is found to be highest in the states like Rajasthan (27.1 percent), Jharkhand (21.4 percent), Jammu & Kashmir (20.3 percent), and Uttara Pradesh (20.1 percent), while it is found to be lowest in the states like Meghalaya (3.1 percent), Kerala (4.0 percent), Mizoram (4.1 percent), and Nagaland (6.6 %).
It is also observed that among the major states, the percentage decline of gender gap in literacy rate during 2001 to 2011 is found to be highest in Haryana (44.7 percent), followed by Kerala (36.3 percent), West Bengal (36.0 percent), and Maharashtra (34.0 percent).
However, it is interesting to note that during 1991-2001, Haryana experienced increase in the gender gap in literacy by 14.4 percent instead of decline.
Major Causes for Low Literacy among Females in India
Though it is an established fact that education among the women folk is very important for a nation’s progress, it is pertinent to observe that nearly 531 million women in India are still found to be illiterate because of the following factors.
- Gender based discrimination against the girl child.
- Rigid social systems dominated by patriarchal system.
- Poverty and income inequalities.
- Malnutrition of the girl child.
- Lack of security to the girls.
- High dropout rate among girls.
- Outdated social customs.
- Lack of adequate sanitary and water facilities in the schools.
- Other infrastructure bottlenecks.
In view of the low literacy rates among women, the Government of India has launched several programmes in order to promote female education in India. They include: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Indira Mahila Yojana, Balika Samridhi Yojana, Rashtriya Mahila Kosh, Programme for development of women and children in rural areas etc. In this context, it is pertinent to pursue vigorous efforts to increase female education in India. In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2030, female education plays a critical role in India. It is no exaggeration that an educated woman is like a magic wand which brings prosperity, health and pride to the family and the nation.
- of India Census Reports, 2011
- Krishnakumar. Leveraging Technology for Transforming Education. Yojana, July, 2019; Pg. 37-39.
- The Hindu, August 18th, 2019; Pg.2.