“The future must not belong to those who bully women. It must be shaped by girls who go to school and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.”
- President Obama in his speech, while addressing the UN General Assembly, 2012
Standing in 2018, most of us assume that education, especially formal education like schooling and higher education is a norm now. Even though we believe that it is routine for a child to start schooling at 3 and have access to means of education most of us do. However, that is not the case. Especially when it comes to women.
With gender equality being one of the most fought for causes in the world, female education is the need of the hour. As of today, most countries in the world show gender disparities with respect to education. According to UNESCO, between 2000-2015, over 60% of the world’s countries state that for every 100 males enrolled in primary schools, there were fewer than 80 females enrolled.
To understand the dire situation and the importance of education for women in the 21st century, we need to understand what ‘education’ is and why it is important to acquire one - for everyone.
The word, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, has been defined as the action or process of teaching someone especially in a school, college, or university; the knowledge, skill and understanding that you get from attending school, college, or university; a field of study that deals with the methods and problems of teaching.
The word ‘education’ has been derived from the Latin term ēducātiō (“a breeding, a bringing up, a rearing”), which comes from ēducō (“I lead, I train”).
With the etymology, formal definition and real-life application, education can be simply defined as the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills values, beliefs and habits. Education is not limited to books and institutional teaching or learning. Ways of imparting and acquiring education go beyond standard methods and matter.
Now that you are well-versed with the history of education across the world and India, it’s time to learn more about the different types of educational systems. The different types of education that have been prevalent and popular around the world for years are divided into the following: -
Any form of teaching or learning that takes place in the premises of a certified institution such as a school or college where a student acquires basic, academic or trade skills for a scheduled fee. Formal education is given by qualified teachers, who require being efficient in the art of instruction. A formal education system observes strict discipline and awards certification on completing a prescribed tenure of education to the student. Formal education usually follows these stages in the same order after Pre-school (for children under 4 years of age) and Kindergarten (for children aged 4+ years):
3.1.1. Elementary School
3.1.2. Secondary School or High School
3.1.3. Post-secondary education or higher education (at a University or college which grants an academic degree on completion of education)
Informal education does not involve an institution or a certified teacher. It could be as simple as a parent instructing a child on how to prepare a meal or ride a bike. Informal education can also be acquired by reading books or voluntary research on the internet. This system excludes the necessity of a school or college in the equation and does not require a fee to be paid either. There is no set curriculum required as it is based upon personal experiences and experiences of those around you (in your family or community.)
This form of education is for an adult individual, who is not enrolled in school or college, to learn literacy, other basic skills or job skills. Home education, programmed learning, distance learning and computer-assisted instruction are included in this kind of education.
As I already mentioned, there are ways apart from the standard approach to education that exists in today’s scenario.
Storytelling is the oldest form of education. This method involves passing the educational matter to students in the form of stories or tales. Think about it. How else have our forefathers passed down all that information, cultural and historical, through generations to us? It is a great method as stories are remembered more than just a list of written facts.
The discussion is an effective educational method that consists of the teacher and students interacting and exchanging ideas and thoughts on an open-ended forum.
Teaching is the prescribed approach towards imparting education. This educational method involves a dialogue that mainly focuses on the teacher. Schools and colleges use this method for the majority of the subjects.
Training is an educational method that imparts the skills to do something rather than just know about that same thing. A practical form of education, training involves refining one's ability to physically carry out an operation or procedure.
A more independent form of study, directed research, as an educational method, works on the premise of the learner carrying out research to educate themselves. However, the research is done by the learner under the guidance of a qualified supervisor so as to direct it in the right direction.
Reading and writing, i.e. being literate, is important but education is beyond literacy. Education entails using one’s literacy skills to utilise it for your growth and development and for those of the nation.
While literacy is meant for the ability to read and write, education is about finding out the reasoning behind various concepts and using reading-writing skills to improve one’s quality of life. Education is the key to the economic growth and rise of a country, especially developing countries.
Quoting World Bank, ‘Education is a powerful driver of development and one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability… Nevertheless, some 260 million children are still out of primary and secondary school.’
Here are all the other reasons why education is important:
Learning and gaining knowledge has known to boost happiness as it helps one feel more confident, self-assured and empowered throughout one’s day-to-day activities.
To earn your own living, making informed and calculated decisions, it is important to have an education. This leaves little room to depend on others to live a happy and stable life.
Those who are satisfactorily educated are more inclined to set more challenging goals for themselves and yet have more willpower and determination to achieve success.
According to statistics, the child mortality rates drop when mothers are well-educated. Since well-educated individuals are more likely to have better jobs, their children are, by default, more likely to live a better lifestyle while growing up.
Since the prosperity of a nation is dictated by the financial health of its residents, a fine education means overall growth for your nation as well.
Encountering problems is easier on individuals who are well-educated as their skill enables them to deal with the issue in a calm and collected way, using logic to arrive at a viable solution.
Learning and acquiring more knowledge expands the capability of one’s brain, thus making it more creative and likely to come up with unique thoughts and creative solutions to presented issues.
With education comes the power of understanding and tolerance. As other people learn about other cultures and unique phenomenon, they are more equipped to a more ethical outlook and in turn, peace of mind.
Individuals who are well educated are open to new ways of working and new experiences, helping one adapt to change, the only constant.
The more you learn, the more you want to learn and therefore, expand your range of knowledge and possibilities. This helps one grow and develop on a personal level.
We know now why education is important to acquire for any individual. For women, it is even more essential to have an education. Leading human rights’ organisations over the world, such as UNICEF, recognise education as one of the most prominent and critical areas of women empowerment. It is also a significant example of the discrimination women suffer. For instance, out of all the children not in school, there are twice as many girls as there are boys. Also, among illiterate adults, the number of women is double of that of men.
So, how does educating women help their predicament? Giving females all over the world basic education is a way of making sure they have greater power to make smarter choices that aim at helping them lead the kinds of lives they want to lead. It is a basic human right - not a luxury.
Here are some facts about female education, which will assist your understanding of the situation: -
1. 65 million girls all over the world are not in school.
2. The number of primary school age girls in the world is 31 million. Out of these, 17 million, will probably never attend school in their lives.
3. Currently, there are over 123 million youths between ages 15 and 25 who cannot read or write. 61% of them are women.
4. Out of all the children who are in primary school, there are 33 million fewer girls than boys.
5. Females who have a standard 8 years of education are 4 times less likely to get married as children.
6. One extra year of education for a girl means 20% more earning potential as an adult.
7. A baby born to a mother who is literate has 50% more chances of surviving past 5 years of age.
8. Mothers who are educated are twice as likely to send their children to school than otherwise.
9. Half of the children who are not in school live in conflict-ridden countries. Girls make up 55% of this total.
Statistics sources: UNESCO Institute Of Statistics, Education First, National Academies Press, The World Bank, UNICEF, EFA Global Monitoring Report and United Nations Statistics Division.
The statistics above shed some light on the current status of girls’ education and the impact an education can have on girls, their families, communities and countries all over the world.
Gathering from this data, you now know education is clearly one of the areas of discrimination for women all over the world.
Female education is important and here are 10 reasons why...
Education for women, says Carla Koppell of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is a “silver bullet” with respect to empowerment and progress.
“That women might have the chance of a healthier and happier life should be reason enough for promoting girls’ education”. Since it a basic human right, the right to education, there should be no contesting the fact that education is essential for women.
However, for those wondering, when it comes to female education, “there are also important benefits for society as a whole. An educated woman has the skills, information and self-confidence that she needs to be a better parent, worker and citizen.”
Digging deeper, here are all the reasons that state why education is important for women, especially: -
1. Higher Literacy Rate
There are over 163 million youths across the globe who are illiterate and out of those, 63% are female. By providing to all children, including the majority of girls, education, we will be boosting literacy rates, which, in turn, will increase development in struggling areas and countries.
2. Human Trafficking
It is common knowledge that women are more subject to human trafficking - especially when they are poor and uneducated, according to the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking. One way to undermine this billion dollar industry is to provide young girls with essential skills and opportunities.
3. Political Identity
Women have had little representation in politics all over the world. They are underrepresented as voters and are restricted from political involvement. To ease this gap, the UN Women’s programmes on leadership and participation, offering civic education, training and employment, in general, is important.
4. Healthier Babies
As already mentioned above, children born to educated mothers are twice as likely to survive past the age of 5. For instance, nearly 16,000 children per year die in Burundi in East Africa - foreign aid for schools and curriculum development could greatly improve the country’s situation.
5. Safe Sex
Studies reveal that a girl who completes her primary education is three times less likely to contract HIV. With STDs, especially AIDS impacting women increasingly all over the world, it is important to educate them so as to prevent the contraction of HIV and spreading of AIDS.
6. Delay in Marriage
According to the UN Population Fund, one in every 3 girls in an underdeveloped country is married before 18. In regions where a girl completes 7 or more years of education, the wedding date has been found to be delayed by four years.
7. Smaller Families
The situation in Mali supports the fact that increased participation in school reduces fertility rates over a period of time - women with 7+ years of education have an average of three children, whereas those with none have an average of 7 children.
8. Higher Earning Potential
For any educated individual, chances of earning are better than for one who is uneducated. Education empowers a woman’s wealth by boosting her earning potential. As UNESCO states, a single year of primary education has shown to increase a woman’s earnings later in life by around 20%.
9. Thriving GDP
A country’s Gross Domestic Product also soars when both girls and boys are offered education. With a 10% increase in female education, the GDP increases by 3 per cent on average.
10. Eradication of Poverty
With equal rights and access to education for women, there is a greater participation by them in business and economic activity. Increased income and earning capability fight against the current and future poverty through food, clothes and provisions for families.
5.3. Who Is Malala & What Is She Fighting For?
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education advocate who, at the age of 17, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban.
Born on July 12, 1997, Malala became an advocate for education for girls when she herself was still a child, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Malala when she was travelling home from school. Malala survived and has continued to speak out on the importance of education for women across the globe.
Yousafzai gave a speech to the UN and published her own book, I Am Malala, in 2013 and in 2015, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.
India is one of the most populous countries in the world with abundant human resource, which is a critical factor for overall prosperity. This statement is supported by the World Bank, which believes India has the potential to become the human resource capital of the world.
World Bank statistics also reveal that in the coming 20 years or so, Indian may have one of the youngest and largest working-age populations in the world - also that a million young people may enter the Indian labour market every month.
However, the World Bank also states that the current state of gender roles and discrimination against women may have a crippling impact. Why?
It is a known fact that women are still considered as second-class citizens in some regions of the country… as a result of which, access to tools enabling a healthy life and wealth for a female is disproportionate to men in India.
Where India is today with respect to female education and discrimination against women is also a result of India’s history. While equal opportunities existed in the Vedic period, women lost their right to education gradually, with the revival of interest during British rule and dying back down post Independence.
ANCIENT VEDIC AGE (-1000 BC)
1. The history of female education in India goes back to the Vedic Ages. You’d be surprised to know that during the Vedic age, more than 3000 years ago, women were assigned a prestigious place in society and possessed an equal status as men folk.
2. In accordance with the Vedic concept of ‘shakti’ or the feminine principle of energy, worship of female goddesses began - for instance, goddess Saraswati, the goddess of education. Vedic scriptures say “A girl also should be brought up and educated with great effort and care.”
3. They also say, according to the Devi Mahatmya, “All forms of knowledge are aspects of Thee’ and all women throughout the world are Thy forms”
4. Women could, if they wanted, undergo the sacred thread ceremony or Upanayana, a sacrament to pursue Vedic studies, which according to current rituals is only meant for men.
5. According to Vedic literature, there were a handful of female scholars who chose the path of Vedic studies, like Vac, Ambhrni, Romasa, Gargi and Khona. These women were called brahmavadinis, whereas those who opted out of education for the married life were called sadyovadhus.
6. Not only did women receive equal attention and opportunity from the teacher, but those from the Kshatriya caste were also offered martial arts and arms training.
BRITISH INDIA (Till 1947)
1. The first all-girls boarding school was established in 1821 in Tirunelveli in South India.
2. By 1840, there were six schools in South India constructed by the Scottish Church Society with 200 Hindu girls enrolled.
3. Western India had its pioneers of female education too with Jyotiba Phule and his wife Savitri Bai, who started a girls school in Pune, in 1848.
4. John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune, an Anglo-Indian lawyer, joined forces with reformers like Rampal Ghosh, Raja Dakshinaranjan Mukherjee and Pandit Madan Mohan Tarkalankar, to establish Kolkata’s first girls’ school in 1849. This school, formerly known as the secular Native Female School, was later known as the Bethune School.
5. By 1850, Madras missionaries had over 8,000 girls enrolled in school.
6. Wood’s Dispatch, the East India Company’s programme, acknowledged women employment and education for women in 1854.
7. 1878 saw the University of Calcutta as one of the first universities in India to admit female graduates to its degree programmes before the British Universities.
8. Bethune College, established in 1879, is the oldest women’s college in Asia.
9. The overall literacy rate for women increased from 0.2% in 1882 to 6% in 1947, i.e. Indian independence.
INDEPENDENT INDIA (1947 onwards)
1. On attaining independence from the British Raj in 1947, the University Education Commission was formed to make suggestions to improve the educational system and the quality thereof. The commission’s report, however, spoke against female education and stated it to be “entirely irrelevant to the life they have to lead. It is not only a waste but often a definite disability”.
2. Post-independence, the female literacy rate was at 8.9%, a fact that could not be ignored by the government. So, in 1958, the government formed a national committee on education for women whose recommendations were accepted in a majority. The gist of these recommendations was to help female education be at par with that which was offered to males.
4. In 1959, a committee on the differentiation of curriculum for boys and girls recommended equality and a common curriculum at different stages of learning.
5. The Education Commission, which was set up in 1964 talked largely about female education and recommended a national policy be developed by the Indian government in 1968.
The Government of India has played a crucial role in providing women access to education across the country. Here are all the steps that have opened up doors for women who need to be and seek to be literate and educated in India.
1. The National Policy on Education (1986, revised in 1992)
It was the first time the gender disbalances with respect to educational access and achievement were recognised. The need to amend these disbalances, by enhancing and improving infrastructure and women empowerment was also addressed.
2. The Mahila Samakhya Programme (1998)
This scheme was set up to pursue the goals of the New Education Policy to improve education for women and for their empowerment in rural areas, from socially and economically minority groups. With around 21,000 villages under the Mahila Samakhya Scheme, the programme aimed at educational provisions as well as raising awareness via seminars and meetings.
3. The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act (2001)
A groundbreaking initiative towards education for women in India, this act stated elementary education as a fundamental right for children aged between 6 and 14 years old.
4. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (2001)
This government initiative was set up with the purpose of providing education to children between the ages of 6 and 14 by 2010. The scheme focused especially on females with underprivileged backgrounds, whether social or financial, improving infrastructure, free textbooks in remote areas and more.
5. National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (2003)
The NPEGEL programme was an incentive to provide access to education to girls, who the SSA or other schemes were unsuccessful with. This scheme has covered around 24 states and set up model schools to provide better opportunities for education for women in India.
6. Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme (July, 2004)
The KGBV scheme was launched for the provision of primary level education for girls from areas with especially low literacy rates. Schools, which were set up as part of this scheme, have 100% reservation - 75% for backward classes; 25% for below poverty line girls.
Have you ever wondered why women’s literacy rates, their enrolment and dropout percentages are poor? These are some of the hurdles to women’s education in India, gathered from different studies. These are the highlighted issues for women’s education at different stages in education.
1. PRIMARY SCHOOL
Low enrolment - getting the girl child to the school
Sociological and psychological barriers to sending girls to school
Engagement of the girl child in other work
High drop-out rates
Fear of safety
Engagement in other work (housework, farms, etc.)
3. VOCATIONAL & FINISHING SCHOOL
Gender stereotyping and segregation
4. SCIENCE & ARTS
Low economic value
Self-efficacy (own belief in the ability to succeed)
1. FEMALE FOETICIDE
Gender-based abortions and female foeticide are one of the main women’s rights issue in India. Even though nearly half the population in the country is female, many families prefer male borns to girls. The statistics prove that the disbalance of the two genders increases every year. The majority of the population, around 70%, hails from rural areas where female literacy rates are low. Education for women in India is crucial to spread awareness against female foeticide and do away with gender biases.
2. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
According to the statistics study by National Crime Records Bureau, domestic violence occurrences against women are committed every three minutes. Women are raped every 29 minutes and a dowry death occurs every 77 minutes.
Why education for women in India is important to abolish this crime is two-fold. One, educated women are more confident, so being firm and raising a voice to prevent the crime becomes more realistic for potential victims.
Two, on being subjected to domestic violence, most women feel insecure with respect to reputation and end up not reporting the crime. Being educated would lend confidence to female victims and help them take action against the offenders.
3. CHILD MARRIAGE
Even today, child marriages happen in most rural areas and the outdated tradition still exists due to various reasons. In India, 70% of girls are married before the age of 18 and 56% of these girls bear children before the age of 19.
One of those is culture, which allows the thought that girls should be and can get married young. Second is to escape dowry.
Education is important for women in India in this regard. As mentioned, increased participation in school has shown delayed wedding dates and as a result, delayed pregnancies.
4. SEXUAL HARASSMENT
One of the most prevalent women’s rights issues in India, sexual harassment is something that takes place in women’s homes, public transport and often, at the workplace. Majority of sexual harassment cases go unreported (only 20% are reported) due to a feeling of shame and underconfidence.
Also, out of every 10 rape cases, 6 girls are under 18.
Education is important for women in India to prevent sexual harassment and increase the percentage of cases reported. Having an education enables confidence and reason within women and be informed enough to speak up against such crimes.
5. UNEQUAL PAY
According to the Indian constitution, women stand as equal with men in all spheres of life. However, they still face discrimination, especially at the workplace where equal pay for men and women, as a concept, barely exists. Every industry displays this pay gap, be it Hollywood (read 'Time's Up' movement) or advertising.
The higher the level of education, the better the negotiation and reasoning power of the woman. Women usually hold back from the fear of rejection, when it comes to asking for a raise or promotion and education is one key factor that would enable women in India to raise their voices against unequal pay.
Now that we know why it is important for women to be educated, here are some live examples that serve as the inspiration to all females facing discrimination, especially in a developing country like India. These women used their education to become successful and are known for their work in what is still a man’s world.
1. Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo
Born and raised in Chennai and an IIM alumni, Indra Nooyi has been featured in the Forbes World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list. She was also named the world’s most powerful woman in business, twice, by Fortune. Time Magazine also named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World twice (2007 and 2008). Plus, she was awarded a Padma Bhushan, India’s third most prestigious civilian award.
2. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Founder of Biocon India
Shaw has been named among the most powerful women in the world by Forbes, that too more than once. She started out of the garage of her rented Bangalore home and began Biocon India as a joint venture with Biocon Biochemicals Ltd in 1978, amidst shortages of funding, qualified workers and other obstacles.
3. Vandana Luthra, Founder of VLCC
Luthra began VLCC Health Care Limited as a small health and beauty services center in 1989 out of New Delhi. Currently, the company has centers in 323 locations across 150 cities and 11 countries with opportunities created for 4,000+ people. One of the top businesswomen in Asia, Vandana Luthra has also received a Padma Shri award - India’s 4th highest civilian award.
You can also read about Aparajita Rai, India's first female IPS officer from Sikkim. Her story is truly inspiring and is an example of how an education can change a woman's life.
If the women above could do it, there is hope for the rest of the women in India. With literacy, education and a vision, you can help educate women around you. Be a part of the process by contacting one of the leading Indian NGOs and projects below, which are working towards women’s rights and education:-
1. CARE India
Working in India for over 65 years, Care India focuses on alleviating poverty and social exclusion. The issues they work for are Health, Education, Livelihood, Disaster Preparedness and Response, Gender Transformative Change and more.
2. Nanhi Kali
The project is working with 19 NGO partners to ensure girls receive academic and material support. Its aim is to provide 10 years of quality education for children with economically disadvantaged families.
Run by a committed group of senior industry professionals, mostly graduates from IIM, class of 1978. It is a registered NGO committed to educating and empowering the rural girl child between the ages of 6 and 14 years in an attempt to reduce illiteracy in India.