Women and Education: A Critical Review


Women and Education: A Critical Review

   *Dr.P.Shanmukha Rao  **Dr.N.V.S.Suryanarayana

Empowerment of the women is an essential component of the political and social development of society. The growth  and  development of a community or civil society  depends upon the  growth and  development of its individuals in general and the women in particular. There is no doubt about the fact that men and women are equal, but women have a vital role in the over-all  development of  the society and the nation. Women are equal partners in the over all  growth  and development of the family, community and society. Women have been given a position of pride in every religion. In Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and other religions they are  respected and due importance is given to their role and rights. In the Holy Quran a complete Sura, “Sura-i-Nisa” is devoted for the role, welfare, rights and duties of the women. No student of the comparative religious philosophy can fail to observe that at the fountain of every spiritual faith and at the basic fabric of every civilized society, stands a woman whose sympathy blesses the work of infusing a new life into humanity.

Women are the foundation of a family, society and finally the Nation. In this paper an attempt has been made to discuss the importance of education for women and role and status of a women in the present scenario.

Women constitute an important segment of the society and shapes the entire            future of the humanity and nation. It has been rightly said that behind every successful man there is a woman. This clearly indicates that women as an integral part of our society have a vital role not only for rearing and bearing the children, but also for the personality development of our future generation and development of the Nation as whole.1 Role and status of a woman by any standard  is related to various variable factors which among others include the upbringing of the women, personality development, education of the women, family environment, social outlook, surrounding circumstances, political scenario, religious commands and their interpretation. Nevertheless, the biological and social status of a women along with her distinct roles as a mother or sister or daughter on one hand and wife or mother-in-law, sister-in-law or daughter-in-law on the other hand can not be ignored.

Women with good health and positive leadership qualities are very important in every family and society. Role of women in the traditional societies no doubt was confined to the household management based on the traditional values, attitudes and customs, but the family culture in the context of which early socialization takes place is very important factor which later on encourages or discourages her participation in the socio-economic activities of the family and subsequently in the organizational, social and political matters of the society.

Women almost in every social set-up plays an important role in the economic welfare of the family. She as a mother cares, bothers, loves, showers affection and takes all the pains for the entire family and thereby plays an important role not only as a home maker, home manager but also in maintaining social ties with the relations, friends and neighbours.

The Perspective:

Education is an important weapon for the over-all development of the community in particular and the society in general. The growth  and  development of a community or civil society  depends upon the  growth and  development of  its individuals. Women have been and continue to be equal partners in the over all growth  and development of the family, community and society. Women constitute an important segment of the society and shape the future of the individuals, nation and humanity. It has been rightly said that behind every successful man there is a woman. This clearly indicates that women as an integral part of our society have a vital role not only for rearing and bearing the children, but also for the personality development of our future generation and development of the Nation as whole.1

Women have been given a position of pride in every religion. In Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and other religions women are respected and due importance is given to their role and rights. In the Holy Quran a complete Sura, “Sura-i-Nisa” is devoted for the role, welfare, rights and duties of the women. No student of the comparative religious philosophy can fail to observe that at the fountain of every spiritual faith and at the basic fabric of every civilized society, stands a woman whose sympathy blesses the work of infusing a new life into humanity. Women are the foundation of a family, society and finally the Nation.

Role and status of a woman by any standard  is related to various variable factors which among others include the upbringing of the women, personality development, education of the women, family environment, social outlook, surrounding circumstances, political scenario, religious commands and their interpretation. Nevertheless, the biological and social status of a women along with her distinct roles as a mother or sister or daughter on one hand and wife or mother-in-law, sister-in-law or daughter-in-law on the other hand can not be ignored.

Women with good health and positive leadership qualities are very important in every family and society. Role of women in the traditional societies no doubt was confined to the household management based on the traditional values, attitudes and customs, but the family culture in the context of which early socialization takes place is very important factor which at later stage encourages or discourages her participation in the socio-economic activities of the family and subsequently in the organizational, social and political matters of the society. Women in almost every social set-up plays an important role in the economic welfare of the family. She as a mother cares, bothers, loves, showers affection and takes all the pains for the entire family and thereby plays an important role not only as a home maker, home manager but also in maintaining social ties with the relations, friends and neighbours.

In this paper a modest attempt has been made to critically examine education and status of women in the light changing scenario. Literacy level among women and impact of education vis-a-vis empowerment of women has been analyzed to high light contribution of the women in the political, economic and social development.  

Women and Education:

Education is an important component for the growth and development of the community in particular and the society in general. Education is the essence of human emancipation and the most potential weapon against poverty, disease and hunger. Education is an important factor in shaping the personality of an individual. It is through education that one learns his various role expectations and also the means and mechanism of role fulfillment. 

Every country provides to its citizens equality before law and equal protection of laws. Moreover equal opportunity in the employment and other matters is guaranteed by the constitutional provisions in every civilized country. Indian Constitution also guarantees equality and equal opportunity to the citizens irrespective of their race, caste, sex, religion or region. However, it has been found that the women are lagging behind almost in every sphere, but their vital role in building the family cannot be under estimated. Kapoor,2 in her study has rightly pointed out that the women are the nuclei of the nation, just as the body is made up of millions of cells controlled by their nuclei, a nation is made of millions of families depending on the women, house wives and mothers for their progress and well being. The health and growth of the body depends on the vitality of its cells, so also the health and growth of the nations depends on the vitality of its women.

A good mother provides best human resources for the Nation. Napolean once remarked  that  give  me  good  mothers,  I  shall  give  you  a  good  Nation. In an annual conference on community development, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru3 observed;

“.In order to awaken the people, it is the women, who has to be awakened.                                                                                   Once she is on the move, the house hold moves and the country moves and thus  we build the India of tomorrow…..”

Pt. Nehru was of the considered view that when women move forward, the village moves, the Nation moves. Women are equal partners in the human resource development and in their different capacities contribute a major share in the political and economic sector. The importance of women’s education has been realized throughout the world. As per the World Bank Report,4 there has been substantial investment in education in the developing countries, but two thirds of the world’s illiterates are women, who in many countries, only complete with erratic attendance, the equivalent of two or three years of primary schooling. Children’s educational attainment is related more to the education level of mothers than fathers, therefore, illiterate mothers breed illiteracy.5

Eradication of illiteracy amongst women is an essential step for eradicating gender inequality and enabling women to play their role in national development.6 During more than last fifty years, the number of illiterate population has increased with women constituting majority. Venkataraman,7 the then President of India, while inaugurating the first National Conference on Eradication of illiteracy Among Women’s observed.

“Our country can never progress if women are seeped in ignorance. The New National Education Policy, had been enunciated in recognition of the fact that education, being an agent of change, can hasten termination of social evils and bring about equality…..”

Status of Women:

Women folk is the basis of human race and one of the main contributors of the  human resource development. It is however, only a small number of women who have undoubtedly made their presence felt in various fields like administration, business, science, commerce, education, politics and various other sectors. It is a matter of fact that despite the commendable contribution of women almost in every sector of life and the society, their role in policy making or decision making bodies is  not significant.  A brief profile of women in the present scenario has been drawn in the Jakarata Declaration8 in the following terminology:   

“Women represent almost fifty percent of the population, make up thirty   percent of the official labour force, perform sixty percent of all the working hours, receive ten percent of the world income and own even less than one percent of the world population.”

It has been rightly maintained by Usha9 that in the present scenario, only 10.0 percent of the parliamentary positions and 6.0 percent of the ministerial posts are occupied by women. Nisar Ahmad10 in his paper ‘Women Empowerment and Policy Perspective’  has pointed out that women are poorly represented in ranks of power, policy and decision making bodies. Women constitute less than 5.0 percent of the world’s Heads of the States, Heads of the major Corporations  and top positions in International Organizations. The following figures are an eye opener in respect of the women’s representation in various sectors in India.

                   a)   Women registered practitioners  (1995)       20.80  Percent

                            b)   Women Chartered Accountants (1996)        05.80  Percent

                c)   Women High Court Judges (1996)               03.00  Percent 

                d)   Women in the Supreme Court (1996)          04.00  Percent

                e)   Women in IAS (1997)                                 10.30   Percent

                f)   Women in  IFS (1998)                                 11.40   Percent

                g)   Women in IPS (1999)                                  03.50   Percent

                h)   Women in Rajya Sabha (1998)                    06.12   Percent

                i)   Women in lok Sabha (1998)                         08.99   Percent

                

         Women play an important role in shaping humanity in the right perspective, but have suffered and continue to suffer in the male dominated society. Women bestow power to the new generation and thereby empower the Society and Nation in a real sense, but they themselves continue to be helpless and powerless. World conference of UN decade for women defined development as the total development including development in the political, economic, social and cultural growth of human persons. World community at Rio Earth Summit11 pledged their commitment to the empowerment of women, which they believed is central and powerful force in search for safe environment, economic and social justice, survival of all species and the common goal of a healthy planet in which future generation can nourish and flourish.     

Education and the Society:

Education is an important component of development and is closely linked with the developmental process of the community, society and nation. Women education and education at the gross root level provides the ‘basis’ and ‘basic inputs’ but education at the higher level is expected to provide leadership qualities in every sphere of the life. Education is a continuous human learning process, which has no end.12 It is a vital process for human resource development, nation building, national development and transformation of the society. At the dawn of the 21st century, literacy has become vital and critical input into the process of development for every country.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has included literacy as a factor in the Human Development Index and under the aegis of UNESCO, many countries are united in their fight against the problem of illiteracy. The World Declaration on Education for All held at the Jomtien Conference held at Thailand (1990) is a milestone in this direction.13 The recent World Education Forum held in Senegal (2000) is yet another expression of the international commitment. Two of the six goals of the Dakar Framework for Action – the international pledge made to provide education for all by 2015.14  However, a vast majority of women continue to be illiterate. It is a matter of fact that in most of the developing as well as under-developed countries, the vast majority of the people continue to be illiterate and are not in a position to reap benefits of the development and therefore, continue to suffer in the modern hi-tech and knowledge based society.

The literacy level varies from country to country and in the same country from area to area, depending upon a number of variable factors. The following table shows sex wise literacy status of the SAARC countries i.e. Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. The literacy status of the SAARC countries is given in the Table-I      

                                                                              Table No. – I         

                                                              SAARC Literacy Status

Country

Non-literate Pop.   15+

(In Million)

     Literacy Rate 15 + Percentage (2000)     ___________________________________

 Total         Male       Female       Difference

01. Maldives

     00.005

 96.90

 97.00

 96.80

 00.20

02. Sri Lanka

    001.167

 91.60

 94.40

 89.00

 05.40

03. India

    259.530

 60.97

 73.35

 47.82

 25.53

04. Pakistan

    046.702

 43.20

 57.40

 27.90

 29.50

05. Nepal

    007.922

 41.70

 59.40

 24.00

 35.40

06.Bangladesh

    050.558

 40.00

 49.40

 30.20

 19.20

The figures in the above table  reveal  that the  highest  literacy level among the SAARC  countries  has been in  Maldives  with 96.90 percent literacy level. The male  and  female  literacy level in  Maldives  being almost same. The lowest literacy level (40.0 percent) among the SAARC countries as per the figures of 2000 was in the Bangladesh  with 49.40  percent among males and 30.20 percent among females. Nepal’s literacy level was at 41.70 percent with 49.40 percent among males and 30.20 percent among females. In Nepal the difference between male and female literacy was around 35.40 percent. Pakistan in the year 2000 registered the literacy level at 43.20 percent with 57.40 percent among males and 27.90 percent among females. The difference between male and female literacy level has been recorded at 29.50 percent.

Further, literacy level in Bhutan and Afghanistan as per the World Education Report-199515 reveal that the literacy rate in Bhutan with a population of 0.55 million was at 42.20 percent, where as in Afghanistan with a population of 8.16 million it was at 31.50 percent. The female literacy in Bhutan was at 28.10 percent and in Afghanistan as low as 15.0 percent. The gap between male and female literacy in Bhutan is 28.10 percent and in Afghanistan it is 32.20 percent.

The estimates of UNESCO (2000),16 reveal that one in five adults aged over 15 were illiterate. There were about 860 million illiterate adults in the world. Among these,70.0 percent live in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia and Arab States. East Asia and the Pacific report an overall literacy rate of 86.0 percent. Latin America and Caribbean region has 11.0 percent of illiterate population. 

As per the report of the United Nation’s Population Division, the world population at the end of the 20th century touched 6070.6 million (males=3054.3 million and females=3016.3 million)17 Non-literate population (15+) constitute 862.0 million (310.3 million males and 551.7 million females). The literacy level at the global level in the age group 15 + was 79.7 percent. (Males= 85.20 percent and Females = 74.20 percent)

It appears that in a short span of time, it may be possible to achieve cent-percent literacy in the countries like Maldives and Sri Lanka, but in other SAARC members it is a very difficult task and may take decades to accomplish the target with all the inputs put together. The level of female literacy in India (47.82 percent), Bangladesh (30.20 percent), Bhutan (28.10 percent) Pakistan (27.90 percent), Nepal (24.00 percent) and Afghanistan (15.0 percent), has not even touched 50.0 percent. The low female literacy in these countries is bound to effect the over-all development of the family in particular and the society in general.18 

The literacy level in some  of  the  Asian  countries is  better than the literacy level in the SAARC countries. The literacy rate of Korea is at 97.80 percent and that of Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam is above 90.0 percent, where as that of Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Myanmar is above 84.0 percent. The literacy status of Iran and Laos is 76.0 percent and 64.8 percent respectively.19

The literacy rate through out the world has improved and female literacy has also shown upward trend, but in some of the developing countries female literacy continues to be at lower ebb. India is one the developing countries where female literacy in some of the States continues to be very low. Further, the SAARC countries are lagging far behind in literacy status as compared to the literacy status of other Asian countries. It is interesting to note that  the  literacy  level  of  Laos is far better than the literacy level of India. The literacy status in most populous countries including the countries already discussed is given in the Table-II 

                                                            Table No. II

                                  Literacy Status: Most Populous Countries

Country/ Rank    

  in Literacy

Non-literate Pop.  Rank. 15 +  (Million)

     Literacy Rate 15+ Percentage (2000)           Total          Male      Female         Difference

01. Mexico

  (09)    005.845

 91.20

 93.30

 89.10

 04.20

02. Brazil

  (08)    015.885

 86.90

 87.00

 86.80

 08.00

03. Indonesia

  (07)    019.377

 86.80

 91.80

 81.90

 00.20

04. China

  (02)    141.903

 85.20

 92.10

 77.90

 14.20

05. Nigeria

  (05)    022.510

 64.00

 72.20

 56.10

 16.10

06. India      

  (01)    259.530

 60.97

 73.35

 47.82

 09.90

07. Egypt

  (06)    019.613

 55.30

 66.60

 43.80

 22.80

08. Pakistan

  (04)    046.702

 43.20

 57.40

 27.90

 29.50

09.Bangladesh

  (03)    050.558

 40.00

 49.40

 30.20

 19.20

The figures of the Table-II reveal that the most populous country among the nine countries in the age group of (15 + ) is India  (259.530 million) with 60.97 percent literacy level in the said age group followed by China (141.530 million) with a comparatively better literacy status of 85.20 percent. Bangladesh with a population of 50.558 million in the 15 + age group is on the bottom of the literacy ladder of the nine countries. (40.0 percent). Pakistan with a population of 46.702 million in the (15 + ) age group has the literacy level of 43.20 percent which is slightly better than Bangladesh. Nigeria which among the nine countries, as per population stands on  5th position has literacy level at 64.0 percent which is better than India. Egypt which stands on 6th level as per population, has the literacy level at 55.30 percent which is below than literacy level of India but far better than the literacy level of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Further, Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico, as per population, stand on 7th, 8th and 9th position respectively but in respect of literacy status their position is in the reverse order i.e. among the most populous nine countries Mexico has the highest literacy level (91.20 percent) followed by Brazil (86.90 percent) and Indonesia (86.80 percent).20   

All the countries in the world have augmented their educational net work to meet the challenges posed by the illiteracy. The measures taken in this direction vary from country to country and in the same country from  area to area, depending upon the resources available in  the respective country/area.

Women’s Empowerment and Development:

Empowerment of Women in any society is an important factor to enable women to participate in the economic and political development of the society. In India educational  programmes aim at eradication of illiteracy among women for their equality in the society and to ensure their empowerment.

The National Policy on Education (NPE) provides that education be used as a strategy for achieving a basic change in the status of women. The main features of  the NPE are as follows.21

a) To gear the entire education system to plan a positive  interventionist role in the

     empowerment of women.

b) To promote women’s studies as a part of various courses and encouragement to   

     educational  institutions   to  take up  active  programme  to  further  women’s

     development.

c) To widen  the  access  of  women  in programmes of vocational, technical and

     professional education;

d) To create dynamic managerial structure to cope up  with the targets envisaged.

 The New Education Policy22 provides the following parameters for empowerment of

       women:

a)      Building a positive self-image and self-confidence;

b)      Developing ability to think critically;

c)      Building up group cohesion and fostering decision making and  action;

d)      Ensuring equal participation in the process of bringing about social change;

e)      Providing the reasonable opportunities for economic  independence.

The women’s equality is essential for the over all growth of the society. Further, the women’s equality can be achieved through education so that they are in a position to develop the critical under-standing of all the things surrounding them.     

Conclusions and Suggestions:

Women are an integral part of our society. The idea of human race can’t be conceived  with out the existence of a woman. Women in the holy books have been bestowed with a very high status and have been adored with various adjectives. She is called as mother of the nation and it is said that education of the mother means education of the entire family.

Women through out the ages have played an important role in the economic, social and political sector. She has proved her capacity and capability not only as the bread distributor, but also as one of the main contributors to the family income.

Women in the urban set-up works shoulder to shoulder with male counter parts in every sphere of life. In most of the sectors women excel their male counter parts and have proved very successful in their endeavor.

Woman may be a vegetable grower or seller or a fish seller or looking after the cattle or selling milk or she may be working in the private or public sector or working as a house wife or as a ordinary labourer or working with her family members in the paddy fields or orchards or doing any other odd job, she contributes to  the family income in many ways and plays a vital role in the socio-economic and political development of the nation.

Women whatsoever their occupation or profession may be, contribute in to the humanity in their own humble way and their contribution under any circumstances can’t be underestimated.

Women literacy is an important input for the economic, social and political development of the civilised society and therefore, every segment of the society, especially the Institutions of learning have an important role in this venture. It is a matter of fact that socially important element in the education is that the Universities are the instruments of social regeneration and reconstruction.23 

Women education no doubt is vital for the growth and development of the family and society as whole, but it is a matter of fact that vast majority of women through out the globe continue to be far below than men. It is rightly believed that education of a man means education of one individual, but education of a woman means education of the entire family. In order to promote social, economic and political development, education of women is to be given top priority every where at every level.

Women in the modern hi-tech society, which is moving very fast under the shadow of population explosion, conflicts, chaos and corruption, can mould the personality of the adolescents and youth in a proper direction and perspective, provided the women are themselves empowered.             

Women empowerment is an essential component for the human resource development. World conference of UN Decade for Women defined development as the total development including development in the political, social, economic and cultural.

Women can play a vital role in the social, economic and political development of the society provided they are conscious of their rights and responsibilities. Their vision regarding their role in the present scenario has to be clear to serve the cause of humanity and to realise the basic purpose of life.  

       

References:

01.   Pillai; J & K. (1995) Women and Empowerment. 

02.  Kapoor; M: (1986) Women and Family Life Education In India.

03.  Pt. Nehru; J: Prime Minister’s Message” See Summary  Record of Annual Conference on Community

       Development, Government of  India (1985)

04. See World Bank Reports, Washington D.C.-4   

06. Shri  R. Venkataraman (Former President of India) Inaugural Address, ‘1st  National Conference on

      Eradication of Illiteracy Among Women’ Times of  India, Feb. 21, 1988

08. Second Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on “Women in Development” Jakarta, June 7-14,1994

09.  Usha Narayanan “Women’s Political Empowerment: Imperatives and Challenges” Mainstream.

        April 10,1999

10.  Nisar Ahmad; “Women Empowerment and Policy Perspective”. Paper presented in a ‘Workshop 

on Empowerment of Women’  Centre of Adult and  Continuing and Extension Education, KU.             

11.  Earth Summit, Rio, June 3-14, 1992

12. Robert; P: Adult Education: A Comparative Study (1972)

13. Dutta; S.C: (1987) Adult Education in the Third World.

15.United Nations population Division-World Population Prospects (20th Century Report)

16.  National Literacy Mission, MHRD, Govt. of India, New Delhi (1987)

17. World Education Report – 1995 See Literacy: Facts at Glance, Directorate of Adult Education,  

      MHRD, New Delhi

18. EFA Global Monitoring Report 2003/04

19. See Literacy Facts at Glance, National Literacy Mission,  MHRD, New Delhi  (1998)

20. See Literacy Facts at Glance, Directorate of Adult Education, MHRD, 2005

21. National Policy on Education 1986. Ministry of Human, Resource Development, Govt. of India (May  

      1986)

23. Gomez; R: ‘Education in Development’ International Educator  Vol. 2. No. 2-3 (Oct. 1984) 49.

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Source by S.R.PADALA & NVS SURYANARAYANA

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