Research Paper (postgraduate), 2011
Education and Women Empowerment in India: A Comparative Analysis
The present paper tries to find the relationship between inequality in education and women empowerment. The entire paper is divided into three parts. The first part is introductory that talks about the second and third goal of MDGs which is achieving universal primary education and promote gender equality and empower women respectively with certain indicators to achieve these goals. This part also gives a brief account of the gender inequality in education and employment world wide. In the second portion, the importance of education in general and women education in particular has been highlighted. It talks about the gender inequality in literacy in India. A comparative analysis between different states of the country is being made with regard to theparameters like education dimension index and the same index if adjusted for inequality. Further, the parameters like inequality adjusted HDI, education and income index have been taken for few countries to make a comparative analysis. To find the impact of inequality in education on various other parameters, a correlation matrix has been calculated. To know the level of women empowerment in various parts of the world, the variables like female share in national parliament, percentage of female literacy and female labour force participation rate has been taken. The third and final part is given to concluding observations.
Key Words: Education, Human Development Index, Inequality Adjusted Indices and Women Empowerment.
Few years ago, leaders from every country agreed on a vision for the future- a world with less poverty, hunger and disease, greater survival prospects for mothers and their infants, better educated children, equal opportunities for women, and a healthier environment; a world in which developed and developing countries worked in partnership for the betterment of all. This vision took the shape of eight Millennium Development Goals, which are providing countries around the world a framework for development and time-bound targets by which progress can be measured.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) include the objective of achieving universal primary education, i.e. to ensure that all boys and girls complete primary schooling. In India, in 1997, 67 million children in the age group 6-10 were attending primary school, while 28-32 million primary-aged children were not (World Bank 1997). With a large percentage of Indian children not attending school, if the MDG are to be met, then there was an urgent need for public action. In an attempt to attain the goal of universal primary education, the 86th amendment to the Indian Constitution enacted in December 2002 made free and compulsory education a fundamental right for all children in the age group 6-14 years.
The second most important goal out of the eight goals set up by MDGs is the achievement of universal primary education. The target set for this is ensuring that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. The indicators for monitoring progress are: i) net enrolment ratio in primary education, ii) proportion of pupils starting grade-1 reach grade-5 and iii) literacy rate of 15 to 24 year olds.
The third goal of MDG is to promote gender equality and empower women. The target set to achieve this goal is to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015. The indicators to monitor this are: i) ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education, ii) share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector, and iii) Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament.
The MDG report 2011 says that girls are gaining ground when it comes to education, though unequal access persists in many regions. In developing regions, 96 girls were enrolled in primary and in secondary school for every 100 boys in 2009. This is a significant improvement since 1999, when the ratios were 91 and 88 respectively.
Many developing countries exhibit considerable gender inequality in education, employment, and health outcomes. For example, girls and women in South Asia and China suffer from elevated mortality rates which have been referred to as the ‘missing women’ by Amartya Sen and others (Sen, 1989; Klasen, 1994). In addition, there are large discrepancies in education between the sexes in South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa. Finally, employment opportunities and pay differ greatly by gender in most developing regions (and some developed ones as well, see UNDP, 1995).
Improving girls' educational levels has been demonstrated to have clear impacts on the health and economic future of young women, which in turn improves the prospects of their entire community. In the poorest countries of the world, 50% of girls do not attend secondary school. Yet, research shows that every extra year of school for girls increases their lifetime income by 15%. Improving female education, and thus women's earning potential, improves the standard of living for their own children, as women invest more of their income in their families than men do. Yet, many barriers to education for girls remain. In some African countries, such as Burkina Faso, girls are unlikely to attend school for such basic reasons as a lack ofprivate latrine facilities for girls.
International efforts to address gender inequality have largely emphasized education as a means of achieving women’s empowerment. Education serves as the conduit by which women, long rooted in the private sphere, move into the public sphere and assert themselves on an equal basis with men. As a springboard to employment and economic independence, advocates say, education provides the critical foundation from which further empowerment flows. It is in this backdrop that the present paper tries to find the relationship between inequality in education and women empowerment. The entire paper is divided into three parts. The first part is introductory that talks about the second and third goal of MDGs which is achieving universalprimary education and promote gender equality and empower women respectively with certain indicators to achieve these goals. This part also gives a brief account of the gender inequality in education and employment world wide. In the second portion, the importance of education in general and women education in particular has been highlighted. It talks about the gender inequality in literacy in India. A comparative analysis between different states of the country is being made with regard to the parameters like education dimension index and the same index if adjusted for inequality. Further, the parameters like inequality adjusted HDI, education and income index have been taken for few countries to make a comparative analysis. To find the impact of inequalityineducation on various other parameters, a correlation matrix has been calculated. To know the level of women empowerment in various parts of the world, the variables like female share in national parliament, percentage of female literacy and female labour force participation rate has been taken. The third and final part is given to concluding observations.
Sex discrimination in education is applied to women in several ways. First, many sociologists of education view the educational system as an institution of social and cultural reproduction. The existing patterns of inequality, especially for gender inequality, are reproduced within schools through formal and informal processes. A recent study published in Time Magazine showed that when comparing young, unattached women against similarly situated men, women tend to earn up to 20% more than their male counterparts.
The women’s future and the future of education can be well understood with the help of following schematic diagram. In the twin cases of either deciding the future of women or the future of education, the education and women empowerment is an issue to be given top most priority. The other goals will follow consequentially in due course of time. However, there are challenges to be faced in achieving this and these are either at the decision making level or administrative level or even in changing the mindset of the masses.
Women and men in India enjoy de jure equality. Article 14 of the Constitution of India guarantees equal rights and opportunities to men and women in political, economic and social spheres, Article 42 directs the State to make provision for ensuring just and humane conditions for work and maternity itself and Article 51 (A) e imposes upon every citizen, a fundamental duty to renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women. But when it comes to attaining education and women empowerment it is far from the reality. The following two diagrams give us the literacy rates in India for males and females as well as the gender gap in literacy over a period of time (1901 to 2001). What do we find that despite the constitutional provisions and the promises made by the government the gender literacy gap has widened over a period of time. Until and unless we are not in a position to fill this gap, it would be very difficult to empower women in true sense. Therefore, de jure equality has not yet materialised into a de facto equality. This is clear from the given table-1 and the corresponding figures-1 & 2. Though the gender literacy gap has shown a steep decline from 25.32 percent to 16.6 percent during 2001 to 2011, it is still too early to conclude. We must wait for the time to see whether the reversal in the trend is that of permanent nature or not.
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Table-1: Percentage Literacy Rate and Gender Literacy Gap in India
Source: Census of India-2011.
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Figure-1: Percentage Literacy Rate in India
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Figure-2: Percentage Gender Literacy Gap
A study by inequality adjusted Human development Index for India’s states finds that in case of education, all states with the exception of economically poorer states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh (including the newly formed states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand) and Assam fare as good as or better than the nation as a whole in the sub-index of the education dimension (Table-2). Inequality in education has cost, on an average, a loss of 43 percent in the education component of HDI. The loss is the highest in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand (46 percent) and lowest in Kerala (23 percent) and Assam (34 percent).
The loss due to inequality is more than that at the national level in Karnataka, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Kerala emerges as an outlier after adjustment for inequality in education. This would mean that from a distributional perspective, Kerala has done exceptionally well on education in comparison with remaining states.
1 Reader, Dept. of Economics, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. Available at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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