Alongside strides in school enrolment, India is also close to gender parity in the classroom, notes UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report, 2015. India is, however, behind in goals set for quality of learning outcomes, adult illiteracy and checking the mushrooming of private schools in urban slums.
The girls-to-boys ratio in primary classes is already 1.02 while that in secondary school is 0.94. “In fact, India is predicted to be the only country in South and West Asia to have an equal ratio of girls to boys in both primary and secondary education,” says the report, released in Delhi by HRD Minister Smriti Irani on Thursday.
India has brought out-of-school children down 90 per cent in 15 years. Gross enrolment in pre-primary education touched 58 per cent in 2012, in comparison to 19 per cent in 1999. While 47 per cent of the countries achieved universal pre-primary enrolment, eight per cent of the countries, including India, are close to doing so.
“Improvements in early childhood education, universal primary education, the huge reduction in out-of-school children and gender equality are big achievements for India, a country where more that 220 million children are in schools,” said Aaron Benavot, the report’s chief author.
Irani said initiatives to improve enrolment and “a new paradigm of education that fosters knowledge, analytical skills, vertical reasoning and the ability to imagine beyond the given is being adopted”. Enhanced focus was being laid on science and mathematics, she said.
The report cites the 2014-15 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) to point out wide disparities in students’ basic skills across states. It mentions a “strong preference” of parents to send their children to private schools to learn in English, and highlights a swelling number of contract teachers and teacher absenteeism.
On literacy, it says, “The one measurable goal that India did not reach was to reduce its illiteracy rate by 50%… Women represent the majority of illiterate adults with 68 per cent of illiterate adults in India being women.”
Of the 781 million illiterate adults worldwide, 265 million are Indians.
The report says 32 per cent of the countries, including India
Deep-rooted gender inequalities continue to undermine India's potential to translate economic growth into inclusive development, according to a government report which highlighted the inequality found in the education system. It says gender is the most pervasive form of inequality that operates in India across all classes, castes and communities, posing a big challenge despite the progressive education policy. The 'Report on the Implementation of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action' says that issues of gender have been one of the most challenging in the progress made towards the goals of universalisation, inclusion, equity and quality in education.
The report will be submitted by Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi at the 'Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment: Beijing+20 Review' which is underway in Bangkok since yesterday till November 20. "Gender being the most pervasive form of inequality operates across al classes, castes and communities in India and is a big challenge despite having a progressive education policy with regard to gender," it says.
"The education system still reflects the inequality found in the society outside the classroom. Continuous and sustained efforts are still required to bring the status of the girls at par with boys," the report says. It mentioned the setbacks or reversals in progress towards gender equality and empowerment of women that have been experienced since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration.
"...the gender-based inequalities for instance, in education, income and employment limit the ability to protect their health. This lack of power of women in most cultural settings also impacts nutritional intake and health status of women and girls," the report states.
Thus, according to government, along with the policy initiatives and enactment of legislations, a lot needs to be done to realize the policy measures on ground so that effective implementation takes place.
Certain critical areas of concern like tackling burden of poverty, unequal access to primary health care, under nutrition, high rates of illiteracy, lack of access to and control over assets and resources, inequalities in sharing of power and decision making, lack of access to information, violence against women, adolescents and girl child and persisting discrimination against the girl child, require immediate attention in order to ensure equality and practical realization of rights for women states the Report.
The report further states that convergence of efforts of various Ministries, Departments and Civil Societies has been an ongoing challenge in India, being a multi-lingual and multi-cultural country. Changing mindset to ensure equity and empowerment of women is another challenge, government stated in the report.
A multi-pronged strategy to tackle the issues has been adopted to address traditional and cultural practices, socio-cultural barriers, socio-economic conditions of women, lack of adequate legal awareness and issues relating to the inadequate implementation of various Policy measures and mechanisms.
The government said that gender budget has shown a continuous increase in the National Budget. During 2014-2015 the total budget for the Ministry of WCD was Rs 203,500 million.