We are taking stock of where India stands in education of the girl child on the International Day of the Girl today. In 2010, the United Nations Population Fund (India) along with the Planning Commission carried out a study to evaluate the progress of 15 schemes addressing education of girl child across the country. A study by CRY (Child Rights & You) revealed certain flaws that were hindering the genuine protection and enhancement of girl child, which ranged from a narrow focus on BPL households (Sex ratios being lower in educated in affluent sections as well) to bureaucracy and corruption in implementation of the schemes.
While in the context of economy and economic growth, India made a major shift to the status of a middle-income country from a “poor” country, we still have a long way to go when it comes to school education of children. According to the reports published by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), only about 50% of the girls reach grade 12th in schools and less than one third of the girls finish school education as per appropriate age.
According to MHRD’s educational statistics (ESAG 2018), the overall Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for elementary education in India was 96.9. The data set indicated a marginal decline in enrolment in absolute terms for 2015-16 (1291 lakhs as compared to 1305 lakhs), within which gender disparity was a continuing trend (622 lakhs of girls as opposed to 669 lakh boys). After breaking this down, the figures stand at 347 lakhs for boys and 329 lakhs for girls at upper primary levels and drop to 205 lakh boys as opposed to 186 lakh girls for secondary level.
While, at an overall level the enrolment of girls in the public education system has increased considerably, it has been seen that it is not the enrolment but rather continuation of education that is the bigger issue. The share of girls in the total enrolment at primary and upper primary level was 19% and 46.5% respectively in the year 2005-06; this increased to 48.5 and 48.1 at primary and upper primary levels respectively in 2009-10 (GoI., 2012). Over the years, within the Indian setup there have been numerous initiatives to promote the education of the girl child and subsequently improvement in the child sex ratio (CSR) of the country. However, the point of focus remained that the schemes across the country in different states have been largely inefficient in bringing about the desired change.
If faced with poverty, or household chores or taking care of younger siblings, it is the girl who drops out of school. Girls are engaged and encouraged in domestic skills from young age. Lack of sanitation facilities at schools, particularly in rural areas and urban slums, has been seen as one of the reasons for dropouts of girls. Early marriage is another issue faced by girls that brings along a host of other issues, such as dropouts and early pregnancy.
National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-2016 revealed that 26.8% women reported to have been married before the age of 18 years and 7.9% of women in age of 15-19 years were reported to be pregnant at the time of survey. Major reasons for non-enrolment had been reported as “Not interested in education” for rural males and females, whereas, for urban India, “financial constraints” was the major reasons for non-enrolment. Major reason for dropout for males was “engaged in economic activities”; for females the reason was “engaged in domestic activities” for rural as well as urban (NFHS-4).