Gender disparity in Higher Education

Ram Rattan Sharma
Education has been important to the development of human society. The issues of class, race and caste have been of great significance to the educational discussions. Major stress has been laid on promoting equality through educating different classes, races & ethnic groups. Slowly & slowly gender added a new dimension to this education equality paradigm. Females criticize the discriminatory attitude towards women, the cause of which women have lagged behind in the field of education. Equality among human beings can be attained by providing sufficient opportunities for better health and education to the girls and women. Elementary education is important for enabling women to break though many traditional and social barriers for promoting Social development through higher education, which plays an important role in the Social and occupational mobility, personality and intellectual development.
The modern Economy of the 21th century i.e. the knowledge economy, requires highly educated people for accelerating the process of economic  development. The higher education system of a country plays a significant role in the creation of skilled human resources in the light of the growing importance of higher education as an instrument of equality and vertical mobility, especially in the era of knowledge. The role of women in Shaping the society has been well recognized at National level as well as at international level. United Nations organization affirms equal rights of men and women with an objective to promote social progress and better standards of life. In the year 1995 united nations fourth world conference unanimously linked the women’s rights to human rights for the first time in the UN history. Indian union in its constitution has safe guarded the interests of female population in all aspects .A high level statutory body the National Commission for women was setup in 1992 to oversee the implementation of the constitutional and legal safeguards and the protection of women’s rights and privileges. The constitution of India made it obligatory on the part of the Govt. to provide free and compulsory education to all children until they complete the age of 14 years. The latest document the modified national policy on education 1992 has put the target date as the end of the twentieth century which could not be achieved. As recorded in the census 2001 only 65.38% of population in India is literate. The female literacy rate in India has grown almost six fold since 1951. The department of elementary education and literacy has come out with the fact that at the primary level, the gross enrolment ratio for girls has gone up from 24.8% in 1950-51 to 81.8 percent in 1996-97. There has been phenomenal growth in the number of women enrolled in higher education since independence. The pace of growth has been particularly faster in the last two decade. The National agenda for governance  prepared by the Govt. in 1998 proposes plans to provide free education for girls up to the college level including professional courses as to better empower women. In higher education  of  women is equal or exceed men in many regions. In India, while we have made progress in educating people, it is far from satisfactory. What is even more disturbing is that for women the situation is worse than that for men, if you see the literacy rates. The female access to higher education is lower in India. The enrolment of men is larger than the female enrolment. It is observed that the motivation for girls education is higher, but still lower than that for boys as the boy is looked upon as the future  bread winner. The girls are the first to suffer if there is any problem of access or cost. There is gap between literacy and education level of men & women. This is because of patriarchal society and it’s hierarchical stand with clear prescription of the role of women. The world development report 1990 observes that in India education is heavily biased in favour of urban dwellers and Males. Urban literacy rates are twice as high as rural rates and females in both rural and urban India have lower literacy rates than males.
While education can play a positive interventionist role improving the status of women, the fact remained that low status coupled with rigid socio-cultural practices, denies women this basic right. When women are educated, there is significant improvement in their status within family & in society education of girls is increasingly being seen as a basic human right and above all a crucial input for socio-economic transformation, Gender disparity can be seen in proper perspective through the lens of the gender empowerment. Many countries like India have much further to travel in extending broad economic and Political opportunities to women & higher levels of female education can make appreciable contributions towards it.
During the last three decades the gender disparity at various levels of education in India has declined, but it still needs to be further reduced. In case of higher education enrolments, women outnumber men in many countries of the developed world. A progressive change in social attitude can bring about favourable change. Some states, of India have shown some progress and the tempo need to be accelerated. In developing countries ample economic and Pol. Opportunities can be extended to women and greater access of women to education in general and  higher education in  particular can provide tremendous push in this direction. India in this knowledge era can brighten its fortunes by increasing access of women at different levels of education.
(The author is former Dy. Librarian University of Jammu)


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