In my Presidency college days, I found gradually the girl students surpassing boy students in topping various honours courses in humanities as well as science subjects. Unfortunately, in IIT Kharagpur at our time there was no girl student. At that time, engineering and technology was not the preferred interest of girl students. However, as informed, there are today about 36 girl students for 100 boys in engineering and other technical branches of education. The number of girl students per 100 boys is at its best about 90 in medicine today.
I am seeing this happening even in my own family itself. The girl children of my cousins in the extended family are performing excellently. Kushboo after engineering is already in job with multinational and recently got married with an engineer. Jyoti has joined Master in HR. Babli for whom I was doubtful has also taken admission in a private engineering college in NCR. Boys also have done well. But the performances of the girls are better as on today. It really excites me and I wish Emma and Anvita to raise it to higher level.
Unfortunately, the overall literacy in India still remains pretty low. Women’s literacy is around 60 per cent now. Over 200 million women still can’t read and write, the largest such number in any country in the world.
The traditional belief has changed. Women are joining workforce in every sector. Girl education even in rural India has improved. Enrolment in elementary education is almost equal for boys and girls, dropout rates are also nearly the same at primary stages, and the proportion of girls passing Class V is fractionally higher than that of boys. Girls match boys in academic performance, to the extent it can be measured by our examination system.
However, a recent NSSO survey found that by the time they are 19 years old, 41 per cent of girls drop out of school. This is apart from the 19 per cent who never attended school, compared to just 9 per cent of boys.
The primary reasons given by girls for leaving their studies are, essentially, that education is not considered necessary by elders in the family. Surprisingly, even many educated parents also are equally biased against the girl child.
My brothers-in-law are financially better off. One of them was with me in Hindustan Motors. Unfortunately, none in the family could do well in education. Perhaps they were content with whatever they were to get in inheritance. I helped one of the engineers of my village from one regional engineering college to get employment in Hindustan Motors. Unfortunately, he couldn’t encourage any of his many children to get properly educated. I feel so bad about it. The story convinces me that education or affluence of the parents don’t assure necessarily that their children will do well in education.
It is because all the programmes of adult education have miserably failed. If parents don’t appreciate the need of education, how can they encourage the girl child for higher education? So, even the girls in so called forward castes and community of the society don’t get the necessary support for education, particularly for higher education.
A lot of effort is on for education, but perhaps more massive campaign may be needed.
Can we hope that the women reservation bill will usher in a new era for the girl education too in the country? Will the elected members appreciate the need of good and universal education, particularly for girl child and work for it?