Marginal improvement in rural women’s education, finds NFHS-5

Social, cultural stigmas reasons for lack of improvement 

By Shruti Banerjee, Shristi Guha, Ashmita Sengupta
Published: Thursday 07 January 2021

The present-day education system has come a long way and age-old traditions have undergone a drastic change. One of the biggest achievements of India was the increase in literacy rate to 74.04 per cent in 2010-11 from 18.3 per cent in 1950-51.

The country has been making great strides in educating children; at the time of Independence, India was largely illiterate (nine per cent women and 27 per cent men were literate). The goal of providing free and compulsory education to all children up to 14 has, however, been elusive.

The number of people educated increased generously between 2005-06 and 2015-16. Among girls, the median years of schooling increased to 4.4 years in National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) from 1.9 years as of the NHFS-3, (2005-06). 

The median years of schooling among boys increased to 6.9 years in NHFS-4 from 4.9 years in NHFS-3. Over a similar period, the percentage of boys and girls with no schooling reduced to 31 per cent from 42 per cent in girls and 15 per cent from 22 per cent in boys.

The status of education in rural areas, especially for women, has not seen a very radical change. Reasons for the same may be attributed to social and cultural stigmas.

Conventions and orthodox continue to smother rural landscape. Poor families tend to educate their sons; girls are married off soon. Most families are reluctant to send their daughters to study in schools or urban areas because they fear they would face sexual violence.

There was an overall improvement in the number of rural women who were educated. Gujarat showed maximum improvement in terms of girls or women having 10 or more mean years of schooling.

The percentage increase in the area was six per cent in Manipur and Meghalaya and seven per cent in Kerala.  According to NFHS-5 data, the percentage of men and women having 10 years or above mean years of schooling was maximum in rural areas of Kerala, Goa, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

Of the women living in rural areas in the 17 surveyed states, Kerala had the maximumhaving 10 or above mean years of schooling while Tripura had the minimum. Goa and Gujarat had the highest percentage of rural men having 10 or above mean years of schooling.

Only 69 per cent girls and 85 per cent of boys over the age of six had attended school as of NFHS-4 (2015-16). Nearly 33 per cent females finished seven years of schooling or less; 13 percent finished 8-9 years of schooling.

Among boys, 35 per cent finished seven years of schooling or less; 16 per cent finished 8-9 years of schooling.

Just 10 per cent girls and 13 per cent boys finished 10-11 years of schooling. Nearly 31 per cent females and 15 per cent boys never went to school. Nearly 14 per cent girls and 20 per cent boys finished at least 12 years of schooling. 

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