The Gender Gap in Higher Education

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    • Crucial gains made in closing the gender gap across different undergraduate programmes suffered a setback in the pandemic year, according to the latest All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE).

    All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE)

    • The Ministry of Education, Government of India has released the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2020-2021. 
    • The Ministry has been conducting the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) since 2011, covering all higher educational institutions located in Indian Territory and imparting higher education in the country.

    Major Highlights of data 

    • The total enrollment in higher education has increased to nearly 4.14 crore in 2020-21 from 3.85 crores in 2019-20.  
      • Since 2014-15, there has been an increase of around 72 Lakh in enrolment (21%). 
    • The Female enrolment has increased to 2.01 crore from 1.88 crores in 2019-20.  There has been an increase of around 44 Lakh (28%) since 2014-15.
    • The percentage of female enrolment to total enrolment has increased from 45% in 2014-15 to around 49% in 2020-21.
    • The number of women for every 100 men enrolled across different Bachelor’s programmes dropped in the academic year 2020-21.

    • Undergraduate programmes such as nursing and education, which have traditionally had more women participation, also witnessed a significant fall in numbers for women.
    • The gender gap in undergraduate programmes such as computer science, business administration, pharmacy, technology and law – which have always had a gender skew in favour of men – continues to be large.

    Importance of Girls’ Education 

    • Education of girls is vital not only on grounds of social justice but also because it accelerates social transformation. 
    • The promotion of gender equality in education is essential for human resource development. By educating a woman you educate the whole family
    • Education has a direct impact on women’s empowerment.
    •  No society has ever liberated itself economically, politically, or socially without a sound base of educated women

    Existing Issues and Challenges 

    • The expansion of the educational system has been uneven and inadequate.
    •  There is a gender gap in the educational status of boys and girls.
    • Cultural, social and economic factors still prevent girls from getting higher education opportunities.
    • In rural areas, the girl child is made to perform household and agricultural chores.
      • This is one of the many factors limiting girls’ access to higher education
    •  Physical safety of the girls, especially when they have to travel a long distance to school and fear of sexual harassment are other reasons that impede girls’ education.
    • Women are still an under-represented population globally in hardcore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
      • According to available UNESCO data on some selected countries, India is in the lowest position, having only 14% of female researchers working in STEM areas. 
      • STEM occupations are frequently perceived as masculine, and teachers and parents frequently undervalue girls’ abilities.
        • This frequently causes a confidence gap in young females, who become more critical of their abilities and hold them to higher standards as a result
    •  the visibility of female faculty in universities and research institutes is significantly lower. 
      •  The number of female participants in decision-making bodies such as the board of governors or council of institutes of higher education of repute is abysmally low.
    • Moreover, girls lose out on not just education, they also experience a reduction in peer interaction and a loss of protective environments and social support networks.
    • The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for educators and students, especially for those on the margins, including girls.

    Policies and Programmes

    • The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian constitution, in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principals.
    • The Constitution not only guarantees equality to women but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women.
    •  The Government of India has been ramping up efforts to remove gender inequality by providing incentives for women’s higher education.Some of these initiatives such as
      •  the Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI): a pilot project under the Department of Science and Technology to promote gender equity in science and technology, and 
      • Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN): a plan under the Department of Science and Technology again to encourage women scientists in science and technology and also prevent women scientists from giving up research due to family reasons, are noteworthy.
    •  Some institutions are setting up creches so that the scientist mothers can carry on with their research work uninterrupted. 
      • Universities too are trying their best to be equal opportunity employer
    • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao: It was launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister in 2015 at Panipat in Haryana With the objective of bringing behavioural change in the society towards birth and rights of a girl child.
    • The Sukanya Samriddhi Account (SSA) Scheme: It is a small deposit scheme of the Government of India meant exclusively for a girl child. The scheme is meant to meet the education and marriage expenses of a girl child
    • CBSE Udaan Scheme: It is a platform that empowers the girl students, facilitates their aspiration of joining prestigious engineering institutions and takes an important role in the development/ progress of the country in future.
    • Free or subsidized education for the girl child,
    •  Reservation for women in colleges and universities
    •  National Scheme of Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education: The centrally sponsored “National Scheme of Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education (NSIGSE)” was launched in May 2008, to give incentives to students enrolled in class IX. The scheme is now boarded on National Scholarship Portal (NSP).
      • The objective of the scheme is to establish an enabling environment to promote enrolment and reduce dropout of girls belonging to SC/ST communities in secondary schools and ensure their retention up to 18 years of age.

    Suggestions and Conclusion 

    • It is time to focus on the inclusion of female participation in higher education institutes.
    • The equal participation of women in higher education will help India make a vital contribution to sustainable development. 
      • Along with providing equal access to education, quality and affordability must also be emphasised.
    • State governments need to leverage existing schemes to design interventions to promote women in higher education. 
    • We need to present women role models to the younger generation at district levels, and state levels where they see and know what heights they can achieve by pursuing STEM education. 
      • In order to create a more appealing and welcoming atmosphere for women in STEM, organisations should take a top-down, multi-pronged strategy.
      •  More women-friendly environment, facilities of a creche, period leaves, and maternity leaves should be induced in the working system,
    • Social media can also be roped in to promote women in science which can encourage young girls to choose their careers confidently.
    • There is a need to change societal norms, cultural and traditional biases and general mindsets of people. 
      • And in this the media, civil society, and the youth, women, and girls have a lot to contribute

    Source: IE