Girls in school, a report card

A report card on India’s progress in achieving gender parity in the area of girl child education.

Published : May 27, 2015 12:30 IST

Students in a class room at a schoon in Coimbatore.
Photo: S. Siva Saravanan. (13/12/2006)

Students in a class room at a schoon in Coimbatore. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan. (13/12/2006)

India has made remarkable progress in the field of gender parity in school education, but many States still have a long way to go in ensuring that no girl child is left behind. Data from the Department of Higher Education under the Ministry of Human Resource Development on the number of girls for every hundred boys in classes I to XII in 2011-12 offer a variety of interesting insights into the state of girl education across the country, the most significant being the remarkable progress achieved by the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes vis-a-vis the national average and the performance of the north-eastern states.

Members of the S.C. and S.T. communities have clearly embraced B.R. Ambedkar's exhortation to “Educate, Agitate, Organise” and extended it to the girl child to empower themselves. Across the five metrics of classes I-V, VI-VIII, IX-X, XI-XII and I-XII, S.C.s have outperformed the national average, while S.T.s have fallen short of the rest of the nation in just one metric, classes XI-XII.

The eight north-eastern States, including Assam, shine a beacon to the rest of the country in the area of sending girls to school, with Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim having achieved parity or even gone beyond in many metrics. The so-called backward or less developed States of north-eastern India bring into question the very idea of development, especially when seen in the context of a markedly better performance when compared with industrially developed and more prosperous States such as Maharashtra, Punjab and Gujarat.

The four southern States (data available only for undivided Andhra Pradesh) have traditionally ranked high in terms of social and educational development and it comes as no surprise that they are all far ahead of the national average in every category, with Karnataka alone falling short in just one category, classes I-V.

According to the 2011 census, among the 10 most populous states, which together account for three-fourths of the country’s total population, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar count among the laggards, not surprisingly, but the real shocker is the presence of the prosperous States of Maharashtra and Gujarat, which have fallen behind the rest of nation on most counts.

Despite racing ahead of the nation in other areas such as industry and agriculture, Maharashtra, Punjab and Gujarat are behind even the worst developed States in the field of girl child education. The information forces a reassessment of the concept of development and the need to think beyond gross product numbers to achieve true progress.

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