The National Education Policy 2020 provides for equitable access to quality education for all students.
Education is the fundamental element required to achieve human potential and the develop an equitable and just society. There is a need to provide education to all sections of society, irrespective of caste, creed, gender, religion etc. The new National Education Policy 2020 states that gender based bias often affects an individual's ability to develop and hampers the nation’s growth, innovation and progress. Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the architect of Indian constitution, also believed in measuring the progress of a community by the degree of progress which its women have achieved. Government should, therefore, ensure equal opportunity to learn and excel for all Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs).
In the present context the gap between learning outcomes and what is required must be bridged by undertaking major reforms that bring the highest quality, equity and integrity into the education system from kindergarten to higher education.
The constitution of India has provided equal rights and opportunities to men and women. Despite several policies at the Centre and state level women continue to face many hurdles in education. Under the fast changing conditions in the country in recent times, increased attention is being paid to education of women but problems still persist. Besides sociological issues, infrastructure and ground level problems make women's education an uphill task. The problems include availability of safe transport, lack of financial support, lack of social consciousness, lack of proper facilities, unwillingness of female teachers to serve in rural areas and lack of enthusiasm and interest of those in charge of education.
These hardships obstruct the wave of change in society. An objective evaluation of earlier efforts is required so that better and more effective approaches can be used. The government must work with a strong will power to provide better infrastructure, environment, funds, curriculum, teachers training and other necessities. A survey recently released by the Ministry of Health found that there is a direct relationship between the nutritional status of children and the education of their mothers. Many development economists too have studied subject how better education enables women to emerge as change agents.
Under the colonial rule steps were taken for the education of girls by Christian missionaries and Indian social reformers such Jyotibarao Phule, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandita Ramabai, Ram Manohar Lohia and so on. After Independence, the first National Education Policy was introduced in 1968 and it was proposed that education of girls should receive emphasis, not only on grounds of social justice, but also because it accelerates social transformation. During 1951 to 1981, the percentage of literacy among women improved from 7.93 per cent to 24.82 per cent. However, in absolute numbers, illiterate women have increased during this period from 158.7 million to 241.7 million (excluding Assam). 57 per cent of the illiterate population and 70 per cent of the non-enrolled children of school stage are girls. In spite of the effort made so far, the education system has not been able to make sufficient contribution towards women’s equality. The National Education Policy of 1986 advocated time bound elementary education for girls and adult education for women with vocational studies, professional studies, technical studies and reorganisation of other educational activity for the overall development of women.
In this new National Education Policy 2020 there is a provision for equitable access to quality education for all students. There is also assurance that some steps would be taken by government to bridge the gender gap. These steps include clear targets for higher Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) for SEDGs (gender identities are major category in it) and enhancing gender balance in admission to higher education. The government has also planned to provide vocational and technical education to women. For women this is a crucial step towards becoming empowered and independent.
(Ravi Mishra is an Intern with Academics4Nation. He is currently doing MA in Political Science from Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow.)