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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Girls’ Education in India: Strategies, Interventions and programmes

Girls’ Education in India: Strategies, Interventions and programmes

India has made remarkable progress since independence in various aspects of girls’ education like greater access to and enrolment in schools, decline in drop out rates and in the number of out of school girls, greater transition to upper primary level and special help provided to disadvantaged sections of the society. We have also in place the constitutional and policy framework enshrining the vision of girls’ education that enabled the Government to design different strategies, interventions, schemes and programmes with specific objectives that impinge on girls’ education.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

Foremost among these, is the programme for the Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE), called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), launched at the turn of the century (2001). This national flagship programme has a clear focus on bridging and eliminating gender differences in enrolment, retention and quality of learning. There is a thrust and special focus on girls’ education in the planning and provisioning for UEE, in SSA. Some of these are listed below:

· Free textbooks to all girls upto class VIII

· Separate toilets for girls

· Back to school camps for out-of-school girls

· Bridge courses for older girls

· Recruitment of 50% women teachers

· Early childhood care and Education centres in/near schools in convergence with ICDS programme etc.

· Teachers’ sensitization programmes to promote equitable learning opportunities

· Gender-sensitive teaching-learning materials including textbooks

· Intensive community mobilisation efforts

· ‘Innovation fund’ per district for need based interventions for ensuring girls’ attendance and retention.

A range of strategies and interventions have been evolved that are designed to improve girls’ participation in education, at building systemic responsiveness, motivating girls and their parents and forging partnerships with community based groups for girls’ education. Efforts are also made to address issues within the classroom to enable a conducive learning environment and monitor progress along key indicators in girls’ education.

Strategy Focused Equally On ‘Demand’ And ‘Supply’ Sides

The Government interventions towards girls’ education are not only targeted to address enormous infrastructural deficiencies but also centuries-old cultural and psychological problems. The two broad stands on this strategy has been to focus equally on the ‘demand’ and ‘supply’ sides.

On the supply side the government aims to make the education system responsive to the needs of girls to serve as the pull factor. In actual practice, it means -

§ ensure access to schools

§ increase proportion of women teachers

§ training to enhance gender sensitivity of teachers

§ develop gender sensitive and relevant curriculum & textbooks.

§ provide supportive structures such as Early Childhood Care and Education centers

§ provide alternative learning facilities

§ ensure basic facilities in schools – toilets and drinking water

The community demands for girls’ education is also sought to be generated through –

· motivation and mobilization of parents and community

· enhance the role of women and mothers in school related activities

· ensure people’s participation in school committees

· strengthen links between the school, teachers and community.

Gender Perspective

While designing programmes for girls’ education, the education administrator addresses both ‘generic’ and ‘specific’ issues. The gender perspective is sought to be integrated in all the programme components and the ‘specific’ interventions such as incentives to offset economic disadvantage, relaxation of norms for tribal areas etc. are contextualized interventions required to address various factors of disadvantage. Intensive and innovative efforts are taken up at the micro-level to retain focus on girls’ education and mobilize women/women’s groups for girls’ education.

Even while an over-all improvement has been noticed, it is necessary to target areas where girls’ education is lagging behind. Towards this end, the Government of India has launched two focused interventions for girls – the National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGEL) and the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV). These schemes are targeted to reach out to girls from marginalized social groups in over 3,000 educationally backward blocks in the country where the female rural literacy is below the national average and the gender gap in literacy is above the national average.


The NPEGEL scheme is meant for the educationally backward blocks (EBB) where both girls who are in ‘in’ and ‘out’ of school, are targeted. The out of school girls include never enrolled and drop out girls. In the case of girls in elementary school, the thrust is on girls with low attendance rates and girls with low levels of achievement. Ensuring a positive self image and to eliminate gender bias in the classroom is also in the design of the scheme. According to latest (upto 30.09.07) available data, the reach of NPEGEL includes 3272 block, 40,171 clusters, 35,254 model cluster schools, 25,537 ECCE support, 24,387 additional rooms, 9,67,063 remedial teaching, 1,53,324 bridge courses, 1,85,494 gender sensitization of teachers and 71,46,300 uniforms and other incentives.

To impact on the enrolment and retention scenario, the NPEGEL scheme is a holistic effort to tackle the impediments to girls’ education at the micro level through flexible, decentralised processes and decision making. It is well known that children become vulnerable to leaving school when they are not able to cope with the pace of learning in the class or feel neglected by teachers/peers in class. The scheme stresses the responsibility of teachers to spot such girls and pay special attention to bring them out of their state of vulnerability and prevent them from dropping out. Recognising the need for support services to help girls with responsibilities with regard to fuel, fodder, water, sibling care and paid and unpaid work provisions have been made for incentives that are decided locally. Just as gender sensitive teaching learning materials, introduction of additional subjects like self defence, life skills, legal rights, gender etc. have been provided in the scheme, efforts to ensure a supportive and gender sensitive classroom environment through systematic sensitization and monitoring the classroom is also inbuilt in it.

Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme

The second major initiative, in the EBBs, is the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) scheme that provides for setting up of residential upper primary schools for girls from SC, ST, OBC & Muslim communities. This scheme targets areas of scattered habitations, where schools are at great distances and are a challenge to the security of girls. This often compels girls to discontinue their education. KGBV addresses this through setting up residential schools, in the block itself.

The KGBV scheme very specifically targets

§ Adolescent girls who are unable to go to regular schools.

§ Out of school girls in the 10+ age group who are unable to complete primary school

· Younger girls of migratory populations in difficult areas of scattered habitations that do not qualify for primary/upper primary schools.

As the KGBVs specifically targets communities where girls are more disadvantaged, such as SC/ ST, OBC and Muslim minorities, the scheme provides for a minimum reservation of 75% of the seats for girls from SC/ST/OBC and minorities communities and 25% to girls from families that live below the poverty line.

The reach of the KGBV’s include –

· 2180 sanctioned – of these 270 are in EBBs with 20 percent Muslim population

· 1564 KGBVs operational

· Of total enrolment (25% SC, 32% ST, 26% OBC, 5% Muslim and 10% Below Poverty Line).

· About one fourth of the girls enrolled in the EBBs with Muslim concentration are Muslims.

India is deeply committed to Universalization of Elementary Education of satisfactory quality by 2010. Greater focus and efforts are now being made to extend the gains to the “last mile” and to ensure that not only all girls are in school but they also complete the cycle of elementary education with quality education.

Shri A.K. Sengupta
Former Senior Additional PIO , PIB, New Delhi

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