Education Blog

India - Education with a focus on Girls

graphic map of IndiaWe’re going to Mumbai! What better time to learn about girls’ education in India. Let’s first look at some basic population statistics sourced from the CIA’s World Factbook:

Population ca. 1,267,000,000

Nearly 27% of the population is 14 years or younger and 18% are 15 - 24 years old; median age is 27; life expectancy is 68.5 years.

India’s fertility rate is 2.45 children born per woman; 
a mother’s mean age at birth is 19.

India is a youthful nation!

I wanted to offer a figure about the poverty rate in India, but discovered that is not so easily done - the rate has dropped considerably in the past 7 years but what the reality of that means to the average Indian citizen is not necessarily clear. The matter is complicated by the World Bank’s reclassification of India as a lower middle-income country up from a low income country coupled with other developments in the country. To understand better how complex India’s poverty rating is read Why India’s Poverty Rate has fallen to 12.4%.

The truth is that countries like India and China are still home to half the world’s poor. We know that poverty is a key indicator leading to low school participation by girls (see September 2016 Blog).

Did You Know?

About 3,000,000 girls are out of school in India.

In rural India only 1 in 100 girls reach the 12th grade.


How do we know what we know - Data! I want to introduce you to ...

The ASER Centre -

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) is an annual, nationwide survey of children's ability to read simple text and do basic arithmetic. It was developed by Pratham an NGO working with children in thousands of villages and urban slums across India, whose focus was on helping children master basic skills in reading and arithmetic.

The ASER engages citizens across the country in understanding and tracking children’s ability to read and do basic arithmetic via the participation of local organizations and institutions in nearly every rural district in the country. It is the largest household survey of children conducted in India by citizens’ groups, carried out by more than 25,000 volunteers and covering over 700,000 children in 15,000 villages each year. It was launched in 2005 and is also the only annual source of information regarding learning levels of children available in India today. Learn more about how the surveys are conducted.

The 2016 ASER Full Report and National (Rural) Findings were published in January 18, 2017. ASER 2016 reached 589 rural districts across India. The survey was carried out in 17,473 villages, covering 350,232 households and 562,305 children in the age group 3-16. I recommend a quick click on the National (Rural) Findings  - it is a 3-page glance at some incredible statistics:

  • Cover of ASER 2016 ReportNationally, reading ability has improved especially in early grades in government schools.
  • Arithmetic shows improvement in government schools in primary grades.
  • The gender gap in private school enrollment has decreased slightly in both the 7-10 and the 11-14 age group. In 2014, among children age 11-14, the gap between boys' and girls' enrollment in private school was 7.6 percentage points. In 2016, this gap had decreased to 6.9 percentage points.
  • The proportion of schools visited where girls' toilets were available and useable has gone up from 32.9% in 2010 to 55.7% in 2014 to 61.9% in 2016. In four states, 80% or more schools visited had useable girls' toilets. These states are Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.


ASER  interactive mapASER Interactive Map - click to explore


In response to the UN Millennium Development Goals (2000 - 2015) and the Education For All (EFA) movement India enacted the ...

Right to Education (RTE) Act

The Indian 2009 Right to Education (RTE) Act guarantees a free and compulsory education for all children ages  6 - 14. The RTE Act is a critical movement towards inclusion for girls, children with disabilities and children from other marginalized groups.

According to UNICEF - India:


Enacted on 1 April 2010, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) 2009 serves as a building block to ensure that every child from six to 14 years has his or her right to get a quality elementary education, and that the state, with the help of families and communities, fulfills this obligation.The act has been described as model for countries in the region and beyond, seeking not only access to schools, but also quality education within them. 

By March 31, 2013 – the first deadline for implementation of the RTE – there had been significant resource allocations to the education sector and substantial structural reform, along with countless stories of hope from the field.  Nonetheless, there remains much to be done in order to achieve quality education with equity for every girl and boy across India.

Inclusion - group of diverse children

Important facets of quality education in the context of RTE:

  • Schools as inclusive spaces: A key RTE mandate is for schools to become child  friendly, inclusive spaces where all children from diverse backgrounds are welcomed, treated kindly, and encouraged to actively participate in learning through child-centred activities.  
  • Teachers as key change agents:Another important RTE goal is to empower teachers as key change agents in schools, ensuring their competence as professionals able to reflect on and improve their own practice. Beyond ensuring an acceptable Pupil-Teacher Ratio, RTE mandates that all teachers are professionally trained and supported to continuously assess and improve children’s learning.
  • Role of the community:Another key mandate of RTE is empowering communities to take ownership in the effective running of schools through School Management Committees.
  • Strengthened institutions and governance:While there are one-time investments that will make a significant difference in achieving targets in such areas as ensuring a library or a functional toilet in every school, much of the pedagogic transformation mandated by the RTE will necessitate substantial structural reform.

- See more at: UNICEF - India - What We Do

Learn about India’s Department of School Education and Literacy and the RTE Act


 This is just a snapshot of information about key education legislation at the parliamentary level and a look at how education statistics are being gathered in India. There are many factors which impact girls education in India including social norms, traditional values, resources and money - topics we have covered in other blog issues. I invite you to explore some of the below links to explore the impact of cultural and fiscal factors on India’s daughters.

Learn More

Why it’s hard for girls in rural India to stay in school
- aired on the PBS NewsHour on September 22, 2015 as part of the WNET series “Time For School”. In this episode, they travel to a small village in Rajasthan and report on a young girl’s experience into adulthood.

PBS video profiling one girl in India 


Why Girls in India are still missing out on the education they need
- reported by Rachel Williams in The Guardian - March 2013

“The Global Campaign for Education (GCE), a coalition of 26 NGOs and teaching unions, wants all nations to allocate at least 6% of GDP to education. India has been promising that since 1968, Taneja says, but the figure has never topped 4%, and it is currently 3.7%. It is an issue of political will, rather than a lack of cash, she suggests: education is not a vote-winning issue in a system of frequent elections, where pledges need to be deliverable immediately.”


Education in India in Pictures
- the Guardian - March 2013

Overcrowded classroom

Overcrowded classes at Madanpur Khadar primary school.
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian


The status of women’s education in India
- by Avijit Mondal of Safecity Blogs, Sustainable Development Goals - July 2016

“ - the 2011 census that showed the male literacy rate to be 82.14% while for females it lags behind at 65.46%.”


UN Girls Education Initiative - India: Newsline

  • Girls’ and women’s education: UNESCO’s barefoot partner
  • Indigenous Indian children thrive in child-friendly residential schools
  • An education programme empowers adolescent girls to thrive in rural India
  • In rural India, improved sanitation and iron supplements help girls stay in school




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