The present women education scenario in Tamil Nadu gives us a positive picture in enrolment drive at the primary level, but the retention of the enrolled children is still a challenge.
Children from deprived and marginalized sections of society tend to drop-out from schools for various reasons. There are various social, economic, cultural and political reasons attributed by researchers for dropping out of children from schools. The Universalization of women education does not mean 100% enrolment. It has a wider meaning. Education cannot be misconstrued for more literacy. Understanding women education as a tool for social change where educated individual understands his/her identifies and develops the skills, enjoys rights and equality in society and is empowered to take decisions becomes the core value in universalizing women education.
Statement of the Problem of Women Education
The development of any nation is closely related to the development of its human resource. In the fast changing world, the women education system of our country is the main edifice on which the future of the nation rests. The census of India 2001 revealed that the situation has improved and the enrolment rate of girls is 43.9% at the primary level, 40.9% at the middle level and 38.6% at the high school level. Even though there has been a considerable improvement, the girls’ participation continues to be below 50 percent. There is a gender gap in the literacy rate of Tamil Nadu and in Madurai District. According to the Census of India 2001, the literacy rate is 82.4% for men and 64.4% for women in Tamil Nadu. A further observation of the data reveals that it is 55.40% for women in rural Madurai which is considerably lower when compared with the district. The government has taken many initiatives to eradicate illiteracy and to improve the quality of women education in Madurai district. There is a lot of effort under the Sarva Shiksa Abhiyan to bring the out of school children back to the mainstream. Many children are not enrolled in schools especially from the migrant and nomadic communities. Many leave school at an early stage due to family and school-related factors. Many students and their parents consider that the present school curriculum is not suited to their future needs. There are 58173 out of school children in Tamil Nadu in the year 2012 and out of which 28246 are girls in the age group of 6 to 14 years. The main five reasons noted during this survey for dropping out of school at primary level were family, school, community, gender and personal related constraints. Therefore, Universalisation of Elementary Education necessitates economic measures, improvement of the existing school conditions, parental education and search for new educational strategies in order to attract the non-school goers, early school leavers and children in the job after dropping out from schools.
- To profile the status of women education among girls in Madurai district
- To study the socio-economic and gender factors related to girls’ education
- To find the constraints in the women education at the elementary level
- To examine the dropout level of girls at the elementary level
- To record, the various schemes of the government to improve elementary women education.
The explorative survey method was used for the study. A baseline survey was conducted to list the households and to identify the out of school girl children. The characteristics of the school dropouts and never enrolled girls and their socio-economic background were ascertained through schedules in structured interviews. The reasons for being out of school and the opinions of the parents and teachers on the women education of out of school girls were obtained through focus group discussions.
The sample for the study consisted of 475 out of school girls in the age group of 6-18 years. Out of this 67.3% belonged to the 15-18 years age group. Most of the girls (56.5%) have dropped out at the middle school level. The necessary data were obtained from 405 parents of the out of schoolgirls and 105 teachers. The study was conducted in 40 sample villages selected for the survey from five blocks in Madurai District.
For the purpose of the survey, a structured interview schedule was prepared and administered to the out of school girls selected for the study. The opinion of the parents and teachers were obtained through focus group discussions. Well framed close ended questions based on the socioeconomic and family particulars were structured and administered along with a five point scale to find the opinion of girls in women education.
Reasons for Dropout
The study ascertained the reasons for dropping out as a family, school, gender, community and personal constraints. For a majority (84.9%) of girls, poverty is the main reason forcing them to stop their studies and migration of parents. As for as blocks are concerned poverty has been quoted as a reason by the respondents of Sedapatti (97.8%) and Madurai East (98.3%). As for as the school constraints are concerned the failure in class is the main reason for dropping out and the cost of women education is also indicated as a negative factor. It is observed that many girls dropped out of schools after the attainment of puberty and a few left schools in order to take care of their younger siblings. The study further revealed that girls from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe were found to leave school early without completing their women education. Poverty, migration and failure in the examinations are the major reasons for dropping out according to parents. Teachers, on the other hand, reported that the poor economic condition in the family, gender constraints, failure in class and lack of congenial climate for women education in the family were the reasons for not continuing the women education.
Opinion on School
The study observed that among the respondents, 30.8%» who have a good opinion about school. The teachers are helpful according to 40.9%. Activities of the respondents after schooling reveal that the majority of them was engaged in helping their parents in household work, a collection of firewood, feeding of livestock, etc. Out of the total sample, 15.5% were ready to continue their studies.
The respondent, parents and teachers were in agreement in saying that gender constraints play a major role for dropout. The analysis revealed that the girls in the age group of 15 to 18 years had constraints in the family and school than those from the 6 to 10 years and 11 to 14 years of age.
Alternative Strategies to Enrol Girls
Teachers should initiate the enrolment campaign by meeting the parents in their households and giving awareness programmes on the importance of women education. Implementing free and compulsory women education up to 14 years (89.5%), increasing the budget allocation (78.1%) for elementary women education, improving the basic amenities (76.2%) are the various initiatives to abolish child labour according to the teachers. Schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme which provides employment to parents for at least 100 days by paying fair wages can be increased so that the girl child labour will be abolished. Social security to parents in the unorganized sector can promote the women education of their girl children. Another very important issue is the teacher-student ratio. In many village schools, there is only a single teacher to handle the primary sections. Lack of female teachers was also turned out to be a reason for dropping out of girls from schools. While describing the various methods to enroll girls, it is observed that the Chellampatti block (65.57%) differed significantly from the methods adopted by teachers in the Usilampatti and Madurai West blocks.
Intervention Strategies for Women Education of Out of School Girls
The main reasons for dropping out and never enrolling were analyzed, and it was found that reasons such as family, gender, poverty, lack of interest in studies, low value of women education, lack of encouragement, illiteracy of parents and some school factors have pushed the girl children out of the school system.
Based on the findings of the study, field experience and focus group discussion conducted with parents, community leaders, and school teachers on certain intervention strategies have been proposed and discussed below
Alternative and Innovative Women Education
The study noted that out of school girls are generally benefited from the Alternative Learning System. But many parents are not aware this system. Therefore, awareness is very much needed. Mass media and local bodies can forecast women educational programmes to attract the poor out of school girls and enroll them through this system. The children may be provided with free uniforms, learning materials and free meals. There should be flexibility in approach and the classes can be conducted according to the convenience of the girl children taking the habitation as the focus.
Women Education Guarantee Scheme
This is launched to cover the never enrolled children under an alternative and innovative women education. Women Education Guarantee Scheme can function with 10 to 15 children in a local habitation in a mobile mode and is more beneficial in the hilly and remote areas where there is no school and transport facility to reach the schools. The focus of the scheme would be on ensuring the participation of out of school children living in small remote habitations and belonging to different categories such as working children, migrant children, street children, adolescent girls who remain out of school.
The study reveals that one of the main reasons for dropping out and never enrolment is a migration of parents. It is seen that the parents take the girls along with them when they go in search of employment. This results in girls leaving school. They are forced to drop their studies. In many cases, they are never enrolled in schools. Here the role of the residential school comes into focus. The parents can leave the girls in the residential schools and they can continue their studies. The establishment of the BC/SC/MBC hostels also must be encouraged by the government where ever there are seasonal migrant parents.
This type of school with the non-syllabus method of teaching for the sake of girls can attract them. The school should impart life oriented women education through the play way method. This will motivate the girls to attend school and create interest in learning. Folk art, handicraft work and vocational training can help them improve their talents and gather employability after their women education.
It is essential to set up guidance and counselling bureau for students in all habitats to function within the school complex, under the agency of the village women education committee with a qualified counselor. This centre can become a service centre for all village people in getting relevant information on school admission, scholarships for their women education, selection of courses and also to sort out their educational and family problems. Since one of the main reasons for the dropping out of girls is family circumstances, the counselling centre can promote and counsel the parents on the importance of women education. The counselling centre can bring awareness to the parents to plan the future of the women education. Issues like female infanticide, foeticide and dowry also can be addressed in the counselling sessions.
Intervention in Tribal Women Education
The problems of the girl’s in the tribal areas are often different from those faced by girls belonging to Scheduled Castes. Hence special care is needed in preparing the textbooks in mother language at the primary levels. Tribal dialects also can be used in the primers. The establishment of Anganwadis and Balwadies in the tribal areas is necessary so that elder girls are not required for caring their siblings. Special training for non-tribal teachers to work in tribal areas and knowledge of tribal dialects should be developed. Special women education plan for nomadic and migrant workers should be prepared and implemented.
Short Stay Home /Half Way Homes
A short stay home can provide shelter for the girls whose parents migrate to urban areas for short term employment. They are fed, looked after and counseled for their problems and traumas. Educational programmes can be offered to them at the short stay home through resource teachers. The care given at these homes should motivate the children to join school or residential camp to complete their studies.
Remedial Women Education
Remedial teaching can be arranged for those children who have been enrolled from a bridge course or camp at a formal school. The remedial teaching would help the children get adjusted to the formal school environment and to cope with the academic requirements of the school. Remedial teaching may also be organized for girls who are irregular. There should be additional tutorials for late bloomers who need further care and coaching to come up with normal school. High-risk potential cases of dropouts be taken can through resource teachers. This can create confidence for the high-risk girls in coping with their classmates. Stress reduction strategies also should be adopted during the teaching-learning process.
Universalisation of elementary women education in India is a constitutional objective. But this has not been realized today and remains to be an exclusive target. It is estimated that the state of Tamil Nadu has really 4,66,069 out of school children in the age group 6-14 in the year 2007-08. Out of this in the selected five blocks at primary level, the out of school girls are 4124 and at the upper primary level, the out of school girls number 4674. They constitute a heterogeneous group with children who have never been enrolled in schools, and those who have been dropped out of school at various levels due to various reasons. The child labourers, migrant children, the deprived are included in this category and their women education remains a challenge still. The study ascertained that poor socio-economic background, early marriage, low societal values for girls, the responsibility for siblings, assistance in household work, attainment of puberty, belonging to low castes were the main reasons for girls being out of school. Access to school, non-availability of transport facilities, school factors such as overcrowded classrooms, poor student-teacher ratio, corporal punishment in schools, the high cost of women education, lack of knowledge of various women education schemes, lack of basic amenities are some of the school-related factors observed in this study that keep girls out of school. Social evils like dowry, earning for marriage, attainment of puberty and early marriage are the societal factors that prevent the girls from attending school. The study shows that universalisation of primary women education can be achieved only if we can promote universal access. The enhancement of the quality of women education can attract the children and equip them with the necessary knowledge and life skills. Programmes for the out of school girls can be designed and implemented more effectively with the support and involvement of the community. Micro-planning should take into account the local resources and needs of the children. The village women education committee can be empowered and involved in launching the open learning system. The local non-governmental organizations, the teacher organizations and self-help groups can give variable assistance for organizing remedial programmes and residential schools. Awareness programmes through puppetry, viUuppattu, street plays should be arranged for parents on the need and importance of women education. The provision of midday meals, appointment of female teachers, attaching anganwadies to elementary schools, separate toilets for girls, hostels, in schools, specific counselling services and other gender-sensitive initiatives can promote the universalisation of women education in rural India. Modern technology and computer literacy programme are to be a part of the curriculum to attract the out of school girls than the traditional tailoring, embroidery, cooking, etc. The teachers should be motivated, well trained to understand the hardships faced by the girls due to the various constraints in the way of their schooling. The teaching learning materials and the curriculum should be prepared with a view to the total development of the girls’ body, mind and spirit. Fulfillment of the above factors will help building a gender just society where girl children are the focus.