Despite tall claims by the government and voluntary organizations, a vast majority of the girls still remain illiterate in India. During the last four decades since independence, much has been done to emancipate women. Education of girls is one of the basic features of our Plans. Many school and colleges were founded for girls. Even coeducation has received considerable support from the public, and although orthodox parents still view the system of co-education with suspicion, a large number of families send their daughters to co-educational institutions. Female education is, indeed, receiving a great impetus and the advance made by our country in this direction during the last decade or so is considerable.
It is being increasingly recognized that educated wives and mothers are an asset to a nation and that neither expense nor effort should be spared to make female education popular and even compulsory. Being educated, they are working in banks, private firms, hospitals and government offices. Education has led to their economic independence and equality with men folk. They have now an honoured position in society and have secured their rights from men. But all this is confined chiefly to the urban areas. In rural areas most of the people are still against girls’ education.
Much needs to be done yet. An intensive propaganda is necessary to popularize female education not only in towns and cities where its value is already recognized but in villages where the education of girls is still in its infancy. There are many villages where schools for girl do not exist. Every village must have a girls’ school or if that is not possible owing to lack of funds, parents should be persuaded to admit their daughters to boys’ schools.
Furthermore, the extreme poverty of the Indian masses makes it imperative that education for girls should be free up to the matriculation standard. If facilities for female education are provided in every village, it will also be possible to make it compulsory. Special legislation should then be enacted to deal with parents who neglect the education of their daughters. This compulsion would be essential in early stages because most villagers are still too ignorant to understand the value of education for girls.
It should not be forgotten, however, that the education given to girls ought to be strictly in accordance with their needs. At present, practically no distinction exists between the education of boys and that of girls. The two sexes are taught the same subjects both at school and college level and they have to appear in the same examinations. That is clearly absurd. We must not lose sight of the fact that while boys have to be trained for careers; girls have to be prepared primarily for their duties as wives and mothers.
It is true that many girls would like to take up various jobs like boys, but even so the syllabi and courses of studies and the subjects for the two sexes should not be exactly the same. Girls ought to receive a good general education. No matter what other subjects they are taught, cookery, music, painting and hygiene should receive special emphasis. Subjects like arithmetic, history, geography and science will no doubt be common to boys and girls. But girls should primarily be trained for domestic life and all that goes with it.
For we cannot escape the natural fact that the girls have one day to become wives and mothers. Due emphasis should be laid on nursing, cooking, laundry, household work, etc. in the education of girls. They should be given lesson in child psychology. Ample opportunities should exist for them to learn the arts of dancing, music and painting if they have the necessary aptitude. That being so, the nature of education that is given to them now must be such as to prove useful to them in their capacity as wives and mothers.
No doubt certain girls show promise of growing into artists, writers, orators, politicians and so forth. Many prefer to follow professions like medical, educational or legal. Still others may like to become steno typists, secretaries, business executives, receptionists, telephone operators, etc. But the majority of girls have naturally a distinct preference for a general education, after which they will enter matrimony and settle down at homes.
So while all possible arrangements should exist in schools and colleges to encourage talent or special aptitude for a particular profession, the average girl should be so educated and trained as to enable her to make home life happy, healthy and civilized.