India’s rise as knowledge services hub contrasts with three out of its four females being illiterate
A recent report by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) indicates a clear case of gender disparity in primary and secondary education across the world.
The first edition of the Global Education Digest (GED) warns that boys and girls in only 85 countries will have equal access to primary and secondary education by 2015, the cutoff year for achieving Millennium Development Goal (MDG) objective of eliminating gender disparities at all levels of education.
The Digest indicates that going by the present trend, over 72 countries will not be able to achieve the goal by 2015. Worse, 63 of these countries will also fail to ensure that boys and girls get equal opportunities to complete their secondary-level courses.
This is surprising, if not completely shocking, since the report has come out a full 15 years after the fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing in 1995. Shortly after this landmark conference, the international community had pledged to eliminate gender disparities at all levels of education by 2015.
Yet, as the GED indicates, two out of three countries in the world today face gender disparities in primary and secondary education, and as many as half May not be able to eliminate it by 2015.
As per the report, over 796 million adults lacked basic literacy skills across the globe in 2008, with nearly half of them being in South and West Asia, notably including India (283 million), Pakistan (51 million) and Bangladesh (49 million).
What comes as a shocker is that the share of illiterate women has almost remained static at 63-64% over the past 20 years even though the size of the global illiterate population has been shrinking during the period.
This can have a serious impact on a learning nation like India that is looking at catching up with the global economy and garnering the largest share of world’s knowledge outsourcing business. Talking about the needs of a learning society in his book eTransformation, Nagy K Hanna clearly states that the implications of the ongoing ICT revolution for education and learning are pervasive and profound, both in terms of the demand for new knowledge and skills and the capacity and modes of supplying such knowledge and skills. He also points out that skilled human resources are a necessary condition for leveraging available ICTs for re-inventing them to get closer to the realities and needs of a developing country like India. Unfortunately, despite proving its ICT capabilities on the global map, India has not been able to leverage its strength in technology to reduce the gender gap in education.
True, the country has managed to fi nally roll out the Right to Education (RTE) Act through the 86th Constitutional amendment eight years after it was passed in the Parliament, and it is a right step in the direction to ensure that the country not only meets its “education for all” objective but also creates a gender balance in the country’s primary education system. However, the RTE needs to be backed by a strong e-strategy too, which seems to be missing. While the country needs to spend 6,000 crore for setting up the National Knowledge Network, it also needs to chalk out plans for School Education Grid to ensure that every child, including
the girl child is able to secure a minimum level of education