Improving gender equality in higher education in India | Opinion – analysis
Taking into account the vision of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and ally to the theme of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2020 – I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights – it is imperative to carry forward the momentum of empowerment of girls and women through education in all institutes. In particular, it is time to focus on the inclusion of female participation in higher education institutes and address a set of fundamental questions. Has the participation of women over the years in higher education increased and, if not, what steps should be taken to increase their participation? How far have we come in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Goal 4.3, that is, by 2030, to ensure equal access for all women and men to technical, professional and tertiary education of affordable quality?
Consider female participation trends according to the Survey of all India on higher education (AISHE), in the last six years from 2013-14 to 2017-18. We can clearly see that India has been able to deal with inequalities in higher education, which has resulted in a two-way expansion: the enrollment of female students in higher education along with the extension of the delivery system.
The enrollment of women in higher education, which was less than 10% of the total enrollment on the eve of Independence, increased to 48.6% in 2018-19. Total enrollment in higher education has increased considerably to 37.4 million, with 19.2 million men and 18.2 million women. Women for every 100 male students have also increased significantly in central universities, considered universities and institutions with government assistance.
But there is another side. The proportion of male students enrolled in engineering and technology is 71.1% compared to female enrollment, which is only 28.9%. The enrollment of women was lower at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and the National Institutes of Technology (NIT) compared to the general enrollment of women. Taking into account the low enrollment of women in the current, the government decided to increase female enrollment from 8% in 2016 to 14% in 2018-19, 17% in 2019-20 and 20% in 2020-21 through the creation of supernumerary seats. The results are visible in real terms. The total number of women in NIT has grown from 14.17% in 2017-18 to 17.53% in 2019-20 and from 8% in 2016 to 18% 2019-20 in IIT in the B.Tech program.
In 2018-19, 43.82% of women enrolled at the doctoral level compared to 40% in 2013-14. This was possible due to several measures taken by the government, such as women candidates who were allowed a one-year relaxation for M. Phil and two years for a doctorate in the maximum duration, that is, two to six years respectively, according to the University Grants Commission (UGC), 2016. In addition, arrangements have been made for women candidates to obtain a maternity / child care permit of up to 240 days, for the duration of M.Phil / PhD .
Through these various government initiatives, there has been a general increase in the enrollment of women in higher education. This has resulted in an improvement in the Gender Parity Index (GPI). The GPI has increased from 0.92 in 2013-14 to 1 in 2018-19.
According to the increase in the enrollment of women in higher education, there is a need for a systemic expansion of the delivery system. A total of 993 universities, 39,931 colleges and 10,725 independent institutions are registered on the AISHE portal. The number of universities for women only has increased from 11 to 16 from 2013-14 to 2018-19 and 10.82% of universities are exclusively for girls.
Along with the expansion of infrastructure, in the last six years, gender equality has been promoted in the recruitment and placement of teaching and non-teaching staff in higher education institutes.
The total number of teachers in higher education has increased from 13.67,535 in 2013-14 to 14,16,299 in 2018-19. Of the total number of teachers, 57.8% are men and 42.2% are women, an increase of 4.35% in women. At the level of all of India, there are 73 female teachers for every 100 male teachers in 2018-19 compared to 64 six years ago. The number of teachers at the university level is around 1.90 lakh, of which 36.65% are women compared to 1.56 lakh teachers in 2013-14 (32%). Among non-teaching staff, the average number of women per 100 men is 49.
The notion of equality should not be dictated only by numbers, but by a culture of gender equality. Recently, I ordered the UGC to conduct seminars on prejudices and stereotypes of gender, gender equality and women’s rights in all universities. Culture and theater clubs in colleges and universities have been encouraged to celebrate nukkad natak, flash mobs and mime shows on women’s issues. I also stressed that all colleges and universities should prominently display the helpline numbers for women in different locations on campuses.
The celebration would not be complete if we do not recognize the success of the pioneer women who work in several universities. Professor Sahana Murthy became the first Indian recipient of the AECT Robert deKieffer 2019 International Scholarship Award for her exemplary research at EdTech. Savita Abraham of IIT Madras together with his team innovated “FairKM”, a new algorithm that makes artificial intelligence less biased when processing data.
Equitable participation of women in higher education will help India make a vital contribution to sustainable development. Along with the provision of equal access to education, quality and affordability must also be emphasized.
Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” is the Minister of Human Resources Development
The opinions expressed are personal.