An Essay On Importance Of Female Education

Female education is a catch-all term of a complex set of issues and debates surrounding education (primary education, secondary education,tertiary education, and health education in particular) for girls and women. It includes areas of gender equality and access to education, and its connection to the alleviation of poverty. Also involved are the issues of single-sex education and religious education, in that the division of education along gender lines as well as religious teachings on education have been traditionally dominant and are still highly relevant in contemporary discussions of educating females as a global consideration. In the field of female education in STEM, it has been shown that girls’ and women under-representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is deep rooted.[1]

While the feminist movement certainly promoted the importance of the issues attached to female education, the discussion is wide-ranging and by no means narrowly defined. It may include, for example, AIDS education.[2] Universal education, meaning state-provided primary and secondary education independent of gender is not yet a global norm, even if it is assumed in most developed countries. In some Western countries, women have surpassed men at many levels of education. For example, in the United States in 2005/2006, women earned 62% of associate degrees, 58% of bachelor's degrees, 60% of master's degrees, and 50% of doctorates.[3]

Education for disabled women has also improved. In 2011, Giusi Spagnolo became the first woman with Down Syndrome to graduate college in Europe (she graduated from the University of Palermo in Italy).[4][5]

Improving girls' educational levels has been demonstrated to have clear impacts on the health and economic future of young women, which in turn improves the prospects of their entire community .[6] The infant mortality rate of babies whose mothers have received primary education is half that of children whose mothers are illiterate.[7] In the poorest countries of the world, 50% of girls do not attend secondary school. Yet, research shows that every extra year of school for girls increases their lifetime income by 15%. Improving female education, and thus the earning potential of women, improves the standard of living for their own children, as women invest more of their income in their families than men do.[8] Yet, many barriers to education for girls remain. In some African countries, such as Burkina Faso, girls are unlikely to attend school for such basic reasons as a lack of private latrine facilities for girls.[9]

Higher attendance rates of high schools and university education among women, particularly in developing countries, have helped them make inroads to professional careers with better-paying salaries and wages. Education increases a woman's (and her partner and the family's) level of health and health awareness. Furthering women's levels of education and advanced training also tends to lead to later ages of initiation of sexual activity and first intercourse, later age at first marriage, and later age at first childbirth, as well as an increased likelihood to remain single, have no children, or have no formal marriage and alternatively, have increasing levels of long-term partnerships. It can lead to higher rates of barrier and chemical contraceptive use (and a lower level of sexually transmitted infections among women and their partners and children), and can increase the level of resources available to women who divorce or are in a situation of domestic violence. It has been shown, in addition, to increase women's communication with their partners and their employers, and to improve rates of civic participation such as voting or the holding of office.[10][11]

Issues[edit]

Education and violence against women[edit]

In Pakistan, a negative relationship was found between the formal level of education a woman attains and the likelihood of violence against that woman (After, 2013). The researcher used snowball convenient sampling, a sampling method where participants are referred. Ethical and privacy issues made this the most convenient method. An informant played a major role in gathering information that was then cross-checked. The sample of victims of violence was made up of married women from ages 18–60 both from rural and urban communities. The study described different forms of physical violence that are already present and provided an idea of what women go through, even across communities (rural and urban). Education in this study was stressed to be the solution and a necessity in eliminating violence. A discussion of political and social barriers is needed.[12]

The relationship is a lot more complicated than it seems, women can be illiterate but still become empowered (Marrs Fuchsel, 2014). Immigrant Latina Women (ILW) were part of a qualitative study of 8 to 10 participant groups, at a time, and completed an 11-week program centered on self-esteem, domestic violence awareness and healthy relationships. Immigrant Latina Women (ILW) are a highly affected group by domestic violence. Though this program took place outside of a traditional classroom, dialogue, critical thinking and emotional well-being were stressed, areas that should be acquired while in school. Lastly, though many of the women were illiterate they were still able to come away with a stronger sense of control over their own lives, an important life skill.[13]

Education and women's empowerment[edit]

Education systems vary in administration, curriculum and personnel, but all have an influence on the students that they serve. As women have gained rights, formal education has become a symbol of progress and a step toward gender equity. In order for true gender equity to exist, a holistic approach needs to be taken. The discussion of girl power and women’s education as solutions for eliminating violence against women and economic dependence on men can sometimes take dominance and result in the suppression of understanding how context, history and other factors affect women (Khoja-Moolji, 2015). For example, when past secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, referenced the tragedies of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan and the girls kidnapping in Chibok, Nigeria as comparable, using girls’ education as the focus, history and context were ignored. What led to the shooting of Malala was reduced to being solely about her educating herself as a girl. United States interference, poverty, and government corruption and instability were not addressed.[14]

Education systems and schools play a central role in determining girls’ interest in various subjects, including STEM subjects, which can contribute to women's empowerment by providing equal opportunities to access and benefit from quality STEM education.[1]

Women's empowerment and international development[edit]

Micro- and macro level factors that get attention by international development agencies (IDA) vary. For example, reaching a quota of representatives in political positions (macro level) but ignoring how home life pressures (micro level) do not actually leave women at a position of free self-expression (Stromquist, 2015). IDA’s tend to focus on numbers and on information provided by the national governments. This ignores the possibility that national governments are not the most reliable or trust worthy. Programs put on by FAWE (Forum for African American Educationalists) called Tuseme clubs in Africa, which are Non Formal Education programs, are explored as they have proven successful and effective but do not get enough support from the government to be replicated. Tuseme means “let’s speak out” in Swahili and in action the programs tailor to each participating school, focusing on communication and life skills, keeping the community in mind. The program is set up as an extracurricular activity that focuses on issues through tools like school newspapers, dance and theater. In this example, education and empowerment are tackled on outside the classroom.[15]

History[edit]

China[edit]

Along with the custom of footbinding among Chinese women that lasted through the end of the 19th century, it was recognized that a woman's virtue lay with her lack of knowledge.[citation needed] As a result, female education was not considered to be worthy of attention.[citation needed] With the arrival of numerous Christian missionaries from Britain and the US to China in the 19th century and some of them being involved in the starting of schools for women, female education started to receive some attention.

Due to the social custom that men and women should not be near one another, the women of China were reluctant to be treated by male doctors of Western medicine.This resulted in a tremendous need for women in Western medicine in China.Thus, female medical missionary, Dr.Mary H. Fulton (1854-1927),[16] was sent by the Foreign Missions Board of the Presbyterian Church (USA)to found the first medical college for women in China. Known as the Hackett Medical College for Women (夏葛女子醫學院),[17][18] this College was located in Guangzhou, China, and was enabled by a large donation from Mr. Edward A.K. Hackett (1851-1916) of Indiana, United States. The College was dedicated in 1902 and offered a four-year curriculum. By 1915, there were more than 60 students, mostly in residence. Most students became Christians, due to the influence of Dr. Fulton. The College was officially recognized, with its diplomas marked with the official stamp of the Guangdong provincial government. The College was aimed at the spreading of Christianity and modern medicine and the elevation of Chinese women's social status. The David Gregg Hospital for Women and Children (also known as Yuji Hospital 柔濟醫院[19][20] was affiliated with this College. The graduates of this College included Lee Sun Chau (周理信, 1890-1979, alumna of (Belilios Public School) and WONG Yuen-hing (黃婉卿), both of whom graduated in the late 1910s [21][22] and then practiced medicine in the hospitals in Guangdong province.

Education after the establishment of the People's Republic of China[edit]

Between the years 1931 and 1945, the percent of uneducated women was over 90%, and most of the women who were educated had only completed the elementary level.[23] In the 1950s, after the establishment of People Republic China, the government started a civilization project.[24] It enabled large amounts of uneducated women to learn basic writing and calculation. This project raised the proportion of educated women. It was promoted not only in cities but also in rural area. Villages had their own elementary schools. Instead of only taking care of children and chores at home, middle-aged women had chances to learn writing and reading in local schools.

In the 1980s, Chinese central government passed a new education law, which required local governments to promote 9-year obligation education nationwide [25] The new education law guaranteed education rights until middle school. Before the 1960s, female enrollment in elementary school was 20%. 20 years after publishment of education law, in the year 1995, this percentage had increased to 98.2%. By 2003, proportion of female who dropped from middle school decreased to 2.49%.[26]

According to the fifth national census in 2000, the average education length of females is up to 7.4 years. This digit increases from 7.0 years to 7.4 years in 3 years. However, the female education duration is still 0.8 year less than male's duration. This gap in higher-level of education is larger in rural areas.In the countryside, parents tend to use their limited resources for sons because they believe sons have abilities to bring more back and their contributes but also in rural area. Villages had their own elementary schools. Instead of only taking care of children and chores at home, middle-aged women had chances to learn writing and reading in local schools.

In the 1980s, Chinese central government passed a new education law, which required local governments to promote 9-year obligation education nationwide [25] The new education law guaranteed education rights until middle school. Before the 1960s, female enrollment in elementary school was 20%. 20 years after publishment of education law, in the year 1995, this percentage had increased to 98.2%. By 2003, proportion of female who dropped from middle school decreased to 2.49%.[26]

According to the fifth national census in 2000, the average education length of females is up to 7.4 years. This digit increases from 7.0 years to 7.4 years in 3 years. However, the female education duration is still 0.8 year less than male's duration. This gap in higher-level of education is larger in rural areas.In the countryside, parents tend to use their limited resources for sons because they believe sons have abilities to bring more back and their contributions to family in the future are more significant than daughters. In an investigation, parents are 21.9% more likely to stop financing girls' education if they come into financial problems and family issues. Boys are provided with more opportunities for further studying, especially after middle school. This difference became more evident in the universities.[27]

When time comes into the 21st century, university education is becoming more prevalent.The total enrollment goes up. Compare to the year of 1977, which is the first year when college entrance examination was recovered, the admission rate increased from 4.8% to 74.86%.[28] Since the general admission has largely risen, more students got into universities. Although women are assumed to own the same rights of general education, they are forced to do better in the Chinese college entrance examination (Gaokao) than males. Girls need to achieve higher grades than male students in order to get into the same level university. It is an invisible ceiling for Chinese female, especially in the top universities. It is not a public rule but a mainstream consensus among most of Chinese university admission offices. According to a telephone interview with an officer, who declined to give her name, at the Teaching Office at the China University of Political Science and Law, "female students must account for less than 15 percent of students because of the nature of their future career."[29]

Islamic countries[edit]

See also: Madrasah: Female education and Women's literary salons and societies in the Arab World

Women in Islam played an important role in the foundations of many educational institutions, such as Fatima al-Fihri's founding of the University of Al Karaouine, the oldest existing, continually operating and first degree awarding educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records,[30][31] in 859. This continued through to the Ayyubid dynasty in the 12th and 13th centuries, when 160 mosques (places of worship) and madrasas (places of education) were established in Damascus, 26 of which were funded by women through the Waqf (charitable trust or trust law) system. Half of all the royal patrons for these institutions were also women.[32]

According to the Sunni scholar Ibn Asakir, in the 12th century, there were opportunities for female education in the mediaeval Islamic world. Asakir wrote that women should study, earn ijazahs (academic degrees), and qualify as scholars and teachers. This was especially the case for learned and scholarly families, who wanted to ensure the highest possible education for both their sons and daughters.[33] Ibn Asakir himself had studied under 80 different female teachers in his time. According to a hadith collected in the Saḥih of al-Bukhārī, the women of Medina who aided Muhammad were notable for not letting social mores restrain their education in religious knowledge.[34]

"How splendid were the women of the anṣār; shame did not prevent them from becoming learned [yatafaqqahna] in the faith."

While it was unusual for females to enroll as students in formal classes, it was common for women to attend informal lectures and study sessions at mosques, madrasas, and other public places. While there were no legal restrictions on female education, some men, such as Muhammad ibn al-Hajj (d. 1336), did not approve of this practice and were appalled at the behaviour of some women who informally audited lectures in his time.[35]

While women accounted for no more than one percent of Islamic scholars prior to the 12th century, there was a large increase of female scholars after this. In the 15th century, al-Sakhawi devoted an entire volume of his 12-volume biographical dictionary al-Ḍawʾ al-lāmiʻ to female scholars, giving information on 1,075 of them.[36] More recently, the scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi, currently a researcher from the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, has written 40 volumes on the muḥaddithāt (the women scholars of ḥadīth), and found at least 8,000 of them.[37]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Main article: Women's education in Saudi Arabia

Islamic Republic of Iran[edit]

Since the 1979 revolution, Iran was under control of Islamic rules, the progress of female education was affected by Islamic monarchy. Women are forced to wear veiling and are prevented from going to the same school as male students. Female students have to learn different versions of textbooks, which are special editions only for female students. Unmarried women are ineligible for financial aid if they attempt to study abroad. Throughout the past 30 years, the issue of female education has been constantly under debate.[38]

Iranian women do have desires and abilities to pursue further education. An Iranian high school student can earn a diploma after studying 3 years. If students aim to enter colleges, they will stay in the high schools for the fourth year study, which has very intense study. According to researches, 42% of female students choose to have fourth year in the high school but only 28% of male students choose to study in order to enter university. Moreover, women have a much higher probability than men to pass college entrance exams. Islamic female are in need of achieving higher education and truth proved that their abilities are enough for getting higher education. The education opportunities for female need more national attention and less regulations.[38]

During 1978 and 1979, the proportion of women who participated in universities as students or faculties was rather low. 31% of students admitted to universities were women. For faculty gender composition, there are 14% female. This situation has changed with time passing by. University enrollment was decreased under the influence of Iranian Cultural Revolution. The general enrollment population declined during that time. After the cultural revolution, the amount of enrollment was going up. The increase in the number of university students is accompanied with an increase in female rate.[38]

Islamic higher education contains 5 levels. The 5 levels are associate, bachelor's, master's, professional doctorate and specialized doctorate.[38] Before the revolution, the gender gap is obvious in master level and specialized doctorate, which are only 20% and 27%. It has changed after 30 years. In 2007, the female percent in master's degree rose up to 43% and for specialized doctorate degree, this data rose up to 33%.[39]

Female rate has not only increased in the students but also in faculty. 20 years ago, only 6% of all professors and 8% of all associated professors were women. Now 8% of all professors and 17% of all associated professors are female.[38]

Literacy programs[edit]

While formal education is prevalent amongst Iranian women, non-formal educational intuitions are an option as well. Non-formal education in the Islamic Republic of Iran originated from the Literary Movement Organization (LMO), which aspired to decrease illiteracy rates in the country. Established in 1984, LMO’s tremendous efforts rectified the Pahlavi regime’s neglect in regards to educating children and populations in rural areas. In the late 1980s, LMO created adult literacy programs, vocational-technical schools, and religious institutions to combat high illiteracy rates. Adult literacy programs teach introductory reading, writing, and math in two cycles. While reading, writing, dictation, and arithmetic are introduced in the first cycle, the second cycle delves into Islamic studies, experimental and social sciences, and the Persian language. Although these educational organizations are gender inclusive, they mainly cater to women; in fact, 71% of enrollees are women between the ages of 15-45. Throughout the 1990s, two-thirds of enrollees in literacy programs were women, which directly led to a dramatic rise (20%) in female literacy rates in Iran from 1987 to 1997.

Religious schools[edit]

Religious schools are another educational route for Iranian women. Their popularity is illustrated by the rise in the institution of "female seminaries" as of 2010. In 1984, Ayatollah Khomeini, former supreme leader of Iran, called for the creation of Jami‘at al-Zahra, an alliance of smaller religious schools. This led to the creation of the first female seminary in Iran. These institutions offer the opportunity to earn anything from high school diplomas to doctoral degrees. The acceptance rate for women into these religious institutions was 28% in 2010 (7,000 accepted out of 25,000 applicants).

Other educational routes[edit]

Newlyweds (women specifically) are educated on family planning, safe sex, and birth control in population control programs. In addition, the government has established rural health houses managed by local health workers. These health professionals travel to different areas in order to impart information about women’s health and birth control.

Europe[edit]

Ancient period[edit]

In ancient Rome, upperclass women seem to have been well-educated, some highly so, and were sometimes praised by male historians of the time for their learning and cultivation.[40]Cornelia Metella, for instance, was distinguished for her knowledge of geometry, literature, music, and philosophy.[41] In the wall paintings of Pompeii, women are more likely than men to be pictured with writing implements.[42] Some women had sufficient knowledge of Roman the law and oratorical training to conduct court cases on their own behalf, or on behalf of others.[43] Among occupations that required education, women could be scribes and secretaries, calligraphers,[44] and artists.[45]

Some and perhaps many Roman girls went to a ludus. Boys and girls were educated either together or with similar methods and curriculum. One passage in Livy's history assumes that the daughter of a centurion would be in school; the social rank of a centurion was typically equivalent to modern perceptions of the "middle class".[46] Girls as well as boys participated in public religious festivals, and sang advanced choral compositions that would require formal musical training.[47]

Medieval period[edit]

Medieval education for females was typically tied to a convent. Research has uncovered that several early women educators were in charge of schools for girls:

St. Ita of Ireland - died 570 AD. Founder and teacher of a co-ed school for girls and boys at her monastery of Cell Ide. Several important saints studied under her, including St. Brendan the Navigator.[48]

Caesaria the Younger - died 550 AD. Successor to the sister of St. Caesarius and abbess of the convent he founded for her nuns, Caesaria the Younger continued the teaching of over a hundred women at the convent and aided in the copying and preservation of books.[49]

St. Hilda of Whitby - died 680 AD. Founder of the co-ed monastery of Whitby (men and women lived in separate houses), she established a center of education in her monastery similar to what was founded by the Frankish nuns. According to the Venerable Bede, "Her prudence was so great, that not only meaner men in their need, but sometimes even kings and princes, sought and received her counsel."[50]

St. Bertilla - died c. 700 AD. Queen Bathild requested her services for the convent she had founded at Chelle. Her pupils founded convents in other parts of western Europe, including Saxony.[51]

St. Leoba - died 782 AD. St. Boniface requested her presence on his mission to the Germans and while there she founded an influential convent and school.

St. Bede the Venerable reports that noble-women were often sent to these schools for girls even if they did not intend to pursue the religious life,[52] and St. Aldhelm praised their curriculum for including grammar, poetry, and Scriptural study.[53] The biography of Sts. Herlinda and Renilda also demonstrates that women in these convent schools could be trained in art and music.[54]

During the reign of Emperor Charlemagne, he had his wife and daughters educated in the liberal arts at the Palace Academy of Aachen,[55] for which he is praised in the Vita Karolini Magni. There is evidence that other nobles had their daughters educated at the Palace Academy as well. In line with this, authors such as Vincent of Beauvais indicate that the daughters of the nobility were widely given to education so that they could live up to their social position to come.

Early modern period, humanist attitudes[edit]

In early modern Europe, the question of female education had become a commonplace one, in other words a literary topos for discussion. Around 1405 Leonardo Bruni wrote De studies et letteris,[56] addressed to Baptista di Montefeltro, the daughter of Antonio II da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino; it commends the study of Latin, but warns against arithmetic, geometry, astrology and rhetoric. In discussing the classical scholar Isotta Nogarola, however, Lisa Jardine[57] notes that (in the middle of the 15th century), ‘Cultivation’ is in order for a noblewoman; formal competence is positively unbecoming.Christine de Pisan's Livre des Trois Vertus is contemporary with Bruni's book, and sets down the things which a lady or baroness living on her estates ought to be able to do.[58]

In his 1516 book Utopia, Thomas More advocated for women to have the right to education.[59]

Erasmus wrote at length about education in De pueris instituendis (1529, written two decades before); not mostly concerned with female education,[60] in this work he does mention with approbation the trouble Thomas More took with teaching his whole family.[61]Catherine of Aragon "had been born and reared in one of the most brilliant and enlightened of European courts, where the cultural equality of men and women was normal".[62] By her influence, she made education for English women both popular and fashionable. In 1523, Juan Luis Vives, a follower of Erasmus, wrote in Latin his De institutione feminae Christianae.[63] This work was commissioned by Catherine, who had charge of the education of her daughter for the future Queen Mary I of England; in translation it appeared as Education of a Christian Woman.[64] It is in line with traditional didactic literature, taking a strongly religious direction.[65] It also placed a strong emphasis on Latin literature.[66] Also Comenius was an advocate of formal education for women.[67] In fact his emphasis was on a type of universal education making no distinction between humans; with an important component allowed to parental input, he advocated in his Pampaedia schooling rather than other forms of tutoring, for all.[68]

The Reformation prompted the establishment of compulsory education for boys and girls. Most important was Martin Luther's text 'An die Ratsherren aller Städte deutschen Landes,' (1524) with the call for establishing schools.[69] Especially the Protestant South-West of the Holy Roman Empire, with cities like Strassburg, became pioneers in educational questions. Under the influence of Strasbourg in 1592 the German Duchy Pfalz-Zweibrücken became the first territory of the world with compulsory education for girls and boys.[70]

Elizabeth I of England had a strong humanist education, and was praised by her tutor Roger Ascham.[71] She fits the pattern of education for leadership, rather than for the generality of women. When Johannes Sturm published Latin correspondence with Ascham centred on the achievements in humanist study of Elizabeth and other high-ranking English persons, in Konrad Heresbach's De laudibus Graecarum literarum oratio (1551), the emphasis was on the nobility of those tackling the classics, rather than gender.[72]

Modern period[edit]

The issue of female education in the large, as emancipatory and rational, is broached seriously in the Enlightenment. Mary Wollstonecraft, who worked as a teacher, governess, and school-owner, wrote of it in those terms. Her first book was Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, years before the publication of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

The Commission of National Education in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, founded in 1777, considered the first Ministry of Education in history, was a central, autonomous body responsible for nationwide, secular and coeducational training. In the late 19th century, in what was then the Russian province of Poland, in response to the lack of higher training for women, the so-called Flying University was organized, where women were taught covertly by Polish scholars and academics. Its most famous student was Maria Skłodowska-Curie, better known as Marie Curie, who went on to win two Nobel Prizes.

Much education was channelled through religious establishments. Not all of these educated women only for marriage and motherhood; for example, Quaker views on women had allowed much equality from the foundation of the denomination in the mid-17th century. The abolitionistWilliam Allen and his wife Grizell Hoare set up the Newington Academy for Girls in 1824, teaching an unusually wide range of subjects from languages to sciences. The first state-financed higher education institution for women in Europe, was established by Catherine II of Russia

Actual progress in institutional terms, for secular education of women, began in the West in the 19th century, with the founding of colleges offering single-sex education to young women. These appeared in the middle of the century. The Princess: A Medley, a narrative poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, is a satire of women's education, still a controversial subject in 1848, when Queen's College first opened in London. Emily Davies campaigned for women's education in the 1860s, and founded Girton College in 1869, as did Anne Clough found Newnham College in 1875. Progress was gradual, and often depended on individual efforts - for example, those of Frances Lupton, which led to the founding of the Leeds Girls' High School in 1876. W. S. Gilbert parodied Tennyson's poem and treated the themes of women's higher education and feminism in general with The Princess in (1870) and Princess Ida in 1883.

Once women began to graduate from institutions of higher education, there steadily developed also a stronger academic stream of schooling, and the teacher training of women in larger numbers, principally to provide primary education. Women's access to traditionally all-male institutions took several generations to become complete.

Educational reform[edit]

The interrelated themes of barriers to education and employment continued to form the backbone of feminist thought in the 19th century, as described, for instance by Harriet Martineau in her 1859 article "Female Industry" in the Edinburgh Journal. Despite the changes in the economy, the position of women in society had not greatly improved and unlike Frances Power Cobbe, Martineau did not support the emerging call for the vote for practical reasons.

Slowly the efforts of women like Emily Davies and the Langham group (under Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon) started to make inroads. Queen's College (1848) and Bedford College (1849) in London started to offer some education to women, and by 1862 Davies was establishing a committee to persuade the universities to allow women to sit for the recently established (1858) Cambridge Local Examinations, with partial success (1865). A year later she published The Higher Education of Women. She and Bodichon founded the first higher educational institution for women, with five students, which became Girton College, Cambridge in 1873, followed by Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford in 1879. Bedford had started awarding degrees the previous year. Despite these measurable advances, few could take advantage of them and life for women students was very difficult.

As part of the continuing dialogue between British and American feminists, Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the US to graduate in medicine (1849), lectured in Britain with Langham support. They also supported Elizabeth Garrett’s attempts to assail the walls of British medical education against strong opposition; she eventually took her degree in France. Garrett's successful campaign to run for office on the London School Board in 1870 is another example of how a small band of determined women were starting to reach positions of influence at the level of local government and public bodies.

Africa[edit]

Christian missionaries in the 19th century opened modern educational methods, but they usually focused on boys. After early experiments they settled on promoting ideology of domestic femininity imparted through girls' schooling.[73] In South Africa after 1820, male Scottish missionaries decided that only the most basic education was necessary to prepare native women for the propagation of Christianity within the home. They prevented female teachers from operating in the Scottish mission's territory. They delayed the establishment of a Girls' Department at Lovedale Institution. Finally new leadership arrived who had a broader vision of uplifting native women so they could promote Christianity and Western gender codes.[74]

Muslims from India who came to East Africa in the late 19th century brought along a highly restrictive policy against schooling for their girls.[75]

As of 2015, Priscilla Sitienei is attending elementary school in Kenya at age 92; if confirmed by the Guinness World Records, she would be the oldest student in elementary school.[76]

West Africa[edit]

Pre-colonial[edit]

Women's education in West Africa manifested in both formal and informal structures, with one of the more notable structures that had influence on women's education being preparatory schools labeled "Bush Schools." [77] These bush schools were institutions that would oftentimes boast near 100% graduation rates and completed courses. They were organized by women and had a planned, structured curriculum, which included learning how to do skills such as learning how to "fish, cook, weave, spin cotton, dress hair, and make baskets, musical instruments, pots, and fishing nets."[77] Much of the scholarship and research on these schools arises from the Bundu schools of Sierra Leone. In addition to these skills, girls would often be given reproductive education, such as birth control techniques or child rearing skills. In particular to the Bundu schools, women would be given an intense education in medicinal herbs and home medicinal skills.[77] These schools didn't just teach educational curriculum (such as history passed on through songs and dances), but enabled the transmission of cultural values and were centers of female power. Despite the colonial and post-colonial ideal that women ought to be educated just to serve decorative or child-bearing maternal roles, these institutions taught women to play central economic, corporate and familial roles in their communities.[77]

Colonial[edit]

Early colonial forms of education on the West African coasts, particularly among the Dahomey, Asante and Yorùbá people, were pioneered by missionaries and institutions that were trying to educate religious thought in addition to teaching more traditional western educational topics such as reading and writing.[78] As early as 1529, King John III of Portugal had given instruction to open schools and provide education in "religious thought, reading and writing" and for the instructors to be paid by the pupil.[78] For women in particular however, these colonial forms of education brought with them European ideals of women's roles in the family, society and economy. These Western ideas of womanhood oftentimes contrasted with women's roles in the economy, society, or in the home.[79] For example, Igbo women had associations known as Mikiri, which were economic and social forums for women in which they discussed direct action to enforce their interests, that were largely misunderstood and disregarded by the British colonial government. Hence, as the British colonial government introduced schools to the region, they ignored educating women to fill economic roles in the community.[80] In fact, the educational ideal of men as "breadwinners", i.e. the primary financial support of a nuclear family structure, was introduced by the British colonial state in West Africa.[81]

One of the groups of people that the colonial governments in West Africa put heavy import on educating were the mixed children of white people, typically men, and indigenous people, typically women. In pre-British colonist state Ghana, when much of the interaction between indigenous people and Europeans was through Dutch traders, mixed race children of traders and indigenous people were removed from their indigenous communities and placed in Dutch educational institutions in Ghana.[82] In these early colonial schools the education was also gendered by Western standards: the boys were educated from a young age to be military officers in the Dutch army and the girls were educated to be married to Dutch military officers in the region.[82]

One of the other ways through which colonizing countries were able to exert influence and indirect rule over the indigenous people was through maternal education. In colonial Ghana, Methodist missionaries led classes teaching western methods of hygiene and child birth to the indigenous mothers or mothers-to-be.[79] The missionaries tried to construct an ideal of motherhood that matched white European middle-class standards, irrespective of the social context of the ideals of motherhood in place in the Asante societies they were located in.[79]

Contemporary[edit]

In post-colonial West Africa, many of the ideals of Western education have remained while much of the infrastructure and funding left with the colonial presence.[83] Particularly in Nigeria, formal education was seen as a policy making tool, as women's formal education has been linked to having effects on "population growth, health, nutrition, fertility, infant mortality, and changes in women's productivity and earnings."[84] Researchers have cited some disadvantages however to this reliance on women's formal education. One, there is concern for women being alienated from their indigenous cultures and not receiving the education in values that were typically received through pre-colonial indigenous educational systems.[83] In addition, there is an increasing body of literature that suggests how the formal education institutions channel women into particular lower-earning job fields such as the humanities, while guiding women away from more technical jobs with higher wages.[83]

In regards to academic achievement, according to the FAWE Conference girls across the Sub-Saharan region reported lower scores in Math and Science subjects.[85] The tendency for girls to be pushed into clerical positions upon finishing school is also a widely researched and held belief.[83] Despite this, formal education offers many benefits recognized internationally. The Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women has released publications citing numerous ways through which women's education in Africa is beneficial to society as a whole. These entail an increase in family health, in higher wage jobs available to women, an improvement in quality standards of childhood development, and a greater inclusion of women in decisions making that can impact a nation in environmental, political, social and economic ways.[85] Despite there being a drop in participation of women in education in the majority of countries in West Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, rates of women education have been steadily climbing since then. However, there is still much statistical gender disparity as according to UNESCO statistics on women's enrollment and graduation rates.

Gender disparities[edit]

One of the primary ways in which there are gender disparities in education in West Africa are in the ratios of male to female participation: 43.6% of men have completed primary education as opposed to 35.4% of women, 6.0% of men have completed secondary education as opposed to 3.3% of women, and 0.7% of men have completed tertiary education as opposed to 0.2% of women.[86] Some of the reasons for poor enrollment and participation is the "male breadwinner" ideal that prioritizes educating boys over girls and limited funds available to families for education. In addition, in West Africa women are seen as the primary providers of unpaid care work. This offers competing demands on the time of girls and oftentimes their families will prioritize girls' spending time taking care of siblings or doing domestic labor.[85] In addition, a leading cause of gender disparities in education are gender disparities in the labor market, which lead to gendered ideas of women's role in a society.[87]

In addition to this, some gender disparities are caused by teacher's attitudes towards students in the classroom according to the students' gender.[88] There are some preconceived notions that boys are more intelligent and harder working than girls in some West African countries. In particular in Guinea, surveys have been taken by researchers suggesting that school teachers, particularly in rural schools, believe that boys learn lessons better, have more ambition, are smarter, and work harder, while girls make less effort, rarely give good responses to questions, and use poor French expression.[88] In addition in both urban and rural schools analyzed, girls were expected to do the manual labor to keep the schools clean while this expectation was not held for the boys.[88]

Gender disparities in higher education persist as well, with women accounting for a little over 20% of university level enrollment in all of Sub-Saharan Africa, and countries in West Africa such as Niger and Ghana reporting rates of 15% and 21%, respectively.[89] This is considered a contributing factor to why there are so few women in higher level management and administrative jobs.[85] In Ghana in 1990, women made up less than 1% of managers in the labor market, but with an average annual growth rate of 3.2%.[89] Researchers hope that improving primary education attainment and accomplishment will lead to more attainment and accomplishment in the tertiary educational level and in the labor market.[85]

India[edit]

Ancient Vedic age (~1000 BC)[edit]

The history of female education in India has its roots in ancient Vedic age.

During the Vedic age, more than 3,000 years ago, women were assigned a high place in society. They shared an equal standing with their men folk and enjoyed a kind of liberty that actually had societal sanctions. The ancient Hindu philosophical concept of 'shakti', the feminine principle of energy, was also a product of this age. This took the form of worship of the female idols or goddesses. In India even today people worship Goddess "Saraswati" as the Goddess of education. Vedic literature praises the birth of a scholarly daughter in these words: "A girl also should be brought up and educated with great effort and care." (Mahanirvana Tantra); and "All forms of knowledge are aspects of Thee; and all women throughout the world are Thy forms." (Devi Mahatmya).

Women, who so desired, could undergo the sacred thread ceremony or 'Upanayana' (a sacrament to pursue Vedic studies), which is only meant for males even to this day. The mention of female scholars and sages of the Vedic age like Vac, Ambhrni, Romasa, Gargi, Khona in the Vedic lore corroborates this view. These highly intelligent and greatly learned women, who chose the path of Vedic studies, were called 'brahmavadinis', and women who opted out of education for married life were called 'sadyovadhus'. Co-education seems to have existed in this period and both the sexes got equal attention from the teacher. Moreover, ladies from the Kshatriya caste received martial arts courses and arms training. The Vedas have volumes to say about these women, who both complemented and supplemented their male partners.

Although in the Vedic period women had access to education in India, they had gradually lost this right. However, in the British period there was revival of interest in women’s education in India. During this period, various socio religious movements led by eminent persons like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar emphasized on women’s education in India. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Periyar and Baba Saheb Ambedkar were leaders of the lower castes in India who took various initiatives to make education available to the women of India. [90]

Women of the Vedic period (circa 1500-1200 BCE), were epitomes of intellectual and spiritual attainments. The Vedas have volumes to say about these women, who both complemented and supplemented their male partners. When it comes to talking about significant female figures of the Vedic period, four names - Ghosha, Lopamudra, Sulabha Maitreyi, and Gargi - come to mind.

Ghosha[edit]

Vedic wisdom is encapsulated in myriad hymns and 27 women-seers emerge from them. But most of them are mere abstractions except for a few, such as Ghosha, who has a definite human form. Granddaughter of Dirghatamas and daughter of Kakshivat, both composers of hymns (mainly saying good about someone)

in praise of Ashwins, Ghosha has two entire hymns of the tenth book, each containing 14 verses, assigned to her name. The first eulogizes the Ashwins, the heavenly twins who are also physicians; the second is a personal wish expressing her intimate feelings and desires for married life. Ghosha suffered from an incurable disfiguring disease, probably leprosy, and remained a spinster at her father's house. Her implorations with the Ashwins, and the devotion of her forefathers towards them made them cure her disease and allow her to experience wedded bliss.
Lopamudra[edit]

The Rig Veda ('Royal Knowledge') has long conversations between the sage Agasthya and his wife Lopamudra that testifies to the great intelligence and goodness of the latter. As the legend goes, Lopamudra was created by sage Agasthya and was given as a daughter to the King of Vidarbha. The royal couple gave her the best possible education and brought her up amidst luxury. When she attained a marriageable age, Agasthya, the sage who was under vows of celibacy and poverty, wanted to own her. Lopa agreed to marry him, and left her palace for Agasthya's hermitage. After serving her husband faithfully for a long period, Lopa grew tired of his austere practices. She wrote a hymn of two stanzas making an impassioned plea for his attention and love. Soon afterwards, the sage realized his duties towards his wife and performed both his domestic and ascetic life with equal zeal, reaching a wholeness of spiritual and physical powers. A son was born to them. He was named Dridhasyu, who later became a great poet.

Maitreyi[edit]

The Rig Veda contains about one thousand hymns, of which about 10 are accredited to Maitreyi, the woman seer and philosopher. She contributed towards the enhancement of her sage-husband Yajnavalkya's personality and the flowering of his spiritual thoughts. Yajnavalkya had two wives Maitreyi and Katyayani. While Maitreyi was well versed in the Hindu scriptures and was a 'brahmavadini', Katyayani was an ordinary woman. One day the sage decided to make a settlement of his worldly possessions between his two wives and renounce the world by taking up ascetic vows. He asked his wives their wishes. The learned Maitreyi asked her husband if all the wealth in the world would make her immortal. The sage replied that wealth could only make one rich, nothing else. She then asked for the wealth of immortality. Yajnavalkya was happy to hear this, and imparted Maitreyi the doctrine of the soul and his knowledge of attaining immortality.

Gargi[edit]

Gargi, the Vedic prophetess and daughter of sage Vachaknu, composed several hymns that questioned the origin of all existence. When King Janak of Videha organized a 'brahmayajna', a philosophic congress centered around the fire sacrament, Gargi was one of the eminent participants. She challenged the sage Yajnavalkya with a volley of perturbing questions on the soul or 'atman' that confounded the learned man who had till then silenced many an eminent scholar. Her question - "The layer that is above the sky and below the earth, which is described as being situated between the earth and the sky and which is indicated as the symbol of the past, present and future, where is that situated?" - bamboozled even the great Vedic men of letters.

British India[edit]

Girls' class in Afghanistan, 2002
Portrait emphasizing the female subject's literacy, from Pompeii, mid-1st century AD
Page from an illuminated manuscript from the late 10th century. The three nuns in front are all holding books, and the middle one appears to be teaching, gesturing to make a point.
Konrad Witz depicted Saint Catharine of Alexandria (on the right) as a crowned scholar holding a book. The patron saint of learning, Catholic hagiography credited Catharine with having won a dispute with fifty of the best pagan philosophers and orators of her time.
Bosnian Muslim and Christian women learning to read and write in 1948.
Mary Lyon (1797-1849) founded the first woman's college in the United States
London Mission Bengali Girls' School, Calcutta (LMS, 1869, p.12)[91]

Education is very important for every child whether boy or girl. It is sad that some communities still discriminate against the education of the girl child. About 57million children around the world are not going to school. The report, Children Still Battling to go to School, finds that 95% of the 28.5 million children not getting a primary school education live in low and lower-middle income countries – 44% in sub-Saharan Africa, 19% in south and west Asia and 14% in the Arab states, UNESCO said. Girls make up 55% of the total and were often the victims of rape and other sexual violence that accompanies armed conflicts, UNESCO said. As the world celebrates Malala’s birthday let us look at some of the reasons why girls should get an education.

1.FUTURE EDUCATED GENERATIONS – An African proverb says, “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.” By sending a girl to school, she is far more likely to ensure that her children also receive an education. As many claim, investing in a girl’s education is investing in a nation.

2.DECREASE INFANT MORTALITY: Children of educated women are less likely to die before their first birthday. Girls who receive an education are less likely to contact HIV & AIDS, and thus, less likely to pass it onto their children. Primary education alone helps reduce infant mortality significantly, and secondary education helps even more. The Girls Global Education Fund reports that when a child is born to a woman in Africa who hasn't received an education, he or she has a 1 in 5 chance of dying before 5.

3.DECREASE MATERNAL MORTALITY: Educated women (with greater knowledge of health care and fewer pregnancies) are less likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth, or during the postpartum period. Increased education of girls also leads to more female health care providers to assist with prenatal medical care, labor and delivery, delivery complications and emergencies, and follow-up care.

4.DECREASE CHILD MARRIAGE: Child marriage – in some cases involving girls as young as 6 or 8 – almost always results in the end of a girl’s schooling. The result is illiterate or barely literate young mothers without adequate tools to build healthy, educated families. On average, for every year a girl stays in school past fifth grade, her marriage is delayed a year. Educated girls typically marry later, when they are better able to bear and care for their children.

5.DECREASE POPULATION EXPLOSION: Educated women tend to have fewer (and healthier) babies. A 2000 study in Brazil found that literate women had an average of 2.5 children while illiterate women had an average of six children, according to UNESCO.

6.INCREASE INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICAL PROCESS: Educated women are more likely to participate in political discussions, meetings, and decision-making, which in turn promotes a more representative, effective government.

7.DECREASE DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE: Educated girls and women are less likely to be victims of domestic and sexual violence or to tolerate it in their families.

8.DECREASE SUPPORT FOR MILITANCY: As women become more educated, they are less likely to support militancy and terrorism than similarly educated men.

9.IMPROVE SOCIOECONOMIC GROWTH: Educated women have a greater chance of escaping poverty, leading healthier and more productive lives, and raising the standard of living for their children, families, and communities.

These and many more are some of the valuable reasons why we should all support education for girls. For every boy that is educated, every girl should be educated too.

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO IMPROVE GIRLS' ACCESS TO EDUCATION?

According to UNICEF, experience in scores of countries shows the importance, among other things, of:

1.Parental and community involvement -- Families and communities must be important partners with schools in developing curriculum and managing children's education.

2.Low-cost and flexible timetables -- Basic education should be free or cost very little. Where possible, there should be stipends and scholarships to compensate families for the loss of girls' household labour. Also, school hours should be flexible so children can help at home and still attend classes.

3.Schools close to home, with women teachers -- Many parents worry about girls travelling long distances on their own. Many parents also prefer to have daughters taught by women.

4.Preparation for school -- Girls do best when they receive early childhood care, which enhances their self-esteem and prepares them for school.

5.Relevant curricula -- Learning materials should be relevant to the girl's background and be in the local language. They should also avoid reproducing gender stereotypes.

Malala Yousafzi, the Pakistani schoolgirl brought to England after being shot in the head by the Taliban, will address the United Nations today. She will mark her 16th birthday by delivering a speech at the UN headquarters in New York to call on governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child.

It will be the teenager's first public speech since she was attacked on a bus in Pakistan's north-western Swat valley after standing up for her right to go to school in her home country.

She will tell a delegation of more than 500 young people: "Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.

"One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first."

Join hands and support #education for all boys and girls. No one should be left out. #MalalaDay

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