Women’s Education in India – An Overview


  •  History of female education in India
  • Women education during British Raj
  • Women’s Education in Modern India
  • Importance of girl child education
  • Initiatives to promote women’s education in India

History of Female Education in India

If we look back at ancient Indian history, we will find more than one example of educated women. Though not as popular as educated men, the concept of women’s education is not new in India.

Gargi, an ancient woman philosopher between the 9th -7th centuries BCE, was profound in Vedic literature. Another example is that of Maitreyi.

Maitreyi was an Indian Philosopher who lived in the Vedic period. These are just a few examples of women’s education in India.

The history of female education in India has shown that women’s education was not ignored during the Vedic period. However, gradually over the years, the significance of women’s education in India was lost.

The reasons for the significant departure in female education in India are many. Let’s look at some of the barriers to female education in India.

Barriers to Female Education in India

1. Lack of Infrastructure and Facilities

Women’s education in India declined in popularity because of the lack of proper infrastructure and facilities for women.

Separate bathrooms and toilets in schools and colleges are some of the reasons female education in India did not develop.

2. Perception of Women in Society

One of the main barriers to female education in India is the perception of women in society. The ancient Indian Society was predominantly patriarchal, giving little room for women’s education.

Women in ancient times rarely went out of their homes. They cooked and looked after the family’s needs while the man went out of the house to earn a living.

While cooking and looking after the home did not require a strong educational background, going out of the house to do business demanded an education.

Therefore, the perception of women in society was a strong barrier to female education in India.

3. Co-Education Problems

While all-girl schools were unheard of during the olden days, co-education schools were also not popular. Women sitting side by side with men was not a done act during the ancient period.

4. Child Marriage

During the early civilization period, women were married off at an early age. This prevented them from access to education.

5. Lack of Enthusiasm

Another one of the problems of girl child education in India is the lack of enthusiasm among officials to promote women’s education in India.

All these were significant barriers to female education in India. However, the British era in India brought about significant changes and developments to women’s education in India.

Women’s Education During the British Raj

The British Raj brought about significant changes in the education system in the country. The British tried to change the mindset of the citizens of the country with a considerable amount of success.

Several social reformers and educationalists initiated an all-inclusive educational system in the country.

The Hunter commission of 1882 was one of the earliest reports based on the education system in the country.

The Hunter commission of 1882 had significant recommendations that resulted in changes in the education system including women’s education in India.

  • Preference was given to literate candidates for government jobs in the lower levels, along with the expansion of primary schools in backward districts.
  • District and municipal boards were entrusted with the management of primary education under the Local Self Government Act. The funds were separated for rural and urban areas to avoid funds earmarked for rural schools being misappropriated by urban schools.
  • Secondary schools were to be established by private parties with funds provided by the government. Model schools fully run by the government were to be opened in each district to guide such private schools.
  • The secondary school curriculum was also revised with academic and vocational courses diversified into different branches.
  • Missionary schools were discouraged, and Indian participation in the private school system was solicited by the raj. Special care was supposed to be taken in advancing the education of girls and women.

Social Reformers Who Uplifted Women’s Education in India

Consequently, many Indian social reformers contributed greatly to the upliftment of women and women’s education in India.

1. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar pleaded for educating women after realizing the problems of girl child education in India, and in this regard, opened many schools for girls at his own expense.

2. Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Raja Ram Mohan Roy promoted women’s education during his time. He believed that unless women were educated, the country will not prosper.

3. Manockjee Cursetjee

In 1859, Manockjee Cusetjee started an English school for girls to promote education among women in India.

4. Jyotirao Govindrao Phule

A social reformer born in 1827, Jyotirao Govindrao Phule, worked toward the upliftment of women from the lower strata of society by providing them the opportunity for education.

He first educated his wife, who then, along with her husband, started a school for girls.

As seen from above, Women’s education in India was promoted to a great extent during the British period.

Britishers and social reformers brought about significant changes to the education system to bring about an all-inclusive education system.

Women’s Education in Modern India

Today, women’s education in India is at a critical juncture. With two sections of society at the two ends of a balance.

One section of society is of the opinion that women do not deserve to have high education levels whereas the other section of the society believes in taking female education in India to greater heights.

Fortunately, the greater half of the society believes in women empowerment and female education in India.

Social changes and Government regulations are some of the significant steps towards a positive change in women’s education in India.

A survey conducted for the use of the Indian Parliament quoted the literacy rate of women in India

According to the female education in India statistics, there has been a significant jump in the rate of literacy among women in India.

Literacy Rate of India(Census 2011):

Census year Total Population (per cent ) Males (per cent) Females (per cent)
1951 18.3 27.2 8.9
1961 28.3 40.4 15.4
1971 34.5 46.0 22.0
1981 43.6 56.4 29.8
1991 52.2 64.1 39.8
2001 64.8 75.3 53.7
2011 74.00 80.9 64.6


With regard to female education in India statistics, 2011, Rajasthan recorded the lowest literacy rate at 52.66%, and the highest literacy state was confirmed as Kerala with a literacy rate of 91.98%.

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Importance of Girl Child Education in India

Women’s education in India is significant and important. Here are some of the reasons why female education in India is important:

1. Gender Equality

One of the major importance of girl child education in India is that it will enable women to remove inequalities based on gender in society.

Women can apply for the same jobs as men and get paid the same amount thus negating any gender discrimination.

2. Economic Conditions

Another significant benefit of women’s education in India is that educated women will be able to raise the standard of living for themselves and their families.

Women will be able to supplement the single-income household and thereby raise the standards of living for an average Indian family.

3. Family Planning

Education among women will make women aware of family planning and the benefits of small families. This will go a long way when it comes to controlling the population of the country.

4. Reduction in Female Infanticide

Educating women and allowing women to earn will have a significant impact on female infanticide in the country.

People will realize that women too, are as important as male children. Thus removing the illusion that the girl child is a burden on a family.

5. Educated Women – Healthier Families

Another importance of girl child education in India is that educated women will be able to rear and nurture children better.

Educated mothers will know the importance of healthy and nutritious food and will be able to provide this to their family members.

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Some Significant Steps Towards Women Education in India

1. Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao

Launched by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in 2015, the scheme aims at encouraging women education in India

2. Selfie with Daughter

This was a social media campaign that was an initiative to promote the feeling of pride as a parent of a daughter.

3. Bill to Raise the Marriageable Age to 21

Another significant step towards women’s education in India is the Governments initiative to increase the marriageable age of women from 18 to 21.

The bill stated “Women are often put in a disadvantageous position regarding higher education, vocational instruction, attainment of psychological maturity and skill-sets. The increase in the marriage age of women is also expected to lower maternal and infant mortality rates and improve nutrition and sex ratio.”


A CBSE initiative for girl students, this scheme promotes and supports education among girls students by providing books and other essentials to girl students.


Women’s Education in India is gaining popularity. The government as well as private investors are investing in schemes that promote education among the girls.

Today, India is seeing a shift in society, where women are hailed in all aspects of life, be it at home, in careers, or in politics. In the projected years to come, India may see more women at the forefront.

A good education is a foundation for a better future.

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