THE DECADE 1975-85 was observed the world over as Women's Decade as per U.N. General Assembly's resolution in 1975, at Mexico. The object of this paper is to highlight women's situation in the educational front in India during this decade.
The Indian educational system as well as other aspects of development by and large are the legacy of the colonial past. The reason for this predominance of the Raj on the country's policies and planning even after Independence could be linked with the historical conditions under which India achieved freedom, i.e., to the fact that independence was achieved through a national movement led by a powerful alliance of the landlords and capitalists which could not deliver the necessary historical blows to bring radical social transformation. After independence, the country's leadership came into the hands of nationalist leaders many of whom were greatly influenced by western liberal ideology. Besides, the unequal relations with imperialism continued. Thus the institutions and values prevailing under the Raj not only remained intact but also led to the import of new ideas unsuitable to Indian conditions. The cumulative effect was that India failed to evolve its own independent policies and education, a crucial agency for development, continued to play the role envisaged by Lord Macauley' way back in the early 19th century.
The colonial education policy promoted both imperialist and feudal values so as to strengthen and consolidate their rule. The benefits of this policy could only reach to a small section of those people suitable to the alien rulers and also to those who could be involved in the smooth running of the colonial administration as well as to extend support to strengthen and consolidate their power. This point could be substantiated by the fact that when the British left India only about 16 per cent of the total population were literate—an achievement of 112 years of colonial education policy since Macaulay's famous Minutes.
In the post-independence period, after 35 years of "planned" development in the country, the literacy rate has just reached nearly 36 per cent, a rate of increase of only 1 per cent per year. Of these nearly 13 per cent have
* Research Associate, Centre For Women's Development Studies, New Delhi.