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India will miss deadline for gender equality in education

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI NOV. 6. India will not only miss the Dakar goal of attaining gender parity — equal enrolment of boys and girls — by 2005, but in all likelihood will also not get there a decade later by when the world is to achieve gender equality in education.

While this dismal forecast has been made for India in the Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report released here today, some hope has been held out in the observation that policies can be put in place to accelerate the pace of progress.

With India slated to host the third high-level group meeting on the global campaign for EFA next week, New Delhi was chosen for the global launch of the report as it will set the agenda for the three-day exercise.

The report is based on past trends as the "gender parity prospects" are generally. The director of the report, C. Colclough, acknowledged the recent efforts made by India to meet the Dakar goals and did not rule out a change in pace. Briefing reporters after the release of the report, he said: "India has demonstrated a new commitment, but it has a long way to go." Bangladesh has scored better than India as far as gender parity is concerned. On the Gender Parity Index (GPI) — where 1 indicates parity between the sexes — Bangladesh boasts of 1.05 while India stands at 0.83.

However, in the case of Bangladesh, this better record has been attributed to the number of boys who do not finish secondary education; thereby tipping the scales in favour girls. This is apparently true of many countries, including developed countries such as the United Kingdom and Sweden.Though not listed among the poorest performers in terms of girls' access to primary school, India is only "slightly ahead". The overall picture vis-a-vis all the EFA goals put together is also bleak for India with the country bringing up the rear in the EFA Development Index (EDI). Among the 94 countries for which data was available for creating this index, India along with Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan is among the 22 lowest EDI countries.

Apart from the Fast Track Initiative, which was launched last year by the World Bank to provide quick and incremental, technical and financial support to countries that have policies but are not on track to attain universal primary education by 2015, Mr. Colclough said multilateral aid to education had decreased between 1998-99 and 2000-01 even as fund flow to basic education swelled by 60 per cent.Still, though the payoffs of investing in education are high, education planners, according to Mr. Colclough, have a Herculean task in getting girls to school; given the prejudices associated with educating the girl child in countries such as India, and the fact that 18 per cent of the children in the 5-to-14 age-group are economically active. Together, they add up to 211 million children — half of them girls — and this figure does not include those involved in domestic labour.

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