One of the important issues with regard to women’s education is-Why do girls need to be educated? for centuries women’s role has been perceived as that of wife or mother. In the traditional structures. where upper caste women, by and large, were not expected to participate in spheres of life beyond the family, formal education was not considered essential. As Aparna Basu mentions.
Whereas education of males was directly related to employment, female education had no economic function. It is, therefore, not surprising that when the Bombay Government undertook an enquiry into the state of indigenous education in the 1820s, in the reports received from the Collectors, Judges and Commissioners, there wa
s no mention of a single female scholar attending any of the common schools of the province (Basu, Chanana, 1988).
Everyone believed that the skills necessary for performing household chores, or for productive work could be learnt within the precincts of the family. Hence the need for education for a woman is only realized when she is required to participate in wider social activities. Further, the role of education is appreciated when values of individualism liberalism, personality growth and identity development are part of the group ethos. The need for women’s education was therefore first articulated during the 19th century, when liberal ideology dominated
amongst the intelligentsia. The social reformers though, vehemently lobbied for women’s education. However, for them its objectives were confined to developing efficiency in performing their traditional roles. Over the years, due to a variety of factors, education for future economic participation and for widening of knowledge have been accepted as additional objectives of girls education.
Due to the middle class bias of educational structures, poorer sections of the society somehow do not feel the relevance of formal education. A number of studies in urban slums have borne out that formal schooling has a marginal role in the lives of girls there. The girls are needed to help with housework and, therefore, one mother said,
why should I waste my time and money on sending my daughter to school where she will learn nothing of use? What does the Hindi alphabet mean to her?’ (Karlekar, 1983 ). On the other hand, the demonstrative effect of education providing opportunities of better jobs creates a feeling among poor people that, if education is given to girls, they will be able to improve their status. Maidservants, particularly, aspire for their daughters to have jobs other than domestic work.
Unfortunately, the increasingly higher minimum educational requirements for any kind of employment leads to frustration. as many of the girls are unable to complete their education. It may also be mentioned that the objectives of education are different for different classes; they are also dependent upon levels of education (Desai and Raj, 1987).