The history of female education in India has its roots in the British Regime. Women’s employment and education was acknowledged in 1854 by the East India Company’s Programme: Wood’s Dispatch. Slowly, after that, there was progress in female education, but it initially tended to be focused on the primary school level and was related to the richer sections of society. The overall literacy rate for women increased from 0. 2% in 1882 to 6% in 1947.  In 1878, the University of Calcutta became one of the first universities to admit female graduatesto its academic degree programmes, before any of the British universities had later done the same.
This point was raised during the Ilbert Bill controversy in 1883, when it was being considered whether Indian judges should be given the right to judge British offenders. The role of women featured prominently in the controversy, where English women who opposed the bill argued that Bengali women, who they stereotyped as “ignorant” and neglected by their men and that Indian men should therefore not be given the right to judge cases involving English women.
Bengali women who supported the bill responded by claiming that they were more educated than the English women opposed to the bill and pointed out that more Indian women had degrees than British women did at the time.  Post-Independence After India attained independence in 1947, the University Education Commission was created to recommend suggestions to improve the quality of education. However, their report spoke against female education, referring to it as: “Women’s present education is entirely irrelevant to the life they have to lead. It is not only a waste but often a definite disability”.
(Report of the University Education Commission, Government of India, 1948–49, Vol. (i), Chapter XII, pp. 401), However, the fact that the female literacy rate was at 8. 9% post-Independence could not be ignored. Thus, in 1958, a national committee on women’s education was appointed by the government, and most of its recommendations were accepted. The crux of its recommendations were to bring female education on the same footing as offered for boys.  Soon afterward, committees were created that talked about equality between men and women in the field of education.
For example, one committee on differentiation of curricula for boys and girls (1959) recommended equality and a common curricula at various stages of their learning. Further efforts were made to expand the education system, and the Education Commission was set up in 1964, which largely talked about female education, which recommended a national policy to be developed by the government. This occurred in 1968, providing increased emphasis on female education.  Current policies Before and after Independence, India has been taking active steps towards women’s status and education.
The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002, has been a path breaking step towards the growth of education, especially for females. According to this act, elementary education is a fundamental right for children between the ages of 6 and 14. The government has undertaken to provide this education free of cost and make it compulsory for those in that age group. This undertaking is more widely known as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Since then, the SSA has come up with many schemes for inclusive as well as exclusive growth of Indian education as a whole, including schemes to help foster the growth of female education.
The major schemes are the folliwing: • Mahila Samakhya Programme: This programme was launched in 1988 as a result of the New Education Policy (1968). It was created for the empowerment of women from rural areas especially socially and economically marginalized groups. When the SSA was formed, it initially set up a committee to look into this programme, how it was working and recommend new changes that could be made.  • Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme(KGBV): This scheme was launched in July, 2004, to provide education to girls at primary level.
It is primarily for the underprivileged and rural areas where literacy level for females is very low. The schools that were set up have 100% reservation: 75% for backward class and 25% for BPL (below Poverty line) females. • National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGEL): This programme was launched in July, 2003. It was an incentive to reach out to the girls who the SSA was not able to reach through other schemes. The SSA called out to the “hardest to reach girls”. This scheme has covered 24 states in India. Under the NPEGEL, “model schools” have been set up to provide better opportunities to girls. 
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 4 October 2016
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