New Delhi: More Muslim women were found to have been enrolled in higher education institutions than Muslim men, according to the government’s All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) for 2020-21, Business Standard has reported.
Particularly, 503 out of every 1,000 Muslim students in higher education are women. Here, higher education can be defined as undergraduate courses and other degrees, diplomas, and certificates.
These revelations come months after the country saw upheaval over Karnataka deciding to ban the hijab in classrooms, forcing many young Muslim girls out of their educational institutions. The Karnataka high court eventually upheld the ban. The Supreme Court, while considering pleas against this order, delivered a split verdict.
The AISHE findings also come amidst an overall drop in Muslims in higher education during the pandemic. Around 4.6% of total students in higher education were Muslim in 2020-21, compared to 5.5 % in the previous year.
On taking a look at state-wise numbers, one can find that in Uttar Pradesh, 54% of Muslims enrolled for higher education in the state are women. This makes UP the only top-six state (for highest student enrolments) to have more Muslim women than men in higher education. Other states with similar findings are Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan. All of them have between 43 and 49.5% female share among Muslim students.
One reason for there being more Muslim women in higher education than men is that the dip in female enrolment was less compared to the dip in male enrolment during the pandemic. Enrolment for Muslim men fell 8.8% to 0.95 million over the 2020-21 period, while for Muslim women, enrolment reduced by a lower amount (8.3%) to 0.97 million.
Additionally, Muslim women’s share in enrolment has risen from 2012 until 2020, on analysing data from previous reports. The 2019-20 report shows a 50.2% share, which was 49.3% in 2018-19, and 46% in 2012-13.
Another potential factor that could explain this trend is the increase in the importance of educating the girl child gripping regions across the globe, such as West Asia, the Asia-Pacific region, and North Africa, according to the Washington-based Pew Research Centre.
In December 2016 Pew said that “Muslim women are generally making educational gains at a faster pace than Muslim men, thus narrowing the gender gap”. This change in outlook could be attributed as a reason behind this pattern being witnessed around the world.
Further insights can be found when probing into the report at a national level. For example, the total estimated enrolment in higher education rose 7.4% over the previous year. It stands at 41.4 million in 2020-21 across all categories. Kerala has the highest female share in higher education (60.1%) among states, along with 66.4% for Ladakh and 78.5% for Lakshadweep from the Union Territories.
Although the minority communities making it to higher education institutes occupy a smaller share of enrolments, one still finds promise in women having a higher share among them.
Minority communities include Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Zoroastrians (Parsis). As mentioned earlier, the share of women in higher education is 50.3% for Muslims. It is 50.6% for the Scheduled Tribes and 54% for other minority communities. The proportion of women in higher education from Scheduled Castes, 49.2% for Other Backward Classes, and 47.8% for Economically Weaker Sections. The lowest share is for the disabled community, where women comprise just 37.6% of the overall student population.