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Education of males and females or girls or boys in the same school, institution, college or any university without any segregation or discrimination is popularly known as coeducation. This phenomenon was adopted earlier and more widely in the U.S. than in Europe, where tradition proved a greater obstacle to its acceptance. In the 17th century Quaker and other reformers in Scotland, northern England, and New England began urging that girls as well as boys be taught to read the Bible. By the later 18th century girls were being admitted to town schools. By 1900 most U.S. public high schools and some 70% of colleges and universities were coeducational. Coeducation was first introduced in Western Europe after the Reformation, when certain Protestant groups urged that girls as well as boys should be taught to read the Bible.
The Society of Friends in England as well as in the United States were pioneers in coeducation as they were in universal education. The new free public elementary, or common, schools, which after the American Revolution supplanted church institutions, was almost always coeducational, and by 1900 most public high schools were coeducational as well. In the second half of the 20th century, many institutions of higher learning that had been exclusively for persons of one sex became coeducational. In Western Europe the main exponents of primary and secondary coeducation were the Scandinavian countries. In Germany, until the closing decades of the 19th century it was practically impossible for a girl to get a secondary education, and, when girls’ secondary schools were introduced, their status was inferior to that of schools for boys.
Antagonism to coeducation in England and on the European continent diminished more rapidly in higher education than in secondary. In England, Girton College at Cambridge was established for women in 1869, and the London School of Economics was opened to women in 1874. Germany permitted women to matriculate in 1901, and by 1910 women had been admitted to universities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Austria-Hungary, France, and Turkey. Since World War II, coeducation has been adopted in many developing countries like China and Cuba are outstanding examples. There are many other countries, however, where social conditioning and religious sanctions have limited its success. In most Arab countries, for example, girls tend to drop out of coeducational schools at the age of puberty.
Education in Nepal was long based on Home schooling and Gurukul. Primarily, Nepal’s educational history shows that our religious terms and values only granted education to higher caste groups of people who were called Brahmins. Within that too, it was mainly focused to the men in Brahmin community as it was kind of ritual to attend Gurukuls for Brahmin young lads to attain knowledge of Vedas. Then as time passed on and with the ignition of democratic norms in Nepal coeducation or the education with no segregation between two sexes i.e. a boy and a girl was got its shoots emerging over the surface of the ground. The first formal school was established in 1853 but was intended to the elites. The birth of the Nepalese democracy in 1951 opened the classrooms to a more diverse population. The education plan in 1971 fastened the development of Education in the country.
In 1951, Nepal had 10 000 students divided in 300 schools, with an adult literacy rate of 5%.By 2010, the adult literacy rate had jumped to 60.3% (female: 46.3%, male: 73%) and the number of schools to 49 000. Poverty and social exclusion of women, lower caste and indigenous people are nowadays the main constraints to an equitable access to Education. Modern education in Nepal began with the establishment of the first school in 1853. However, this school was only for the members of the ruling families and their courtiers. Schooling for the general people began only after 1951 when a popular movement ended the autocratic Rana family regime and initiated a democratic system. In the past fifty years, there has been a dramatic expansion of educational facilities in the country. Despite such examples of success, there are problems and challenges.
Educational management, quality, relevance, access are some of the critical issues of education in Nepal. Societal disparities based on gender, ethnicity, location, economic class, etc. are yet to be eliminated. Resource crunch has always been a problem in education. Although formal schooling in Nepal has a history of only about one hundred and fifty years, education of Nepal has long history of development. It is believed that Nepal has a glorious history of education because it was believed as “Tapobhoomi” for ancient Hindu priests. Traditionally education system of Nepal was guide by Hindu culture. In its very beginning it was a home-based system. Slowly it was transferred to gurukul or seminary, were the learned persons called as “guru” (teachers) were responsible for their education.
Coeducation concept in Nepal got its importance since democracy for equal rights was evolved in 2007 B.S. Till today’s date there have been established hundreds of institutions that support coeducation system of education but still due to traditional low concept thinking of male dominated Nepalese society, it has been very tough for Nepalese girl in rural parts of Nepal to get to join schools and get enlightenment for their future lives. In Nepal, many people think that boys and girls should not read together. Girls are spoilt in the company of boys. This is a traditional and conservative view. Girls and women are mainly taken for granted for household works and not for jobs outside homes. Now, time has changed and new ideas are afloat. Many countries have realized the importance of co-education. We should also move with the times.
Boys and girls have to live together and work together. They should be taught this from an early age. There should be no dividing wall between them. Co-education teaches boys and girls to know and understand each other. They read together and play together. There is understanding and co-operation between them. They do not have an air of superiority of inferiority. This develops their potentialities. According to census of 2011 B.S. the male literacy rate is 75.1 percent in comparison to female which is 57.4 percent. Kathmandu has highest literacy rate (86.3 percent) while Rautahat the least (41.7 percent). As seen now, most institutions of Nepal are in favor of coeducation and equal priorities for both male and female students, but again our country has got to travel a million miles to bring females in equal competitive level to men in every aspects from household to academics and later to contributing in major activities of the country.
The supporters of coeducation favor it mainly on two grounds, one economical and the other sociological. In the first place, they say that co-education is an economical measure in a poor country like Pakistan. It is not possible to maintain separate colleges for boys and girls. In the second place, the social contacts between the members of the two sexes are useful in many respects. The supporters of co-education say that if boys and girls are educated together, they will develop in them a sort of mutual understanding. This understanding will be helpful in their future lives as men and women. Moreover, it creates a spirit of competition in studies. Both try their hardest to out-do each other. We may say that co-education is above objection in the professional colleges where the ultimate goal of all students is the same. Coeducation is not a bad idea either for boys or the girls. In fact it all depends upon the values of the region where one lives.
If either a girl or a boy has been built up with strapping moral values this is not a big issue if he or she studies with the same gender or the other. But one’s environment does affect one’s moral values and manners. The coin always has two sides and so is the case with this aspect of education. Coeducation can either be good or bad. Based on researches boys with more female peers in their classes showed higher enrolment rates in both advanced mathematics and science classes, but overall benefits were found in all grades for both sexes. They conclude that this effect is due to the positive influence, the girls are adding to the classroom environment. It is found that primary school classrooms with a female majority showed increased academic success for both boys and girls. In the middle and high schools, the classrooms which had the best academic achievements overall were consistently those that had a higher proportion of girls enrolled.
The researchers suggest that boys and girls may learn differently, but it is better not to send them to sex-segregated schools. Boys become conscious of their dressing habits, behavior and the style girls. They work hard to remain ahead of one another. Co-education reduces gender bias in the society. It generates a feeling of equality between both and sexes. The feeling of male dominance may be wiped out from the society if this system of education is given importance. However, some people are opposed to the system of co-education. According to them, this system is against the existing culture and tradition. It is also argued that girls feel freer in an institution which is meant only for girls. As such they have greater scope of developing their personality. They also participate in sports, dramatics and debates more freely.
Teachers of some subjects like Biology also find it easier to explain some chapters more thoroughly if only girls or only boys are sitting in the class. Sex education has also been introduced and in co-educational schools even teachers find it difficult to discuss such topics in the class. It is also felt that since students (especially teenagers 13-19 years of age) are of impressionable age, the possibility of their going astray is much more in co-educational institutions. Some people believe that co-education should not be there. In their opinion this can lead to attraction between boys and girls which are neither good for their health, nor character, nor studies. Some other people are of the view that co-education can bring about a healthy competition between boys and girls. It can mean better discipline since in the presence of girls the boys will not talk irrelevantly or obscenely in the class.
The most potent argument advanced by co-education lovers is that it can help both boys and girls in the development of their personality. They can come out of their enclosed shell-like personality and get rid of their unwarranted hesitation and shyness. This can make boys and girls more expressive, progressive and forward in outlook and attitude to life which can be of great advantage to both. Since a boy and a girl later constitute a family and a society learning together will prepare them for the real world when they have to work and maintain compatibility with the opposite sex in their jobs, households and any other works. A co-educational environment allows children to socialize with the opposite sex freely. Boys and girls have to live together in the society in their later lives, so coeducation teach it from very beginning that how to leave together with understanding. It has also a common experience that the boys behave in a decent way when in company with girls.
The problem of shortage of trained teachers can be dealt with by this system. Boys overcome their curiosity and girls, their shyness. It helps to development a personality of both men and women. The classroom atmosphere would be more positive and even they learn in the classrooms that are very advantageous for children learning. It helps to improve pupil’s confidence to interact with opposite gender. It helps to get more competitive mind than non co-educated pupils. In conclusion, present world has already seen major advancements in educational system from inclusion of eBooks reading methodology to presentation skills and conferences and video tutorials. So, there is no reason to lie backward in foundation level and segregate an innocent child on the basis of sex as a girl and push ourselves backward in taking major leaps further in our lives.
Coeducation is a global phenomenon in current scenario and we should embrace this with open hearts to provide our girls and women equal education on all rights so that they can compete at similar grounds with men. It stops gender stereotyping because males and females who do not frequently interact with each other are likely to entertain stereotypical opinions on various aspects of life and share experiences at the same stage with bigger confidence which will ultimately give rise to healthy competition between two different forms of life and bring out equal economic as well as social values entirely to change the rigid concepts of our societies. Coeducation is truly a real form of that equality we all have been talking about in seminars, lectures and voices in Constitutional Assembly.