Co-Education means the education of boys and girls together in the same institution and at the same time. In India, it has recently become common. In the recent past religious leaders and the people of conservative views did not favor the idea. They were even against the education of women, because they were not in favor of liberty and equality to be granted to women. But now times have changed.
Co-education in India:
Co-education is not a new thing for us. In the good old days when Sanskrit used to be the mother tongue in India and the Ashram were the seats of learning, co-education was widely practiced. In the Hindu scriptures, old records and legends, we find a number of examples which show that co-education was prevalent then. The practice continued till the advent of Muslim rule in India. With the Muslim rule came the degradation of women. The ‘Purdha’ system led to the discouragement of female education.
Co-education in the West:
In Europe Co-education is only of recent origin. Oxford and Cambridge universities kept their door tightly shut against woman till recently. But after the First World War, Co-education had tremendous rise in Europe and America. In America women have now begun to outnumber man in the school and colleges.
Criticism in Favor and Against Co-education:
For the very beginning powerful voices have been raised against this speedy march of co-education. Stephen Leacock, an eminent American educationist declares with emphasis, “Men cannot study when women are around”.
Charges against Co-education:
There are many charges against co-education. Some of these charges are:
- It lowers the tone of discipline and brings about seriousness among the students.
- It brings about a shift in the mental make-up of the students. Learning goes to the background and “Sex attraction regains supreme”.
- It promotes love of fashion and extravagance.
- It makes even the teachers tax. And of Leacock is to be believed “girls sometimes run away with the dusty old professors”. This is a serious charge because complete and free mixing between the sexes has had very bad results in England and America.
Arguments in Favor of Co-education:
The chief arguments in favor of co-education is ‘economy’. It would be foolish indeed to have two institutions at a place where only one will do. A poor country like India which needs education of women more than another other country at this time, cannot afford the luxury of having two parallel institutions at one and same place.
The Second argument is that co-education promotes better understanding between young men and women. After all they have to co-exit in life. Then why this unnatural separation of sexes in our schools and colleges. The reasoning is sound but even then it is not wise to rush in “where angels fear to tread”.
The wise course in India would be to have free unfettered co-education upto the middle standard and then for the degree and post graduate classes, in vocational and technical institution it would be better to have separate institutions for boys and girls.