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 Higher Education And Social Mobility Among Muslims And Dalits In India ,
A Comparative Perspective In The Globalised Times

By Mr. Ajmal khan

04 May, 2012

This paper is an attempt to see how globalisation has impacted the higher education of Muslims and Dalits in India in a comparative and historic perspective. Based on the different secondary data sets, it tries to show how Dalit community across India has utilised the process of globalisation and achieved educational and social mobility mobility higher than Muslims, Muslims as a homogeneous group didn't take part in the educational development, especially in the higher educational arena where the Scheduled Casts has acquired the benefits with the historical interventions that are taken place in the pre globalisation era. The growth process of attaining higher education by the community was slower than any other socio-religious community. It also try to see and understand the double burden and deprivation imposed by the Globalisation on the Indian Muslims because of lack of overall educational development among the community and alienation form the whole process.

The definition of the world globalisation would be depended on who is defining and what is the purpose. when it is used in economic context, it refers to the reduction and removal of barriers between national borders in order to facilitate the flow of goods, capital, services and labour. Globalisation is not a new phenomenon. it began towards the end of the nineteenth century but it was slow downed in between and raised again rapidly during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Globalisation is a flow which is very strong, if one is capable enough to stand, it will sustain if one is not it will be washed out, Now what is the capability or capacity, this capacity is of economic, social, political and cultural, when we take Indian society historically, who is capable to stand against the flow, the upper cast urban Indian elite, this is the section of India that has made tremendous gain from the economic process called liberalisation, the indigenous communities, Dalits, Tribals and Muslims were the worsely affected groups by this process in the India and else where, this vary regional to specific community. India started the process of economic globalisation in the early of 1978 by taking small steps and during the 1991, the major policy changes were adopted and India opened up for liberalisation and privatisation. Liberal economic and trade policy, opening up of Indian market for the foreign trade and investment, huge privatisation of public sector, and highlighted rapid economic growth were the main characteristics of this process. In the shadow of this, there were claims by the government of India that per capita income have increased considerable and huge decrease in the number of people who live under the poverty line. But this was later understood as the play with numbers by the Planning Commission of India. This huge process have impacted directly and indirectly the millions living in India, this was reflected in the all sectors, agriculture, industry, health education and even culture and lot more in the day today life of every Indian. The process of has brought shining economic growth with two digits of GDP, but which created the more structural inequalities in the Indian society where all ready huge inequality have existed and still persisting. Education, especially higher education is one of the sector that has under gone tremendous changes in the last two decades. Private universities, market based and new generation courses, decreasing public spending, public private partnership, internationalisation of education and curricula, setting up the campuses of foreign universities, huge private investment in education sector especially in higher education make characteristics of the changes that have happend in the higher educational sector, how far these has impacted a section of society that doest have access to higher education historically would unfold educational and economic inequality with in the Indian society.

Higher education and globalisation

After the independence there was tremendous increase in terms of the number of higher educational institutions in India , teachers and students. there after also there was big increase in the number of universities, teacher and students, but how far this jumps where distributed among all the communities and groups in India has to be examined to understand how unequal was the development that take place in the arena of higher education. The national higher education policy adopted in 1986 has emphasized on three basic elements, Access, equal access (or equity), Quality and Excellence. But the process of development in this sector was exclusionary for the sections like scheduled tribes, scheduled casts, other backward classes and minorities especially Muslims, which was persistent process for a long period after the independence, that still continues today. India spends a scandalously small proportion of its education budget on schools and remarkably large portion to on higher education budget. The poor provision of of free schooling means that a disproportionate number of undeserved places at a highly subsidised universitys are won by those who have received a private education (Smith-2003). This spending on higher education have had fluctuations over a period of time but it was never less that what has spend for the school education. After the 1991, the higher education sector has began to change like anything, emergences of the private university's, new self financing institutions and courses, folds of increase in the tuition fee, emergence of self financing institutions, setting up of educational regulatory authorities in the state and centre, market and industry oriented courses and curricula. its has privatised and became as an Industry which provide income, the boom of private higher educational institutions has shaped the destiny of the higher education where market decide everything. emergence of the new courses, private universitys make the recent characteristics in this arena, this has "revolutionised" the higher education by restricting the access to a small minority they can 'buy' higher education which is obviously the urban upper cast Indian elite and other economically and socially affluent classes.

Higher educational attainment and Muslims

To attain higher education one has to go through the a long process which start from the primary school enrolment, with in this process only a minority reach to the higher education and rest of the majority get eliminated, Indeed it is accepted that, the higher education is one of the important means of social mobility and human development. The development of a community is depended upon the educational attainment that a community make, which start from the literacy level to higher educational attainment. There is a scarcity of studies of the higher educational attainment separately for Muslims but Sachar Commission has made an assertion which is more or less the reality. Muslims in India perform very weak in all the human development indexes compared to their other counter parts, they rank considerably lower than national averages and in higher education indices they are even below the Scheduled Cast and Scheduled Tribes. 59 per cent of Muslims are literate when 65 per cent is the national average , and just above the scheduled casts and scheduled tribes. But there is a trend of declining the literacy growth of the Indian Muslims after the 2004,- and same time the growth rate of the literacy rate among the Muslims are 5.3 when this is 8.7 per cent for the scheduled cast, when it come to elementary, secondary enrolments the story is not diffident. higher educational attainment of the Muslims in very less as the all other educational indicators.

Performance in the higher education is calculated through the Enrolment Ratio which is calculated from Gross Enrolment ratio (GER), Net enrolment ratio (NER) and Enrolment of Eligible ratio (EER) and the Graduate Enrolment Ratio (GER), the data below provided by University Grants Commission on the gross enrolment ratio for different socio-religious and cast groups across the country.

Cast group by religious background in higher education

Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER%) in age group of 18-23 years as on 2000


Source: Gender Differentials in Access to Higher Education- UGC.

The data above provide a picture of what extend Indian Muslims are behind the their other counter parts in terms of higher educational gross enrolment ratio, here what is interesting is the divide of Muslims in higher educational enrolment rate is less than half of the Hindu enrolment ratio, this is for total Muslims when it come to the ST/SC/OBC Muslims this is really worse, for the Christians it is 13.84 which is much above than even Hindus same time Sikhs have a ratio of 8.29 which is also higher than that of Muslims, this picture emerges when one consider all the religious groups as a homogeneous community, now take the categories with in the religion like SC, ST and OBC of all the religious groups, among the Hindu, Christian and Sikh. The ST and SC Hindu ratio is 5.40 and 3.83, for Christian ST and SC the ratio is 6.17 and 6.76 subsequently when it come to the Sikhs also the ratio is well above the Muslim ST and SCs. so it is clear that the higher educational attainment of the categories with in the Muslim community is far below to the same categories of the all other religious groups. Now lets look at the condition of Muslim OBCs which constitute about more than forty per cent of the Indian Muslims, the tables give clear evidences that the Muslim OBCs are far behind all the other religious groups even if it is for the Christians and Shiks, both are categorised as equal minority community same as Muslims. This data from 1999-2000 which make this relevant that the changes have happen in India post globalisation era both the market driven economy and market oriented higher education where Muslims as homogeneous group could not participate or take benefits as their any counter parts in India.


Socio-religious communities

Number (in Lakhs)

Percentage of 20 years plus


Distribution across the




Diploma and certificates


Diploma and certificates


Diploma and certificates






















All others







Source: Sahcar commission Report, according to the census 2001

According to 2001 census data seven percentage of the population aged twenty years and above are hold any diploma, This proportion is less than 4 per cent among the Muslims, apart form this, the proportion of the population that having technical education at the age of eighteen and above are lowest among the Muslims which is merely one per cent, which shows the terrible backwardness of the Indian Muslims in higher education. This is also highlighted by the Sachar Commission appointed by Government of India, so it is clearly evident that Indian Muslims are higher educationally backward than any other socio- religious community, now l shall examine their backwardness in comparison with the Scheduled Cast in India taking them as a homogeneous social group.

Dalits and higher educational attainment

Historically Dalits or the scheduled castes are one of the most marginalised group in India in all walks of life, that still persist in many sectors even today. but there are some remarkable mobility that Daliths In India have made as a homogeneous community, and some specific mobility in terms of community specific and regional specific. Still the literacy level for the seduced cast remain as the lest developed groups in India . In all indicators, the historical intervention of the reservation have had made changes, the SC elites to utilise these and come up and attain the socio-economic and political mobility. The story of Scheduled cats in India is unlike the Muslims, There were mobilised efforts among the scheduled caste for the approval and social recognition, this has expressed through the Dalit mobilisation in several forms which has also helped Dalits for the social mobility in some states and districts will also vary from region. Despite all these SCs remain as the single homogeneous group which is least developed in social and economic terms with scheduled tribes and other backward classes.

When one consider Dalits as a homogeneous community and assess their higher educational attainment during post independence to the post liberalisation period, the event that to be mentioned is the historic reservation policy and the subsequent changes among the scheduled cast in India, even if which has helped more elite or middle class among them, the literacy rate of Scheduled Castes for all India was 54.69 per cent according to the 2001 census data which is far below the national average but according to the Human Development report of India 2011, the growth of SC literacy rate is is 8.7 when this is 5.3 among the Muslims according to the same report, so there has been a increase in the growth of the SC literacy rate as compared to Muslims which will also reflect in the all other educational enrolment in the future, the growth rate of the higher educational attainment among the SC is also much higher than Muslims, even if Muslims as group are above in the higher educational enrolment rate that scheduled cast, which points to the need of the urgent attention of both state and community to work on the higher educational development of the Muslims. A comparison between Muslims and SCs/STs in terms of Graduate Attainment Ratio also reveals interesting results. Initially, Muslims had a marginally higher Graduation Attainment Rate (GAR) than SCs/STs. In the initial phases of planning, the SCs/STs had performed more slowly and this had led to a slight widening of the gap between them and the Muslims. In the 1970s, however, the GARs for SCs/STs grew at a faster rate than for Muslims. This led to convergence in the GAR of Muslims and SCs/STs. In fact, among urban males, the convergence process had begun in the 1950s itself, and had resulted in SCs/STs over taking Muslim males after the 1970s; it also resulted in the current significantly higher levels (Sachar-2006) which openly reveal the reflections of the reservation policy in the enrolment of the higher educational institutions and colleges adopted by the government of India. Here it is also important to look at which are the sectors that have made so called boom during the post liberalisation period which will give a picture of the need of higher education, especially the industry based higher education. IT and allies sectors, Telecom, private health care, Education, Communication and technology, Infrastructure etc.. which are privately managed has shown the growth, these all sectors need highly qualified professionals as their work force where the higher educated urban upper and middle class work.

Concluding remarks

Higher educational sector in India has changed in the shadow of the liberalisation policy after the 1991, the post globalised world need only industry based market oriented higher educated manpower, the traditionally disadvantaged groups like, Scheduled casts, secluded tries, other backward classes and Muslims are far behind the advanced groups not only attaining the higher education, but the traditional deprivation and lack of education, skill and knowledge in the globalised context which make them dually marginalised. The government policy of reservations in education and employment spheres has played a remarkable role for Dalits and Adivasis. Even thou there were criticisms on implementation side, the reservation facilities have given certain economic means of livelihood to over 1.5 million Dalits, for instance. Besides, over 50,000 Dalits could enter the field of government authority so far which Muslims couldn't avail. Implementation of the protective discrimination policy and emergence of a effectively taking benefits from new world order. Which enabled Dalits, here Dalits are not counted as a homogeneous community but the section of Dalits which has utilised the reservation policy and reached in the higher education, this section has made the social mobility which will vary from state to state, district to district, community to community, cast to cast across the country among this disadvantaged groups. Muslims occupy prominent position in terms of educational attainment, especially higher educational attainment, the growth of this community is also slow in comparison with the SCs and STs which recently again reiterated by the India human development report-2011 after the Sachar Commission report . In this article what is attempted to see is, how far Muslims in India as a homogeneous community is behind the all other communities in higher educational attainment, and how Scheduled Cast in India has made progress in the higher educational attainment higher than Muslims in the context of globalisation and their social mobility through the higher educational mobility in the post-globalised India with the help of protective discrimination policy and same time the marginalisation of the Indian Muslim from the whole process of globalisation and exclusionary and discriminatory process of higher educational development of India in the era of globalisation and alienated experience of globalisation by the Indian Muslims which is more or less as a homogeneous community which also points the need for the action by the state and from with in the community, then the deprivation of being a Muslim scheduled cast, scheduled tribes and other backward class even with in the general umbrella of Muslims.

 Ajmal khan has done undergraduates from University of Calicut in English language and literature and Masters in Social work From Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and currently based in Mumbai.


1. According to the 2001 Census data.

2. There studies from the states of Maharastra and other states claiming this.


•  Smith- Pramela shurmer,(2000) India Globalisation and change , University of Portsmouth .

•  P. Radhkrishnan Global - Globalization and Exclusion :The Indian Context , Asia journal of east Asia Foundation.

•  Higher education in India- issues related to Expansion, Inclusiveness, Quality and finance , University Grands commission, new Delhi- November 2008.

•  Saraswati Raju - Gender Differentials in Access to Higher Education University Grands commission, new Delhi- November 2008.

•  Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India ,Prime Minister? High Level Committee Cabinet Secretariat Government of India , 2006 ( Sachar Commission Report).

•  Sukhadeo Thorat , Higher Education in India Emerging Issues Related to Access, Inclusiveness and Quality , University Grant Commission New Delhi .

•  Jagan Karade , Development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in India , Ca mbridge Scholars Publishing Angerton Gardens , Newcastle , NE5 2JA , UK .

•  Dr. Mithilesh Kumar Singh , Challenges of Globalization on Indian Higher Education , Education Research Foundation, New Delhi .



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