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Do The Schools In India Reproduce Social Inequalities?

By Dr.Swaleha Sindhi

03 September, 2015


Educational inequality in India means a system under which all the sections of society are not given equal opportunity to get education whereas the factors which contribute to social inequalities and exclusion from schooling are social stratification, gender inequity, location and poverty. Together these factors form a complex nexus of exclusion. It is also a fact that educational imbalances are still the pressing academic discourses in India and amidst all the hue and cry “Free and Compulsory Education” as a mission has still not translated into a reality! There still exist differential educational attainments in many regions in India and the traditional caste based social disparities are transformed into class inequalities. One portion of population in India has attained universal literacy long ago while a major portion of population still striving to achieve it, this leads to harmful economic disparities, resulting in perpetuating the cycle of inequality across generations. The educational inequalities are not the sole determinants of economic status but they play an important role in creating disparities in earnings. Needless to mention the inequality in the educational access and participation has its roots in the patriarchal and caste based social structure, this caste based social structure worsens the already existing inequalities across regions, religion, and gender and among various social groups. The impact of educational inequality is adversely affecting the deprived sections and widening the gaps in school enrolment between the deprived sections and elitist of the society.

Therefore a prerequisite to actualize universal literacy can be decentralized, participatory approach to planning and management of education and good governance. Without good governance the new innovative Government strategies like Alternate schooling, Right of Children to free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and the Articles (38, 15, 16, 17, and 21A) of the Indian constitution to safeguard various social groups and ensure equitable distribution of educational facilities will not be able to achieve its objectives. Another basic fact that remains hidden is the privatization of education. The privatization of education is also responsible for widening the gap between the elitist and the depressed class of the society for e.g. it proves to be beneficial to those who can afford education irrespective of the urban rural difference. It is also observed that the educational institutions in some regions are increasingly influenced by castes and communalism along with ineffective teaching and discriminatory attitude of teachers. Such an environment worsens the situation for future development of the depressed sections and sometimes results in discontinuation of their education.

Challenges in Educational and Social Inequalities

A cursory glimpse at quality of school functioning in India, gives ample evidence that all is not well in schooling facilities and quality of school functioning, there is still disparity in learning achievements. Researches reveal that there is a close association between the social background of children and their learning outcomes in rural areas and low achievers are mainly concentrated among deprived groups who have access to the government schools. Government schools may provide access but fail to provide a suitable learning environment or quality education. Many research finding reveal that schools both in rural and urban India suffers from inadequate infrastructure resources, untrained or undertrained teachers, irrelevant curricula and no measures of quality assurance mechanism. Small schools in particular often have fewer teachers than grades (16.6% of primary schools in India have only one teacher). This means teachers have to teach across grades, but many have little or no training in multi-grade pedagogy and the curriculum is geared towards mono-grade schools, where there is at least one teacher per grade, therefore there are many children learn little and are at risk of being silently excluded from the schooling process. Such challenges negatively affect the learning attainment of the socially backward communities who are mostly dependent on government schools for their education.

Last Word

Irrespective of so many programmes that have been instituted to help traditionally disadvantaged groups (SC, ST, and OBC) to attend school still the educational access and retention remains unsatisfactory within these communities. The major issue is that very little attention has been directed towards classroom processes that put these students at a disadvantage. Schools for children from the socially and economically backward communities can remedy the educational disparity where evaluation curricula and monitoring of outcome may help larger educational reforms and in a way help in bridging the education, and income gap. But that requires many innovative programmes. One such innovative model is set up by the Navsarjan in Gujarat that has schools with specially designed curricula for dalit children. Such models with effective innovative pedagogy can reduce the existing gap and prove helpful in forming many such schools in different parts of the country. Even though caste-based differences in education, income and other aspects of wellbeing have long been recognized in India and so many affirmative action’s for "reservations" and other priorities for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are included in its legislation still the goals social equity are far to be achieved.

(Dr. Swaleha Sindhi is Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Administration, The M.S.University of Baroda, she can be emailed: [email protected])


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