Dominant ideology and interest, which in contemporary India are predominantly routed in caste, class and patriarchy, articulating through the state determining the course of educational development, change and expansion in India.
The dominant cultural, social and economic values, both brahminical and capitalist of the ruling classes are deeply embedded in the hierarchal design of the institution. Thus, making it the most significant source of inequality the various ramification to this dominance and mechanism through which educational stratification serves these dominant and influential caste, class and political influence and serves the interest of the oppressed.
There is a clear cut hierarchal stratification of the educational structure. All existing schools can be broadly classified into four tiered pyramidal hierarchy. This hierarchal school system ranges from the exclusive, elitist public school that caters to the top of the social hierarchy to the impoverished rural school, which cater exclusively to the bottom wiz, the overwhelmingly poor SC/ST section.
Special constitutional provisions, policies and programmes in post-independence India were directed towards the economic and educational development of adivasis. However, the situation of these communities today is one of economic marginalisation, social vulnerability and educational backwardness. A significant proportion of the population belonging to these communities live below the poverty line in rural India.
Literacy levels in these communities are extremely low and the adivasis are increasingly witnessing the breakdown of their traditional economic and social institutions as well as the marginalisation of their cultures. For these communities, poverty (and the phenomenon of children’s work) is still a major deterrent to enrollment of their children in schools.
The educational experiences of the adivasi children are influenced by the larger context of social marginalisation of these communities. On the other hand, curriculum, language of educational transaction, and the hidden curriculum of teacher attitudes are all related to unequal schooling. Schooling in relatively backward villages and remote adivasi regions are generally characterized by poor physical infrastructure, lack of basic amenities, as well as poor teacher student ratio.
Dilapidated buildings, leaking roofs and mud floors appear quite common in schools and provide a depressing atmosphere for children. Teacher absenteeism as well as non-functioning schools is also a feature of backward regions and in particular, the adivasi areas. As members of adivasi communities, children often find that their languages and cultures are ‘other’ than, which is officially the ‘standard’ or considered ‘mainstream’ in schools.
This has important implications for the educational experiences of children from these communities. There is today a considerable body of research that shows that the exclusion of minority tribal cultures from schools adversely affects the sense of self and identity of children, their motivation in school, as well as the very process of learning.
On the other hand, these communities, when represented in the textbook, are portrayed largely in subservient roles in accordance with what is perceived as their traditionally low position in the social hierarchy. Classroom culture in the context of the hidden curriculum of social discrimination as reflected in teacher attitudes, classroom interaction and peer culture, and so on is little documented.
Geetha B. Nambissan (2000) suggests that for adivasi children, classroom processes are likely to be pervaded by discriminatory attitudes and practices that stem from the position of these communities in the larger social structure. And how these processes deeply affect the educational experiences of children and deny them access to education of quality and learning with dignity.
The exclusion of children’s language and culture from the medium and content of school knowledge, as well as messages of inferiority that are conveyed to them through the hidden curriculum, are critical factors that are likely to adversely affect children’s motivation to learn and their interest in their studies. Also there is the lack of sensitivity of schools to the economic and social realities that children experience in their daily lives.
The fact that schools have failed to provide adequate academic support to adivasi children, a majority of whom come from non-literate and poorly educated homes, is also a factor that is usually ignored. On the other hand, the rapid expansion of ‘Para teacher schools’, points to the possible institutionalization of inferior systems of education within the formal school system.
With increasing privatisation and commercialisation of education, social inequities are further accentuated by educational inequalities. One may contend that education has become a party to the prevailing social inequalities. Recent changes in the education sector have confirmed the state’s abdication of its responsibility to make education of good quality accessible to all children.
The inadequate provisions for tackling inequality in the education system (in the form of non-formal education, para teachers etc.) expose the weakness of the policies and diluted the commitment of the authorities. Although, constitutional amendment has created a legal space for better educational opportunities, the state’s commitment should be backed by adequate resources.
Inequity in education, conceived as the main agenda during the independence struggle, has been sidelined. The education policies are myopic and fail to locate the education of children in their socio-economic contexts. There is a need for adopting a holistic approach. Access, participation and quality are interrelated and should be treated in an integrated manner.
(About the Author: Dr. Gomati Bodra Hembrom is Assistant Professor at Dept. Of Sociology in Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi. With a teaching experience of more than a decade, Dr. Bodra's areas of specialization are Gender Studies, Tribal Studies, Social Stratification and Research Methodology)