Education is a human right that most civilised societies would uphold as a fundamental right for its members. It is obvious that in an ideal situation, all citizens of a country should have access to a minimum level of education that guarantees, not merely knowledge of the three R’s, but also a means of living a life of responsible quality and dignity(Prasad:2005). Though Kerala has achieved near universal literacy, tops the Indian states in educational attainment in the primary and secondary levels, the disparities still persist with the substantial inter.regional differences and prominent disparities between the social groups/sections of the society both in terms of qualitative and quantitative indicators (George: 2011). On the one hand, higher education of tribals is low compared to non-ST communities in Kerala.On the other hand, the disparities in higher education within tribal groups are still persisting because of differences in their culture and identity. It is observed that there is a disparity in higher education of the primitive tribals (e.g. Kurumbas) and non-primitive tribals (e.g. Irulas) in Palakkad district. Kurumba tribals are living in remote areas of forest. However, Irulas are living outside forest. Likewise, it is found that there is a disparity in higher education of the primitive tribals (e.g. Paniyas) and non-primitive tribals (e.g. Kurichyas) in Wayanad district. Kurichyas are masters but Paniyas are slaves in the social order though the population of Kurichyas is much lower than Paniyas. It shows that social and geographical exclusions would have an adverse impact on inclusiveness of higher education. How far ‘development’ programme is successful in hindering the effects of such exclusions on higher education of the tribal groups needs to be evaluated. It is in this context that the study attempts to examine some of the disparity trends and its determinants among the tribal groups, particularly higher education.
Ph.D Scholar, School of International Relations and Politics, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala, and ICSSR-Doctoral Institutional Fellow of the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS), Hyderabad.