THE EDUCATION OF DISADVANTAGED GROUPS By Remya Ravindran[1]

 

India is a pluralistic country, with rich diversity, reflected in the multitude of culture, religions, languages and racial stocks. The Indian population includes different castes, communities and social groups. The prevalence of such pluralism has made the social fabric stratified and hierarchical, consequently, social and economic opportunities are differentially distributed on the lines of caste and class affiliations. At the geographic level also, India has equally pervasive and diverse features. Such divergence has ensured spatial and occupational differentiation. Apart from a minuscule minority almost 70%of India’s population lives in rural areas. This has led to the perpetuation of layers of inequalities and disparities at various levels. As a result, certain deprived groups and sections of the population have been unable to partake in the process of development. This is particularly severe in the case of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. These groups lag far behind the others in terms of social and economic development.

Education has been considered as vital instrument for social transformation. Geared to preservation and perpetuation of tradition in the past, education is now being used to bring about social transformation. Education has a special significance for weaker sections of society which are facing a new situation in the development process to adjust themselves properly to the changing situation. For them education is an input not only for their economic development, but also for promoting in them self confidence and inner strength.

The theme of education and training of the disadvantaged groups is high on agenda in many countries, because it is related to much wider phenomena: growing deprivation and social exclusion. This situation is not only disturbing, it is also a paradox in that the increase of poverty and exclusion often goes hand in hand with economic growth. The role of education is not just limited to giving young people access to jobs and a decent living wage. The admission of disadvantaged groups to educational and training programmes is part of wider concern of promoting the educational process throughout one’s life, the indispensable condition not only for a durable integration into job market, but also for a full and active citizenship.

State Commitment of education of SC/ST children is contained in Article 15(4), 45 and 46 of the Indian Constitution. Special schemes pertaining to school education of SC/ST children include:

  • Free supply of textbook and stationery at all stage of education.
  • Model Residential schools
  • Pre-metric stipend and scholarships.

The Indian State conceived a range of enabling provisions that would facilitate the access to and retention of SC and ST children in school. The understanding that education is a vehicle for integration and assimilation of SC and ST students into the social mainstream is also increasingly being questioned and is seen as having limited usefulness in overcoming prejudice, discrimination and marginalization. To bring about equity in education for excluded populations such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, scholars and activists advocate a framework of social justice that goes beyond aggregative concerns of equity in the context of access, participation and outcomes, to one which emphasizes qualitative aspects of the educational experience and their impact on identity, self-worth and future life chances This, they argue, can only take place in schools that are set up exclusively for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students and that are invested in the success of these students .While educators remain divided on how best to provide quality education that will bring about substantial improvements in the lives of SC and ST communities, whether through mainstream or segregated schools, there is consensus that education is a critical resource in addressing the marginalisation of both groups.

Education on the basis of emotional and social intelligence should be given top priority. Being a part of the society man has to mingle with it in a manner that would suit him and his fellow beings. Apart from IQ, Emotional Quotient has its own role to play. A person who has good control over his emotions, a person who can adjust with the demanding situations, a person who can monitor his and others feelings, a person who know to discriminate among right and wrong, a person who has high caliber should be the ultimate output of education.

Emotions play a prominent role in moulding the behaviour and personality. Development of emotions in human beings is attributed to the process of natural growth, development and learning. The emotional behaviour desirable and undesirable is totally learned or acquired through experience. The purpose for developing emotional literacy is to precisely identify and communicate feelings. We must know how we feel in order to be able to fill our emotional needs and  we must communicate our feelings in order to get the emotional support and understanding we need from others, as well as to show our emotional support and understanding to them.

One of the first step to developing EI is to improve emotional literacy. Daniel Goleman popularized the term “Emotional Intelligence”. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to manage one’s own and others emotions and to develop better healthy relationship. Emotional Intelligence includes non-verbal perceptual skills of emotional creativity and social intelligence. Emotional Intelligence help the children to acquire the skills, the attitudes and the disposition that will help them live well and that will enable them the common good to flourish.

Education should aim at training the students without stratifying them on the basis of the caste creed or economic status.

Kerala is a highly literate state. The general literacy rate is 90% but SC literacy rate is low at about 79% and ST is still lower than 57%. Disparities in the literacy rate between SC and ST’s and total literacy rate are continuing in spite of various educational concessions extended to them. The enrolment ratio of SC and ST are also comparatively lower than other groups.

Since independence the central and the state governments have been expanding provision for the universalisation of elementary education. High priority continues to be accorded to improve the education status of weaker sections. For scheduled Caste there are 115 Pre-metric hostels, 9 Model Residential Schools, 2 Ashram Schools and 22 single Teachers.

Although educational facilities are made available to the weaker sections the qualities of those facilities remain dismal and content of education is not found meaningful to their socio-economic needs and set up. Educational development amongst the disadvantaged sections especially SC and ST shows up certain numerical improvement but achievement are not commensurate either qualitatively and quantitatively to reach the level of competence on par with general population.

Though education was not a critical demand among Scheduled Tribes,government policy focused on education as the main avenue by which to integrate them into ‘mainstream’ society. The concept of ‘ashram schools’ – residential schools for ST children – came into vogue in order to overcome structural barriers such as difficult terrain, inaccessible locations and spatially dispersed habitations, and thereby to improve educational access for Scheduled Tribe communities. A centrally-sponsored government scheme of residential schools exclusively for ST /SC children from elementary to higher secondary levels was initiated in the 1999 and continues to the present. Residential schools include vocational training in their curricula in order to provide SC/ST youth with skills and training for jobs in the industrial sector. The poor quality of education in these schools, however, has undermined confidence in education as a vehicle for social mobility. The curriculum bears no relation to the economic and social life of Scheduled Tribe communities and instead attempts to wean young people away from it, alienating them in the process.

Over the last two decades, the government has increased elementary school provision (grades I-VIII) in and near tribal hamlets, and this has significantly increased rates of enrolment. However, issues of quality and relevance of schooling for ST children have barely received any attention from the national government. The poor quality of infrastructure and teaching, and a curriculum that does not relate to the socio-cultural lives of the Scheduled Tribes nor about their history, have all contributed to the communities’ disenchantment with schooling.

Furthermore, the content of school education devalues their cultures and histories and undermines their sense of self and community identity. Moreover, the poor quality of schooling available to ST children does not prepare them to succeed at higher levels of education nor to compete for jobs, thereby demoralizing young people. Similar issues of self-worth, dignity and livelihoods that school education has failed to address or even acknowledge also arise for Scheduled Caste communities. While SC students have much greater access to elementary education than ST children, they frequently encounter overt and covert acts of discrimination, prejudice and rejection from teachers and fellow students. In other words, while elementary schools may appear to be places in which integration can take place, prejudices against Scheduled Castes persist in the classroom, playground and in the micro-practices of schooling.

Poor treatment in schools and loss of self-worth and dignity result in drop outs or poor performance in examinations, thus undermining SC and ST students’ opportunities to progress to higher levels of education. This, in turn, has a crippling effect on their ability to compete in the job market and increases their sense of alienation from their communities.

 

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[1] Lecturer Kannur University