Flaws in Indian education system have been discussed at length by various analysts and root causes have also been pointed out. Still, the situation has not improved. Marginalised sections find difficult to pursue higher study even though some of them successfully clear entrance exam and enter reputed institutes like IITs and IIMs.
The surge in enrollment of dalits and adivasi students is remarkable, between 2001 and 2011 , the share of dalits attending college zoomed by a staggering 187% and adivasis by 164%. The comparable share of all other castes put together is 119%. (Enrol and drop out, education is a one-way street for dalits, by Subodh Verma, updated Jan 24, 2016, timesofindia.indiatimes.com). But among dalits, the share in school children drops from 81% for 6-14 years age group to 60% in 15-19 age group. It plummets to 11% in 20-24 age group in higher education. So, the enrollment of all castes is roughly the same , drop out of dalits and adivasis is more as the level of education advances. According to the data provided by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), of the 2,461 drop outs 1,171 (which is 47.5%) are from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes in the last two years. (Over the past two years 2,500 students dropout of IITs , written by Siddhant Pandey, dated 2 Aug 2019, newsbytesapp.com). The HRD Minister pointed out that out of 99 dropouts of Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), 14 were from SC, 21 from ST category and 27 from OBC category.
The number of dropouts is a cause of grave concern specially for marginalised sections because of their entry into institutions despite poor background. Most dalits and adivasis have little income to spend on education and if they dropout, their efforts to achieve good career goes waste causing economic hardship.
These sections face stark discrimination right from their joining higher learning institutes. The teaching staff, mostly upper castes, do not support dalits , adivasis or OBCs or PH candidates both educationally and economically. They set high parameters for awarding grades which marginalised section find hard to match. The faculty should keep in mind that these students rarely have the resources to study like upper castes. Hence, they come to the institutions with lack of knowledge as that of higher caste students. Unless the institute provides supplementary coaching facilities and takes follow- up measures, the marginalised section cannot catchup with other ‘educated’ well- off students.
Language is also one of the problem for the dropouts. Many lower caste students are not good at English because of their schooling in government schools in rural areas. They find grasping lectures in English difficult. Hence, they should be given extra coaching so that they get used to the language.
But a major cause is discrimination and stark alienation by the general category students. They are frequently harassed citing their enrollment in colleges under quotas. This also influences dropout in the middle of the course. Many students have committed suicide on grounds of harassment and abuse by upper castes.
Assertive policy needed
Since very few of the lower strata of society enter prestigious institutes, they should be handled carefully. Proper psychological and educational counseling programs should be given to every student. Faculty should keep in view their socio- economic background in view while evaluating and awarding grades and marks.
Even in placements, the companies prefer only upper caste background people to SCs, STs, OBCs and physically disabled. They cite ‘ merit’ as their ground for recruitment. This is a myth as many students of marginalised sections are proving by acquiring knowledge and expertise.
Drastic steps should be taken to reduce the number of dropouts by assertive policy measures along with positive outlook of faculty members towards disadvantaged sections of society.
Reservations are a means of uplifting the downtrodden and the government must see that dalits or adivasis or other backward classes are not denied the right of education in institutions of excellence.
Sheshu Babu is a political commentator