Even in 2018, we can see religious and caste-based discrimination all over the country. However, discrimination and inequalities can be starkly and especially be seen in the education system. In recent times, reservation in the higher education system has come under significant strain, with people all over the country dividing themselves in accordance to two different opinion, namely, pro-reservation and anti-reservation. Political parties are equally divided in terms of supporting this policy.
The Hindu upper caste, almost one-third of the total urban population, correspondingly get significantly more opportunities to attain higher education and graduate degrees, leaving behind the minority communities such as the SCs, STs, OBCs, Muslims, Sikhs etc. Evidently, a small part of the population actually holds immense power over access to education, making the upliftment of other communities difficult. The question that then arises is this. Even if the Hindu Upper Caste has more access, how does that make education less accessible to other communities?
The answer is simple. The education system is creating hindrances due to which a large chunk cannot access it. While casteism had given rise to inequalities, the system of education has been strengthening them. There is some kind of gate-keeping mechanism which is causing an overwhelming representation of Hindu upper caste while preventing access to the other communities. While the upper caste sees reservation as injustice, lower castes see it as justice finally after the long haul of discrimination. To add on to the gate-keeping mechanism, education in India is anyway not universal. Although mid-day meal and other programs are being introduced in order to make it more accessible, the prevalence of elitism cannot be denied. Since the number of education institutions across the nation are nowhere close to suffice for those aspiring for education, this inevitably leads to the filtering out of a large number of people.
Entry to higher education institutions is typically through state exams, scholastic exams etc. Although the methods of assessing are the same, the access to study material is unequal. For instance, when a class of 100 students are assigned the same project which involves the use of technology, we forget that a lot of people studying in those institutions do not even have access to electricity, therefore their ability to score good enough marks has already been fractured. While the elite kid will have access to additional maths tuitions in order to understand integration, the lad from lower caste will have to rack his brains at home and manage it on his own. Then even if he fails, he is to be blamed. So how is it competing in equal terms, when the means of competition are twisted according to the social background? The nature of education, it seems, presupposes access to some kind of resources. The dependence on these unfair examinations that only make a person a rote learner is increasing in recent times due to scarce opportunities. At the same time, education has become the main domain for mobility of classes. While the upper caste and wealthy send their kids to foreign universities to study, the middle class are trying to capture the bigger educational opportunities in India. The monopoly of education under the hands of elite is now being questioned.
In India, merit is denoted in comparative terms, i.e. how well person A performs compared to person B,C,D…Z . Thus when an institution removes a certain cut off, it is in accordance to the highest scorer. In other words, when compared to the highest scorer, all those who have marks reaching somewhere there can get admission. This is essentially the gate-keeping mechanism where in only marks are considered without seeing the capability and social background of a person. Hence, several institutions in higher education only recognise merit in terms of who can yield highest productivity; they must be invested in to gain further returns.
From all of the above discussion, the first thing to be thought over is, why after 71 years of Independence is there still a divide of opportunities due to caste differences? Institutions are unconsciously and consciously reproducing these structures. Since India is poor in terms of educational opportunities, it applies a mercantile view wherein one section of the society can only benefit at the cost of another.
Picture Credits: India The Nation