SCs and STs: Educational Realization
- Ramaiah Bheenaveni*
The world of today, by and large, is comparatively a rapidly changing one and the changes have been in a variety of directions. Not long ago society was through of as a reality sub-generis far beyond the control of individuals to change it and education as a process of inducting new entrants into society. The idea that societies can be changed and, that too, education can be vital instrument of social transformation is increasingly felt. Geared to the preservation and perpetuation of tradition in the past, education is now being used to bring about social transformation in a large scale. This represents a kind of dilemma in respect of the social role of education in traditional societies.
Ignoring this dilemma, many social scientists today re inclined to believe that education is a powerful instrument of social transformation. The prevailing opinion in circles of social science is that education is an agency of modernization. It is argued that education promotes modernity in many ways but chiefly in two: (i) by sharpening the critical awareness of the people about the social structure in which they are placed, and (ii) by changing the consciousness of the people in a direction congruent with the dominant value of our age-rationality-which is also the mainspring of modernity. Following this reasoning, there has come up an impressive body of literature in recent years of documenting the impact of schooling on individual modernity in developing societies. The profound social changes that India has witnessed in the last few decades or so have affected its entire population, yet in some sections of its society their impact has been much more marked than in othe rs.
Education is the key to development of any community. It can broaden the world view of the people, equipping them to meet the present day challenges. Education can be an input to their development. It can also build up inner strength of the people. Almost all studies have emphasized the importance of education in the development of the people. Ignorance is the biggest reason for weakness and knowledge is power. In the development effort, education has a pride of place in the priorities of the people. This is particularly so when the two systems of unequal strength come in contact. Education brings knowledge to he community and keeps in acquiring a new strength to enable it to face the new challenges which naturally come by when the process of change unfold unforeseen forces.
The role of education as an investment in human resources has been increasingly recognized all over the underdeveloped and developed countries. Education has special significance for the weaker sections of society, which are facing a new situation in the development process to adjust themselves properly to the changing circumstances. For them, education is an input not only for their economic development, but also for promoting in them self-confidence and inner strength to face the new challenges.
This position SC/ST education critically examines the contemporary reality of schooling of children belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities who have been historically excluded from formal education the former due to their oppression under caste feudal society and the latter due to their spatial isolation and cultural difference and subsequent marginalization by dominant society. There are thus sharp differences between these two categories of population in terms of socio-economic location and the nature of disabilities. However, there is also growing common ground today in terms of conditions of economic exploitation and social discrimination that arise out of the impact of iniquitous development process. Concomitantly, the categories themselves are far from homogenous in terms of class, region, religion and gender and what we face today is an intricately complex reality. Bearing this in mind this paper attempts to provide a contextualized understanding of the field situation of the education of SC/ST children and issues and problems that directly or indirectly have a bearing on their future educational prospects.
The educational effort so far as the SC and ST communities are concerned has to be somewhat different than for the general areas. In case of advanced groups and areas, demand for education is already there. Establishment of an educational institution itself is sufficient to attract the children from the advanced communities because their parents are interested in their education. This is not the case with the poorer section of the community. The message has as yet not reached the more backward rural and tribal areas where the citizen is still not very much aware about the practical utility of education. Thus, a number of socio-economic factors are coming in the way of members of SC and STs in sending their children to schools. In many cases, it is sheer economic hardship. Therefore, the universal educational programmes at the elementary stage in the case of these communities have to be much more than mere opening up of educational institutions. The students belonging to these communities may have to be provided with free textbooks, mid-day meals, and in the case of girls, even a pair of uniform. As the children grow, they become economic assets to the family. It may be necessary, therefore, that they are provided suitable scholarships and stipends in higher classes. It has to be ensured that if we cannot compensate the family, at least education should not be a burden on a poor family. In the case of tribal areas, it may be necessary that at middle school and high school levels adequate hostel facilities are also provided, as an institutional network itself will not be of much help. It is commonly observed that in some tribal areas much of the institutional capacity remains under-utilized.
Special state institutions were set up for the advancement of SC/ST and various legislations, social policies and programmes were drafted which were geared to their economic and political development and achievement of equal social status. It has been difficult however, to identify these categories in terms of criteria laid down by the state. The problem of the scheduled tribes has been a vexed one, given the various levels of social and cultural distance and varying degrees of voluntary or forced assimilation exploitation and/or displacement. In fact, it has been pointed out by Galanter that just where the line between Scheduled Tribes and non-Scheduled Tribes is to be drawn has not been clear. There are problems of overlap with caste and controversy whether a specific group is more appropriately classified as a ST or SC. Policy however treats the SC and ST groups homogenously. Moreover it rests largely on the assumption that mainstreaming is progress, while paying lip servi ce to preserve distinctive cultures, especially of tribals who are coerced into assimilation.
Education was perceived as crucial to processes of planned change. It was seen as the key instrument for bringing about a social order based on value of equality and social justice. Expansion and democratization of the education system was sought, the two primary egalitarian goals of which were the universalisation of elementary education and the educational upliftment of disadvantaged groups. The States special promotional efforts have undoubtedly resulted in educational progress for the SC/ST especially in regions where policy implementation combined with the dynamism of reform, and most crucially with anticaste, dalit, tribal and religious conversion movements.
The last two decades have spelt the decline of the Welfare State under the powerful impact of global economic forces and neo-liberal economic policies. The egalitarian ethic underlying planned change and development is being rapidly decimated. The ideology of the Indian States New Economic Policy emphasizes the pre-eminence of markets and profits. In the context of an elite directed consensus on the inevitability of liberalization and structural adjustment, the predominant problems and debates of education have undergone major shifts. Structural adjustment have provided the legitimacy and impetus for a number of educational reforms that pose a direct threat to the mission of universalizing elementary education and equalizing educational opportunity for SC/ST, especially those left behind. The state is withdrawing from social sectors of education and health and delegating its social commitments and responsibilities to private agencies and non-governmental organizations. There is already enough indication that basic educational needs of the SC and ST are getting seriously undermined under the new dispensation adversely affecting life chances of vast sections of those who have yet to make the shift to first generation learning.
Urban migration, education, occupational change and religious conversion have been pursued by the scheduled castes as key strategies of socio-economic emancipation, status change and acquisition of a new social identity. They have achieved varying degrees of success. Anti caste and dalit movements have provided the bases for political consciousness and assertions of new self-consciousness and new self-respecting collective identities grounded in both moderate-reformist and radical ideologies. Contemporarily, the rigours of pollution, social practices of untouchability and social relations of servility vary greatly in different parts of the country. The widespread upsurge of atrocity signifies continued caste based oppression. Caste and occupation were closely interlinked in the traditional socio-economic order, and the lowest manual and menial occupations were reserved for the SC. The link has gradually been broken but not completely. There have been shifts to caste free occu pations. Changes took place with the arrival of new opportunities in rural employment and petty business as well as through education based occupational and social mobility in rural and urban contexts. However, economic exploitation and economic disadvantage and continued concentration in menial occupations continue to sustain and reinforce the degraded social position of the majority of the SC. Rural SC are predominantly landless and impoverished agricultural labour. Women are multiply subordinated.
By modernization is meant a process of long range social and cultural change, often regarded as leading to the progressive development of society. It is a multifaceted development specifically leading to the industrialization of economy, and increase in the geographic and social mobility and, the secularization of ideas, which give rise to secular, scientific and technical education. It also means a change from ascribed to achieved status and a higher standard of living. Thus, modernization is a question of changes in the social structure, norms and value orientations, and as such it demands certain norms and value orientations, and as such it demands certain adoptive devices. As a consequent of this modernization SC and STs are egger to adopt the new trends of modern culture which is possible only by the modern education.
State Provision for Education of SC and ST and Recent Trends in Their Educational Progress
State commitment to the education of SC/ST children is contained in Articles 15(4), 45 and 46 of the Indian Constitution. Article 15(4) underscores the states basic commitment to positive discrimination in favour of the socially and educationally backward classes and/or the SC and ST. Article 45 declares the states endeavour to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years. Article 46 expresses the specific aim to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of SC/ST.
In its effort to offset educational and socio-historical disadvantage, the Indian state conceived a range of enabling provisions that would facilitate access to and ensure retention of SC and ST children in school. In the initial Five Year Plans, the focus was on making available basic educational facilities such as schools especially in remote areas and providing scholarships and books. Both Central and State governments took up the responsibility of special educational provision. The scope of enabling interventions expanded considerably after the Fourth Five Year Plan.
Special schemes pertaining to school education of SC/ST children currently include: i) free supply of textbooks and stationery at all stages of school education ii) free uniforms to children in govt. approved hostels and Ashrams schools, and in some states also for children in regular schools; iii) free education at all levels; iv) pre-matric stipends and scholarships to students at middle and/or high school stage; v) special scheme of pre-matric scholarships for children of castes and families engaged in unclean occupations like scavenging, tanning and flaying of animal skin; vi) girls and boys hostels for SC/ST students and lodging facilities in hostels of backward classes including SC/ST; vii) ashram schools for tribal children started with the intention of overcoming the difficulties of provision in remote regions and also rather patronizingly to provide an environment educationally more conducive than the tribal habitat. In addition, several states have instituted scheme s such as scholarships to SC students studying in private schools, merit scholarships, attendance scholarships for girls, special school attendance prizes, remedial coaching classes, reimbursement of excursion expenses and provision of mid-day meals. The last has been recommended as an integral element in schooling by the Working group on Development and Welfare of the Scheduled Castes.
Education has always been considered an instrument of social change. In present day society education has been considered a sound economic investment and that is the reason why in all the developed and developing societies greater attention is being paid to education. The role of education is to transform a static society into one vibrant with a commitment to development and change.
In out national perception, education is essential for all. This is fundamental to our all round development such as material, psychological, spiritual and so on. Obviously, it implies that education of the Scheduled Tribes is fundamental to the development of the people of this area, and hence, it is essential for them also. Education is a potent agent not only for the social and psychological changes but it may influence productivity and economic development also, and, that is the reason why, for the last few years in the literature on development there has been much talk about the relationship between education and economic development and about education as investment. Educational will also help in the socialization of a child, and the development of the human personality, social mobility, occupational change, and the rise of professions. Education is not only a means of adjustment into the society and all round development, but it is also an end in itself. Educatio n affords protection of life. In addition to its relation with moral values, it is closely associated with socio-economic development. Education is, therefore, very significant for the development of a country and in spite of having many severe problems, the developing countries provide high priority to education. India is, undoubtedly, one among them.
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