Education In India: The Caste System

Historically, the Indian caste system has been a major factor in the social division of Indians.

This division is usually based on class, religion, location, tribe, gender, and language. Although these conflicts exist in all cultures, it becomes a problem when these aspects overlap. They end up serving as the only standard for discrimination.

This results in unbalanced access to valuable resources like income, power, and status. The caste system no longer has the old rigidity that it once did, especially in urban areas.

Unluckily, it still affects almost every aspect of life, including the educational system.

Education system in India

Brahman males adapted traditional Hindu teaching to meet their demands and learned to read and write from a Brahman educator. From the 1700s until 1947, Britain governed India. During that time, the education policies there strengthened the elitist urges already present by linking progress in government service to academic achievement.

By the early 20th century, many other castes had come to understand the benefits of education as a path to political power. Because of this, they were successful in obtaining formal education. Even today, those who complete middle school and enroll in high school are mostly children from upper castes and families. 

Access to education is often denied to individuals from lower castes, which is a prevalent issue in many regions. Individuals from lower castes are often compelled to work in menial vocations considered inferior to those of higher castes. It is not unexpected that India ranks amongst countries with the world’s highest rate of illiteracy, given this historic obstacle.

Besides, the post-independence emphasis on secondary school rather than basic education has been an additional hindrance. The Indian Constitution pledged to make primary and middle school education free and available to all by the year 1960. The 1968 and 1986 national policy statements on education reaffirmed this commitment.

But, 60 years later, India’s inability to effectively deploy resources renders that objective impossible.

Access to education in India

Even in 2023, female education remains a challenge. Due to India’s population, there is a social bias against teaching young girls. Some parents cannot afford to give all of their children a quality education.

They instead focus their limited funds on boys because they believe that investing in male education would yield larger returns. The caste system influences the educational philosophy and curricula in Indian schools. The Indian educational system prioritized the teachings of higher castes, while neglecting the histories and cultures of lower castes and minority groups.

As a result, people who do not belong to the dominant caste groups are now much more marginalized in the educational system. For others, the sense of hierarchy and exclusion remains.

Education level in India

Streets of India

Building human capital and a democratic society both depend on education. The quality of education in any nation determines innovation, economic progress, social fairness, and equity.

India spent 305.28 billion USD (3% of GDP) on education in 2018–2019, placing 62nd overall in public education spending. Private schools are mostly better. However, many of them have high tuition costs that limit their appeal to middle-class and upper-class families. Not to mention, admissions can be fiercely competitive.

The growth of low-cost private schools in rural and urban India is a recent development. Due to lower salaries for private educators compared to public school educators, these schools often have inferior facilities and infrastructure compared to government schools. But, they can hire a lot more educators, have fewer classes, and have more teaching activities.

 Changes in education system in India 

The Government of India (GOI) has introduced the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 to change the Indian educational system. Given that this is India’s first education policy of the twenty-first century and third overall since gaining independence in 1947, it is possible to assess the relevance of the new education policy. This marks a positive initial step towards preparing Indians for the future.

It acknowledges the necessity for effective solutions to address India’s challenges, which may not be fully addressed by other large-scale government initiatives. Some of these initiatives include Made in India, Start-up India, Skill India, and Self-Reliant India.

Online education in India

The Indian government is also making efforts to advance online learning. With Swayam, they provide free training and certification programs to everyone. This initiative’s main goal is to offer high-quality education, for which they have partnered with IITs, IIMs, and NPTEL.

Online education is often provided in English, which might be a hurdle for those who lack language proficiency. Steps have been taken to offer online courses in various Indian languages.

However, there is still a considerable distance to cover before online education becomes truly accessible to all. Schools must adopt a multifaceted strategy to address the problem of improving India’s standard of education.

How is the Indian education system being improved?

There have been initiatives in recent years to address the issue of prejudice brought on by the caste system and encourage more inclusive and equal schooling in India. This encompasses initiatives such as affirmative action policies, scholarships for underprivileged students, and incorporation of diverse viewpoints into curricula.

These initiatives signify substantial progress in addressing and eliminating caste-based barriers to education in India, although more work remains. To enhance the quality of education, improvements in infrastructure, better provision of equipment, and increased funding at all levels are crucial steps to take.

Boosting educator training programs is essential to ensure that educators possess the necessary abilities and information to instruct students effectively. The syllabus should reflect modern teaching techniques and technological advancements. School curricula should be tailored to meet the needs of students, with an emphasis on practical skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

Giving students access to instructional tools and resources and integrating technology into the classroom can serve to raise the caliber of education. This involves giving children access to computers and the internet and using technology in schools.

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