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Education and Inequality

The distribution of education both in terms of quality and quantity is highly uneven in most societies.

Inequality in opportunities for education is found not only with reference to individuals and social classes but also in terms of regions and territorial regions such as urban and rural areas.

Our educational system is urban biased in the matter of location of facilities; allocation of finance etc is a well-established fact. Most institutions of higher learning and good schools are concentrated in urban areas. The awareness of their existence and utility is also greater there. The students from the urban areas are favored for admission than those from the rural areas.

This acts as a barrier to the rural person that has the effect of insulating the educational facilities from being observed by the latter. As referred by Kamat in matter of cost, adjustment and complexes urban people have a decisive edge over their rural counterparts who will have in addition to surmount the problems arising from their migration to cities to pursue education. The rural rich alone seem in these circumstances to come closer to urbanities in the matter of higher education.

According to Bauer urban bias in the educational system is sometimes defended on the ground that in the potential progress of developing societies the city plays a dynamic multiple role as it is the focal point for change and progress and that such bias is not entirely absent even in the western countries. Another group advocates that technical efficiency and economic tenability necessitates educational facilities to be developed as a part of an urban –industrial complex. These arguments counter the role of education as removing the inequalities that it supposes to do.

The inevitable consequence of the urban bias in education has been the neglect of education in villages where majority of the population lives. Not only is rural education neglected, it is also suffering from serious ills in its present state.

Past experience has shown that at the time of policy planning the greatest stress is laid on universal mass education with special emphasis on the education of women, of scheduled castes and tribes and in rural areas .But at the time of execution and performance the achievements are in urban areas. There is an upward bias in the Government's method of estimation of the educated manpower requirements for economic growth and Government has been remarkably responsive to political pressures for quantitive expansion of higher education.

It is seen that good education is virtually the monopoly of a select stratum of urban society. The institutions are selective as far as socio-economic background of the students is concerned. Students are given preference that comes from high educational, occupational and income backgrounds.

While the government has taken up the cause of ameliorating the educational situation among the scheduled tribes and castes the response has been far from satisfactory. It is also seen that despite rapid expansion in their education women are still at a disadvantage compared to men. The availing of benefits of the rapid expansion in higher education by women is chiefly confined to those belonging to the higher social strata and upper caste groups in urban areas.

Inequality of educational opportunities does not take place solely at the level of higher education. In fact the initial unequal selection takes place at the school level itself and higher education merely reinforces it. A majority of students in higher education have had English medium education and that too in privately managed schools. The public or private schools contribute to the ranks of higher education.

With widespread inequality in opportunities for education resulting from the operation of socio-economic factors education seems to have failed as an effective equalizing factor.However it is not that education has not contributed at all to the process of upward social mobility but the momentum has been slow considering the social fabric of the country.