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Educational disparities in India

The neglect of female education in India with specific social practices create deep asymmetries between male and female education. Prominent among these social practices are the gender division of Labour and the kinship system. The gender division of labour confines many women to household work. The benefits of girl education at home are often less clearly perceived and less strongly valued then the economic returns to boy’s education. The kinship system in many parts of India involves the separation of an adult woman from her parents after marriage when she joins husband family. This implies that educating a daughter is of little benefit from the point of view of parental self-interest. The situation is different in the case of sons where  they are educated and  expected to get better jobs and look after their aged parents. There is much evidence that employment opportunities and old age security do play a major role in schooling decisions. The fact that educating a daughter does not bring any tangible benefit to a parents and is no less costly than educating the son may well be the most important cause of gender bias schooling opportunities. 

There are various other considerations which discourage Indian parents from sending their daughters to school. For example parents are often reluctant to let their daughters wander outside the village. This prevents many girls from studying beyond the primary level given that upper primary schools are often unavailable within the village. Many parents rely on the elder daughters to look after younger siblings. 

The fact that literacy rates among disadvantage castes are much lower than average is well known. What is less clear is why this contrast  happens to be so sharp even when different caste share the same schooling facilities. Economic deprivation among the disadvantaged caste helps to explain this pattern. There is much evidence of a strong caste bias in literacy rate even at a given level of income. They are many reasons for this bias; first the traditional upper caste view that education is not appropriate for the lower caste continues to have some social influence. This view is bound to reduce the educational aspirations of children from the disadvantage caste and the parental and social support they receive in pursuit of these aspirations. There may be objective differences in economic and other returns to education for different caste. An educated boy from an upper caste family with good social connection often has better chances of finding a well-paid job then a low caste boy with similar educational qualifications. The children from disadvantaged caste are still discriminated against within the schooling system. Blatant forms of caste based discrimination  remains widespread. Some examples include discrimination against schedule caste settlements in the location of schools, teacher refusing to touch low caste children, children from particular caste being special target of verbal abuse and physical punishment by the teachers and low caste children being frequently beaten by higher caste classmates. 

These causes of education deprivation also apply in many cases to tribal communities. Tribal education has also raised some further issues. One of these is the relevance of modern education including literacy to tribal children. On this a common view is that tribal communities do not really need modern education or that they consider it is as irrelevant. Another view prevalent is that tribal people have their own mode of knowledge which modern education threatens to destroy. Another variant is that interest in education inherently low among tribal communities. Little evidence however has been produced to substantiate the view that educational needs and aspirations of tribal children are fundamentally different from those of other children. The school curriculum and teaching methods should be sensitive to the culture of the tribal children. But recognizing this basic principle and that it is routinely overlooked in the schooling system is not the same as dismissing the relevance of modern education for tribal children. The basic cause of educational deprivation among tribal communities is not so much add fundamental lack of interest in education on their part as the dismissal state of schooling facilities in most tribal areas. Very recently single teacher schools were the norm in these areas. The general problem of official neglect of elementary education has tended to take an extreme form in tribal areas partly due to the political marginalisation of tribal communities in most Indian states.