India is regarded as a humongous laboratory for sociological experiments by many researchers. This is fundamentally because of the large social stratification, contrasting societies and complicated blends within a society itself, which are enough to provide new insights to social enigmas frequently. The disparities in India are so high that it would be hard to believe that the country that hosts 100 billionaires in Forbes lists, also houses the largest fragment of poor and hungry in the global tally. This is the economic scenario, but it is one of the most influential factors affecting other disparities such as education. On the other hand, such complexities are often interrelated augmenting one other. Educational inequality is the situation or the system in which there exist large disparities in the society on the opportunity and access to education. This is a result of a complicated social structure, which is shaped up by long standing social norms, believe and most importantly, by contrasting economic divisions.
Educational inequality forms up gradually as an ongoing process. Education is affected by social, political and economic status of people. Individuals who are from wealthy section of the society always have the privilege to reach out for better schools and institutions. While those from the deprived section are prone to lower quality, in the process, the system contributes to a deepening chasm. On the other hand, the educationally enlightened group gains more access to political and economic system turning them to be favorable to suit their interest of their own kinds. Such a structure has an adverse effect in the deprived section affecting them from multifarious direction. It is evident from the observation that if educational inequalities can be decimated, a huge change will follow in the social structure. However, to obtain the very change educational disparity, impetus from political and economic sector is inevitable.
India has transformed in a short span to be one of the most progressive nations. Series of economic reforms, industrialization, privatization and other steps by government has wiped out the impasses of Indian society to large extents. This has substantial onus on the unorganized education system of the nation integrating it to be more effective as well as holistic. However, the gap is still serious and it seems there is still much to be done. The gradual change in the economy of the country has influenced education in diverse way. Government has taken extensive initiatives to develop the system to be holistic and equally delivering. The gap is being created by the private players that have turned education to a lucrative business. The equation of investment to create profit has rendered private education a competitive edge. This competition to provide quality in education has taken some of the institutions to heights with global standard. In the same time, this also has an adverse effect creating more spaces dividing privileged and under privileged education. While government budget for education has become increasingly incompetent to compete with private funding, educational inequality has become more conspicuous among the less privileged section of society comprising of lower middle class and the deprived, especially in primary schooling.
As disparities in India are rooted in diverse fronts apart from economic conditioning’s, the attempts to unify the populace through education are directed to address various issues. The provision of reservation based on caste is a reflection of these very attempts. Such mechanisms are proved helpful to great extents, but some serious drawbacks are implicated time to time. Educational disparities are gradually changing towards the brighter side. Comparing the India before a couple of decades to that of the nation in 21st century, contrasting progress is observed.
Educational development of the country is a joint effort of government, private players and the Non-governmental entities. Earlier it is pointed out that private entities are fueling inequality in education while contributing to the progress. In contrast to this, Non-governmental organizations are playing a pivotal role. In current times, the contribution of this particular sector is substantial in eradicating educational disparities. A number of social enterprises have come up with excellent innovative measures to provide quality education to the deprived section. The greatest advantage in the methodology is that, these organizations tend to provide quality education comparable to private entities but they are devoid of any requirement of huge money as required in private sectors. These organizations target the deprived section of the society and most of the times, sections that are deprived of minimum privilege of schooling. NGOs as well as CSR activities carried out by large corporations are huge stimulus in propagating quality education among deprived sections. However, as inequality is prevalent across the country, these initiatives are not adequately distributed. Most activities of NGO are concentrated around villages and areas closer to cities. To make this approach more effective and to spread them across nook and corner of the nation, more social- initiatives must be developed. In addition, the government should stress on NGOs their allied activities for educational equality.
India has grown to be one of top economies of the world. Rapid urbanization as well as migration of rural folks to urban centers has become a pertinent trend in the nation. In current times, educational disparity is gradually being denuded as a result of various factors in the development mechanism. This is certainly a good tiding, but still there is more to be done.
A good public education system means public spending- but not necessarily public provision. In the independent sector where schools depend on fees, it is often the case that once the family background is controlled, the actual benefits of private schooling disappear. But in systems where access is not limited by selection or wealth, privately- managed schools can contribute to better outcomes. 25% of all K- 12 schools are private schools, accounting to 40% share in student enrollment. There is a tremendous increase in the enrollment of private schools in rural India and declining enrollment of government schools. Utilization of private schools is higher, more so at the primary and secondary level as compared to the government schools. India has more than 3, 39,000 private schools, growing in the last five years and a large number of schools across India tie- up with International Boards. The Private education sector in the top 20 sates account for nearly 55% share of enrollment at the secondary and higher education.
(Author Ajay Chhangani is CEO, Rise India Group)