[Editorial Analysis] A higher exclusion

Mains Paper 2: Governance

Prelims level: 93rd amendment Act

Mains level: Laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections

Context

• Indian campuses can take some satisfaction in the fact that they are more inclusive than before in terms of the presence of women, dalits, tribals and people from Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

• This is the predominant takeaway from a recent study, ‘Exclusion in Indian Higher Education Today’. Published in the India Exclusion Report 2017 and released by the Centre for Equity Studies this week.

• This writer and Delhi University professor Satish Deshpande co-authored the study.

• The optimistic findings, education still needs to be located within other realistic frameworks.

The present status of OBC

• The 93rd amendment to the Constitution (2006) which ensured OBC reservation to the elite institutions of national importance.

• It should be a sobering moment for those who have always opposed such moves, calling them an attack on the meritocratic culture of higher education.

• A system which excludes the genius of a large section of society by way of tradition or custom cannot call itself meritorious at all.

• Muslims still lack a significant presence in higher education, reflecting the larger socio-political reality of India which is forcing them out of all common public spaces.

• The numerous efforts which the community itself is making to bring their youth into the arena of higher education.

• From instituting scholarships to establishing their own institutions, the community is desperately trying to make up for the indifference of the polity and society at large towards it.

• Why can special legislative interventions not be made to facilitate their entry into campuses, as in the case of the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and OBCs?

• Why can’t national resources be earmarked for this task? Would the enterprise of knowledge generation not be the richer with their contribution?

Major issues

• Inclusion in educational spaces is a complex issue.

• Apart from offering information and knowledge, seen as the primary priority of the campuses, these spaces attract the youth, especially young women, because they assure them freedom, a sense of equality and also a promise of mobility.

• The sight of numerous young women from modest backgrounds, enrolled in different distance-mode courses, trooping out of the metro stations to attend classes on Saturdays and Sundays, proves that the campus, for them, is a relief from their communitarian confines.

• Classrooms bursting at their seams, struggling to accommodate the increasing numbers, stagnant libraries and decaying laboratories are a common sight even in Delhi University.

• Colleges are being made to run with the help of ad-hoc teachers.

• Now we have a generation of unhappy teachers, who spend their prime years in constant anxiety about their uncertain status.

Language problem

• Language still remains a huge stumbling block for first-generation university goers.

• Even after 70 years of Independence, we have not thought of decolonising our minds.

• Indian languages are not yet seen as fit to be academic languages. Without having a sufficient grasp over English, you cannot be part of the higher education universe.

• Initiatives like the National Translation Mission are lying in tatters, and the “vernacular” masses have to fend for themselves or exist as second-class citizens.

• Severe cuts in the budgetary allocation in recent years to the higher education sector threatens to undo all the legislative initiatives to ensure an inclusive higher educational space.

• Recent educational reforms in the name of semesterisation, four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP),the choice-based credit system (CBCS), etc.

• It have wrecked the classroom experience.

• The ownership of courses and classes has been taken away from the teachers, turning them into automatons.

• The increasing pressure of nationalism on the universities unleashed by the present regime has also shrivelled them.

• The first generation learners are getting is actually a shadow of what their predecessors enjoyed.

Conclusion

• The last decade has also seen skill replacing knowledge in the governmental discussions on higher education, submissively adopted by the educational leaders.
• Generation of new knowledge is no longer presented as a dream or a challenge in itself.

• The youth is simply expected to prepare to be the backroom workers of the world of knowledge.

• The inclusion would be truly meaningful only if the youth feel confident enough to stake their claim as creators of such knowledge.

• We are not only very far from this goal, but have slid back, instead, sadly.

• The masses need it the most, public higher education is getting dismantled. The elites are building for themselves world-class private universities and institutions.

• Acceptance of this inequality as natural would nullify the gains reflected by the increased numbers recently.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to reservation of constituencies for election in India, consider the following statements:

1. The Constitution has provided for reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for the SCs, STs and OBCs.

2. The decision regarding reservation of constituencies in each State is taken by the Parliament.

3. The number of seats reserved for SCs and STs are in proportion to their population in that State.

Select the answer using the correct code given below.

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 1 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Why can special legislative interventions not be made to facilitate their entry into campuses, as in the case of the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and OBCs?

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