A democracy, if it is both to survive and to succeed must be based on the widest provision of educational facilities for all its members and not only for a few. The term equality of educational opportunity was often interpreted as opening of schools within walking distance for children and admission of children of all communities to schools. According to Kothari Commission (1964-66), “One of the important social objectives of education is to equalize opportunity, enabling the backward or underprivileged class to use education as a means to improve their condition.”
Hence, equality of educational opportunities in terms of caste, tribe, disability, gender and minorities is the only way for building up of an egalitarian and human society in which the exploitation of the weak will be minimized.
Meaning of Equality of Educational Opportunity:
Equality of educational opportunity includes provision of education for all, irrespective of religion, caste, creed, sex and location. It doesn’t mean identity of educational opportunity but a means best suited to the intelligence and aptitude of every student. Therefore, the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986 emphasized that equality of education means “to provide for equal opportunity to all not only in access but also in the conditions for success.”
Constitutional Provisions for Equality of Education:
The following Articles of Indian Constitution stress the equality of educational provisions:
- Article 26 (1): It states that education is a fundamental right. No person should be denied admission to educational institutions on the grounds of caste, colour, creed, religion or any one of them.
- Article 21 (A): The 93rd Amendment of the Directive Principles of State Policy declares, “the State shall endeavour to provide … free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years.” Thus, it provides equal opportunity to all primary education for all children.
- Article 46: The State shall promote with special care the education and economic interests of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the weaker sections of the society.
Cause of Inequality:
The following are the causes of inequality of educational opportunities in India:
- In places where no primary, secondary educational institutions exist.
- The poverty of large sections of the population.
- Differences in the standards of schools and colleges.
- The wide disparity between the education of boys and girls at all stages of education.
- The wide gaps of educational development between the advanced classes and the backward ones.
- The educational backwardness among the SCs/STs due to social deprivation and economic poverty.
Economic poverty though a major reason other factors such as social and psychological restraints, inadequate facilities at home and passive attitudes of the teachers to the educational progress of learners from backward communities too play a major role.
Measures taken to Achieve Equality of Educational Opportunities:
After the independence the Government of India has undertaken a number of steps to strengthen the educational bas of SCs and STs and other weaker sections of the society under the following educational schemes:
- Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)
- Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas
- Mid-Day Meal Scheme.
- Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVS)
- National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS)
- Community Polytechnics
FOR SCHEDULED CASTES AND SCHEDULED TRIBES:
With a view to provide safeguards against the exploitation of Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes and to promote and protect their social, educational, economic and cultural interests, special provisions were made in the Constitution. Due to their social disability and economic backwardness, they were grossly handicapped in getting reasonable share in elected offices, Government jobs and educational institutions and, therefore, it was considered necessary to follow a policy of reservations in their favour to ensure their equitable participation in governance. Consequently, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes came into being on passing of the Constitution (Sixty fifth Amendment) Bill, 1990 which was notified on 8-6-1990. However, with the Constitution (Eighty-Ninth Amendment) Act, 2003 coming into force on 19-2-2004 vide Notification of that date, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes got bifurcated and a separate National Commission for Scheduled Caste was constituted. Each Commission has a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and three other members (including a lady member).
The imbalance in educational development between different sections of the society has led to many social, economic ills and non-harmonious development of the individual learners’ personality. The following are some important measures which should be taken by the schools to facilitate the SC/ST education.
- Norms for opening primary school has been relaxed.
- Abolition of tuition fees, arrangement for hostel facilities, free text books, uniforms, school bags etc should be provided to the SC/ST students.
- Emphasis on special coaching for SC/ST students should be provided as well as scholarships at the secondary stage for talented students from rural areas.
The Role of the Teacher:
- As a rule, the school staff should seek, provide and ensure non-discrimination between the children of SCs/STs and other communities.
- Use of caste names/derogatory words when taking attendance of students should be avoided.
- Teacher should lead all the children equally to participate in the curricular and co-curricular activities of the school.
- Frequent meetings between the staff and parents of SCs/STs should be arranged.
- Teachers have a special responsibility to educate first generation learners of SCs/STs.
The National Commission for Women was set up as statutory body in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women act, 1990 to:
- review the Constitutional and Legal safeguards for women ;
- recommend remedial legislative measures ;
- facilitate redressal of grievances and
- advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women.
The Commission consists of a Chairperson and five members. At least one member each shall be from amongst persons belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe respectively.
Education will be used as an agent of basic change in the status of women. Women’s studies will be promoted as a part of various courses and educational institutions encouraged taking up active programmes to further women’s development. The removal of womens illiteracy and obstacles inhibiting their access to, and retention in, elementary education will receive overriding priority, through provision of special support services, setting of time targets, and effective monitoring. Major emphasis will be laid on women’s participation in vocational, technical and professional education at different levels.The policy of non-discrimination will be punished vigorously to eliminate sex stereo typing in vocational and professional courses and to promote women’s participation in non-traditional occupations and technologies.
Measures of Equalization of Educational Opportunities for Women:
- Focus on girls especially belonging to SC/ST and minority groups.
- In many states including Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur free education is provided to girls up to Class XII.
- Free textbooks for girls.
- Special coaching, remedial classes for girls and congenial learning environment.
FOR DISABLED CHILDREN:
There are various categories of disabled children requiring special educational facilities. They are: 1. Blind, 2. Partially Sighted, 3. Deaf, 3. Partially Hearing, 4. Educationally Abnormal, 5. Epileptic, 6. Maladjustment, 7. Physically Handicapped, 8. Affected by Speech Defect, 8. Delicate.
Integrated Education for Physically Challenged (I.E.P.C) was launched in 1974 to provide educational opportunities for disabled children in the general school system.
Unless the disabled children get an equal opportunity for education, we can’t achieve our national goal. It is to bring about effective measures to promote academic development and vocational possibilities. For this, teachers, parents are to work hand-in hand to make the integrated education an effective mode of education.
Recommendations of the NPE (1986) on Equal Opportunity to Education of Disabled Children:
The NPE (1986) states, the objective should be to integrate physically and mentally handicapped with the general community as equal partners for normal growth and to enable them to face life with courage and confidence.
- Wherever it is possible, the education of children with motor handicaps and other mild handicaps will be common with that of others.
- Adequate arrangements will be made to give vocational training to the disabled.
- Teacher’s training programmes will be re-oriented to deal with handicapped children.
- Regular classroom facilities with changing the environment of the classroom to be suited their needs.
FOR THE MINORITIES:
The Government of India constituted a National Commission for Minorities in May, 1993. The setting up of Minorities Commission was envisaged in the Ministry of Home Affairs Resolution dated 12.01.1978, which specifically mentioned that “despite the safeguards provided in the Constitution and the laws in force, there persists among the Minorities a feeling of inequality and discrimination.
Article 30 of the Indian Constitutional relates to certain cultural and educational rights to establish and administer educational institutions.
- All minorities whether based on religion or language shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their own.
- The State shall not discriminate against any educational institution on general that it is under the management of a minority based on religion or language.
- Scheme of financial assistance for modernization of Madrasa education.
Thus we have seen the various problems and measures for the equal opportunity of education for the scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, women and the disabled. The disparity between the education of the SC/ST and other weaker sections of the society and advanced sections is very wide. This disparity can be removed only through giving special attention to these neglected sections of the society.
Like all ideals in life, perfect equality of educational opportunity is unattainable. In a good system of education there should be a continuous attempt to identify factors which tend to create significant form of inequality and to adopt measures to eliminate them together or at least to reduce them to the minimum.