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How Much Do Dalit Lives Matters In Indian Higher Education?

India has seen a significant increase in the enrollment of students in higher education. As per the latest AISHE 2018-19 reports, Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER ) was 26.3, indicating 26.3% of the population of 18-23 age group enrolled in higher education. The GER was 11.6 in 2005-06.

The question arises whether these changes have been inclusive or have they widened the gaps, especially based on caste? How much population of SC-ST communities have access to higher education in today’s era? Have people from Dalit communities gotten similar access to colleges like the rest of the Indians in higher education? What is the state-wise scenario in this regard? How much is the difference between overall enrollment % and Dalits enrollments % across India and in states too? We will try to analyze the data in this regard.

There is no doubt the representation of students belonging to the SC-ST communities has increased. In 2005-06, the GER of SC and ST category population was a mere 8.4 and 6.6 respectively. It has now increased to 23 for the SC and 17.20 for the ST community. Let’s look at the ‘Representation Gap’, defined as a gap percentage of the category enrollment ratio to the overall enrollment ratio (=(Category GER-Overall GER)*100/Overall GER).

Graph by author. Data from AISHE Report 2018-19.

In 2005-06, the representation of the SC category was lagging by 27.59% to overall enrollment, this gap reduced to 12.55% in 2018-19. Reduction in the representation gap also happened for the ST community, but it is less, it was lagging by 43.1 in 2005-06 and now it is lagging by 34.6%. Reservation seems to have helped in reducing the gap for people from Scheduled Castes but had not helped much for tribes.

Let’s look at the state-wise scenario. Among poor-performing states, J&K tops as here SC category GER is 32.04%  less than overall GER in Higher Education. Haryana, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, West Bengal, capital Delhi, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, all of these sates have at least 25% lower representation of SC community than overall population among 18-23 age group in Higher group.  Surprisingly, this gap is less in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra are near to close this gap while  Assam, Manipur, and Gujrat have a positive gap.

Graph by author. Data from AISHE Report 2018-19

Now, let’s look at the representation gap in one of the most ignored communities: Scheduled Tribes, who mostly live in close and isolated environments, often known as Adivasi. People from the Scheduled Tribes, in most of the states, have very little access to colleges or universities in comparison to total population of the state among the 18-23 age group of respective states. At all-India level, their access to higher education is one-third (34.6%) less than the total population.

Graph by author. Data from AISHE Report 2018-19

Maharashtra has the widest representation gap for tribes. Enrollment ratio of tribes in Higher education is 52.5%(more than half) less of the overall enrollment ratio in the state. The huge gap across most of the states solidifies the poor situation tribes in terms of access to higher education. People of ST communities are very less represented in Higher education in bigger states like, West Bengal, MP, Odisha, Karnataka in comparison to the total enrollment ratio of the 18-23 age group. UP and Bihar do have a positive gap in comparison to the total enrollment ratio in the state.

Tribes need to be given more attention by policymakers, educators, governments, so that they can be brought to higher education to realize the meaning of #DalitLivesMatters. While education is the key to their upliftment, they are very under-represented.

Considering the insights given above, what do you think? Do you think reservation has played a key role in increasing representation in education, do we need further reforms to achieve equal representation?

Created by SP Annotate

Has reservation helped in reducing the gap so far?

There is a big difference among states regarding the ‘Representation Gap’. Tell us about your state and the probable reason for that in the comments section.

Note: Values of Gross Enrollment Ratio have been taken from the AISHE 2018-19 report released by MHRD, Govt of India.

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