In our society, education is meant to be the “great equaliser”. If a person works hard, they will be rewarded accordingly. But that is not always the case. Historically, education has been seen as a privilege; this factor still affects the way a considerable amount of educational institutions function today.
Ideally, schools and colleges are meritocracies. Suppose two people exhibit an equal amount of effort and potential. In that case, the rewards they receive will be the same, irrespective of their gender, caste, race, socio-economic status or any other criteria. However, we don’t live in an ideal meritocracy, and as such, our educational system systematically puts certain sections at a disadvantage.
A large part of how students perform in schools has to do with their family’s economic and class standing and whether the family environment is conducive to education or not. Having better financial standing means having access to quality schools with a variety of facilities that are crucial in getting a well-rounded education.
The amount of schooling one gets is also dependent on an individual’s socio-economic background. In communities where the average person holds a college degree, adolescents belonging to the same community naturally expect to attend institutions of higher education. They have better resources to plan for the same, as the working of the entire system is taken as common knowledge.
In comparison, students from low-income neighbourhoods are more likely not to pursue higher education due to the lack of knowledge and understanding about higher education in their respective community. This inherent defect puts students from low-income families at a far greater disadvantage and widens the disparity. The aspect of financial aid and scholarships leads to a competitive environment and, hence, such students have to work harder than their more affluent peers to obtain a proper education.
Gender plays a crucial role in the level of schooling a person gets. Due to the patriarchal structure of our society, females often lack support from their family with regards to pursuing an education. At the same time, men are encouraged to do so, as they are expected to be the breadwinners of a household.
Due to certain demerits of the educational system, teachers are likely to form biases towards certain students because of their caste, religion or race which may directly or indirectly affect the quality of schooling such students receive.
The United Nations has labelled SDG-4 as “Quality Education”. Several nations have made efforts to provide a quality education that is accessible to all, irrespective of their caste, creed, race, religion, gender, etc. For instance, countries like Finland and Norway have made tuition for public universities free of cost for all its citizens. Further, Germany and the U.S.A. have invested heavily in their public school infrastructure, all to decrease inequalities that may arise due to various circumstances.
It is high time that we start dismantling this system of oppression that denies one of the most fundamental rights of a child — learning and having a safe environment to do so.
By Baibhabhi Hazra