Introduction: Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are the two most disadvantaged sections of the Indian society needing special attention. Together they form about a quarter of the total population of the country (the scheduled castes about 16 percent and scheduled tribes about 8 percent). There are, however, large statewide variations in the proportion of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes population. While the scheduled castes (SC) are concentrated in the states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Haryana, the scheduled tribes (ST) are mostly concentrated in the North Eastern states and the states of central India.
The scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes are economically disadvantaged. The extent of land available to them is much lower compared to general population. Among the tribes, though the size of land may be higher, the land is generally of inferior quality. The extent of indebtedness among the scheduled households is greater than the general category.
The level of literacy among the scheduled groups has been very low. About 90 percent Education of SCs and STs of these two groups were illiterate in 1961. However, some of these groups, particularly among the scheduled tribes have higher literacy rates in most of the North-Eastern states. The school enrolment among these groups as compared to others also presents the same picture, though at the primary level the differences between the scheduled and non-scheduled groups were minimal.
While both the scheduled groups are deprived, the source of their deprivation is different. In the case of the scheduled castes, the deprivation is due to low place accorded to them in the Hindu caste system where they are not only at the bottom of the caste hierarchy but were also untouchables. The scheduled tribes have suffered because of the long period of physical isolation as most of the tribes lived in remote and inaccessible forest areas and were cut from modem civilization. The tribal economy is based on primary production involving primitive technology. The high rate of illiteracy among these groups made them susceptible to exploitation by certain undesirable elements like moneylenders, middlemen etc. The tribes, however, have their own culture and dialects and sometimes their own script, which they want to preserve. To enable these groups benefit from the modern educational system, teachers need to understand them.
A democracy 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 the 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 a democratic society in which the exploitation of the weak will be minimized.
Meaning of Equality of Educational Opportunity: Equality of educational opportunity includes the 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.”
Causes 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 plays 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 Polyt
Constitutional Provisions for SC/ST
The Constitution of India has clearly stated in its Preamble that everyone has the right of equality of status and of opportunity. The Directive Principles of the State Policy further stress in Article 41 the right to work, to educate and to public assistance in certain cases including disablement. In addition to Article 45, the Constitution lays down that free, compulsory and universal primary education should be provided to all children up to 14 years of age.
Article 46 of the Constitution of India commits the State to promote educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Weaker Sections. Thus, you will notice that all these Articles and their implementation aim at providing quality education to all including different disadvantaged groups. Even today, after more than 60 years of independence, India is struggling to fight against all kinds of biases of caste, religions, ideology, gender etc. Education can play a significant role to minimizing and finally eliminating these differences by proving equality of access to quality education and opportunity.
Equality of opportunity means that every individual will receive suitable education at a pace and through methods suitable to her/him and therefore, children from the disadvantaged and socially discriminated groups also suffering specific challenges must be paid special attention.
Aldous Huxley has remarked, “If your aim is liberty and democracy, then you must teach people the art of being free and end of governing themselves.” In this context, after Independence, considering the magnitude of India, being acted as a democratic country, made several provisions under different articles for the fulfillment of Social Justice (equity) and equality for the sake of all disadvantaged groups in which Scheduled Castes are a major listed group. The Constitution has tried to minimize discrimination and tried to put these groups at par with others. Following are some major provisions according to the Constitution of India for all-around improvement of scheduled castes.
Article 14 The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law on the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Article 15 It refers to the prohibition of discrimination on the ground of religion, race, castes, sex or place of birth or any of them. This necessitates that
(1) States should not discriminate against any citizen on any ground as mentioned in this Article. It also means that nothing shall,
(2) On grounds only of religion, caste, sex, place of birth or any one of them be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition about
- Access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainments or
- The use of wells, tanks, bathing Ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.
(3) Nothing in this article or clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the State laws making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. This has implications for all of us as we have to treat all children equally and in case, a child from a weaker section or socially disadvantaged group lags, special provisions and efforts have to be made to bring her/him at par with other children.
Article 16 (1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointments to any office under the State.
(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence, or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.
(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law prescribing, in regard to a class or classes of employment or appointment to an office under the Government of, or any local or other authority within, a State or Union Territory, any requirement as to residence within that State or Union Territory prior to such employment or appointment.
(4) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.
Relates to relaxation in Government jobs proportionately for SC/ST. This article has implications for reserving posts in various cadres for SCs and STs and does not have any direct implication for classroom or teaching related issues. However, it is important to note that none of us hold a negative attitude or have pre-conceived notions about the competence and skill of those, who are appointed against reserved posts.
Article 17 Abolition of Untouchability. Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden, the enforcement of any disability arising out of Untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. In fact, untouchability has already been abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. It is an offence punishable in accordance with law and therefore, a teacher also should be aware of it. In this context, it may not be out of places to quote from position paper by National Focus Group on Problems of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Children, 2007 brought out by NCERT.
Article 19 (1) – All citizens shall have the right; (a) to freedom of speech and expression; (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms; (c) to form associations or unions; (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India; (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and (g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
Article 23 (2) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purposes, and in imposing such service the State shall not make any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste or class or any of them.
Article 24 Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc. No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment. Provided that nothing in this sub clause shall authorise the detention of any person beyond the maximum period prescribed by any law made by Parliament under sub clause (b) of clause (7); or such person is detained in accordance with the provisions of any law made by Parliament under sub clauses (a) and (b) of clause (7).
It is seen that children with poor socio-economic background from all communities including scheduled castes are employed as working children. Child labour is prohibited in any form. As per RTE (2009) Act, all children need to be enrolled in schools (on full time basis). Various provisions and facilities have been made for facilitating their education (with emphasis on increasing their enrolment, reducing their drop rate and bringing them at par with other children in terms of achievement. Teachers have to make conscious efforts to bring all children, including street children and working children, who are out-of-school, to the school. Some of these children might have grown in age and therefore, might feel uneasy to sit with younger children. This could also result in their developing a complex. Several national and state level organizations are in the process of developing bridge courses and learning material to help them to be placed in appropriate classes (as per their age) who either remained out of the system or dropped out due to various reasons. Studies have proved that if there is a mismatch between the curricular expectations and children’s capabilities or the teaching style of teachers does not match with the learning style of students, there is a high probability of such students leaving studies in the middle. We as teachers have to make conscious efforts to adapt our teaching styles match with the learning styles and culture of children. In case of scheduled castes this acquires additional importance as several of them may be first generation learners and may not have educated parents or resources to cope up with the curricular load.
Article 29 (2) No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.
Article 45 Provision for free and compulsory education for children. The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
Article 46 Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections. The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
(1) Seats shall be reserved in the House of the People for: (a) the Scheduled Castes; (b) the Scheduled Tribes except the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam; and (c) the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam.
(2) The number of seats reserved in any State or Union Territory for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes under clause (1) shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same proportion to the total number of seats allotted to that State or Union Territory in the House of the People as the population of the Scheduled Castes in the State or Union Territory or of the Scheduled Tribes in the State or Union Territory or part of the State or Union Territory, as the case may be, in respect of which seats are so reserved, bears to the total population of the State or Union Territory.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in clause (2), the number of seats reserved in the House of the People for the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam shall bear to the total number of seats allotted to that State a proportion not less than the population of the Scheduled Tribes in the said autonomous districts bears to the total population of the State. In this article 332, the expression population means the population as ascertained at the last preceding Census of which the relevant figures have been published: Provided that the reference in this Explanation to the last preceding Census of which the relevant figures have been published shall, until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2000 have been published, be construed as a reference to the 1971 Census.
(1) Seats shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, except the Scheduled Tribes in the tribal areas of Assam, in Nagaland and in Meghalaya, in the Legislative Assembly of every State. (3) The number of seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly nearly as may be, the same proportion to the total number of seats in the Assembly as the population of the Scheduled Castes in the State or of the Scheduled Tribes in the State or part of the State, as the case may be, in respect of which seats are so reserved, bears to the total population of the State.
Article 334 Reservation of seats and special representation to cease after forty years. Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of the part, the provisions of this Constitution relates to – (a) the reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States;
Article 335 Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to services and posts. The claims of the members of the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.
Article 338 (1) There shall be a Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to be known as the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
(2) In this article, references to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be construed as including references to such other backward classes as the President may, on receipt of the report of a Commission appointed under clause (1) of Article 340, by order specify and also to the Anglo-Indian Community.
(3) It shall be the duty of the Commission:
(a) To investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under this Constitution or under any other law for the time being in force or under any order of the Government and to evaluate the working of such safeguards.
(b) To inquire into specific complaints concerning the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
(c) To participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State.
(d) to make in such reports recommendations as to the measures that should be taken by the Union or any State for the effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for the protection, welfare and socio-economic development of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; and
(e) To discharge such other functions about the protection, welfare and development and advancement of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify.
(5) The Union and every State Government shall consult the Commission on all major policy matters affecting Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.