Monday, October 29, 2007

Social Inclusion in Education: India and Nepal

Dalits are a particular caste group found in South Asia, largely in Nepal and India, where the manifestation of their social exclusion is very similar. For Dalits (the term meaning downtrodden or oppressed), their status as ‘untouchables’ puts them at the heart of an insidious formof discrimination and social unacceptability.

In both Nepal and India, suffer educational disadvantage. In Nepal, Dalits are poorer than most other social groups. In India, scheduled caste (SC) children remain disadvantaged across many social indicators.There has been a significant increase in overall literacy rates and school participation rates across the country since the early 1990s. Gender and social disparities have also declined with an overall increase in school attendance. However, disparities still exist. According to a UNICEF supported Baseline Survey in India, there are significant disparities inattendance rates and also learning achievements between children from scheduled caste and othercastes. Dalits lag behind other social groups in terms of educational attainment in Nepal also.

Reasons for the exclusion of Dalits include insufficient education facilities, poor teaching methods and discriminatory attitudes towards Dalits by teachers and children of other castegroups. Limited and inequitable distribution of budget affects the poor (and thus many Dalits)more, and their exclusion from savings and credit schemes has further increased their poverty.Additional factors in Nepal have been the effects of the conflict and the fragmentation of the Dalit movement.

Governments of both Nepal and India have anti-discriminatory laws, the main problem being thelack of enforcement. Targeted financial allocations to districts in India with high numbers of scheduled caste children, and scholarships to Dalit children in Nepal and India, have been implemented. However coverage is an issue. The problem analysis shows that while certain universal measures are useful and necessary for enabling Dalit children to enrol and complete primary education, they are by no means sufficient. Dalits are not only disadvantaged by poverty, but also by social exclusion from civil and political processes, and other forms of social interaction. It is therefore helpful to place this group very firmly in a social exclusion frameworkin order to articulate their very special needs and to develop policies to meet them.

Based on relevant global evidence and the notion of intentional action by certain groups to limit opportunities for others, the paper concludes that three layers of policy options are needed: universal policies which might improve the enrolment and completion of Dalits and others; special measures for disadvantaged children; and particular special measures for Dalits which address the relational aspect of deprivation. Finally, one of the lessons from India has been that piecemeal approaches, which only address one element of exclusion, have limited success. Therefore, there is a need for a comprehensive approach which addresses all the barriers to access simultaneously.Please see original detail report and more:

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