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To what extent does education divide or unite society?

There is a book written by Yashica Dutt known as ‘Coming out as a Dalit’. In her book she mentions a student named Rohit Vermula, a Dalit student who attempted suicide at a university due to caste discrimination. A question that arises is whether education divides or unites our society? In my opinion, education divides the society to a large extent in India. Let us understand why?

This is because of the existence of several systems of oppression and discrimination due to reservation rights.

Systems of oppression have existed in India for a long period of time and are a major reason for the division of society. To begin with, there are several castes and sub castes in India. These have transformed from a historical hierarchy which had a ranking beginning from Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras and Dalits. According to the hierarchy, the lower/ oppressed castes were Dalits and the Shudras. In fact, Dalits were considered the untouchables. Shudras and Dalits did not have access to education and were destitute. After the Indian independence to solve the educational inequality, education was made accessible to all under the right to education in the constitution under the Article 21-A. But there was no guarantee that everyone would receive it.

One can understand the severity of casteism after understanding cases about discrimination against Dalits. Especially when it comes to them being stripped off their rights given by the Indian constitution or the treatment they receive because there is a stark difference. A good example would be Kaushal Pawar. She is a Dalit person with a PhD in Sanskrit. She shared her experience where her upper caste roommate tried some malicious ways to get rid of her because of her caste. Additionally, people made comments about purifying the place she sits on by holding a holy ceremony. This is just one of the cases, discrimination exists in different scenarios and quantities. Most recognised institutes for engineering and medicine have had several students attempting suicide due to caste discrimination.

Another system of oppression that is congruent with casteism is religious discrimination. Recently, Karnataka’s education minister had banned hijabs in educational institutions. The protests against the ban caused closure of schools and colleges. Considering that hijabs are a religious practice amongst muslim communities, banning hijabs alienates a vast majority of muslim women from education. But occasionally, political parties function in the favour of religion that exists in majority rather than marginalised communities. The protests are one of the manifestations of religious discrimination, it could differ in diverse situations. Education is responsible for providing information about secularism and religious equality. As a result of the lack of information in a diverse country like India, irrational decisions are taken politically without taking into account all religions.

Economic disparity and lack of generational education exists as caste systems denied access to education to oppressed castes. To mend that gap, a reservation policy was introduced. The policy was to reserve a certain percentage of seats in educational institutions, government jobs and more for scheduled castes and tribes and other backward castes. This was to ensure that the historical deprivation of education in marginalised communities with respect to education in the long run closes the economic disparity as people become more qualified for well-paid jobs. This policy was salient for reducing inequality. Despite this policy, discrimination remains intact in the form of lack of conduct towards lower caste people. As reserved seats for marginalised communities lowered the number of seats for the students from general category, this was enraging for many who came in merit with generational education. On the other hand, the policy was established assuming that the students from these communities might not be able to score well and find jobs. Education becomes criticised as an effective education would likely preach secularism and equality.

Functionalism in sociology states that family, religion, crimes and education are all pillars of the social order. If one falls, so do others and the social order disintegrates. The casteism and discrimination that exists in society has percolated into education as well, since education is a product of society. Similarly in India, other pillars violate the pillar of education present in Indian society.

Education divides the society to a large extent as systems of oppression exist and the discrimination due to reservation policy exists. One might say that education is evolving but the question remains whether it treats all the same? It is evident that education was formed for the power to remain undivided. If anyone is to blame, it is the education which was formed by none other than people who wanted to remain in power.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt, a previous US politician says,“When you educate a man in mind and not in morals, you educate a menace to the society".

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