ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rethinking the Traditional Approach

Access to Education in Tribal Areas

What are the challenges in providing quality education in hilly and tribal areas? This article argues that the current educational structures, even when properly implemented, may not meet the needs of students in such areas. Based on a field study in Tripura, it suggests a different approach: the residential school model in the inaccessible areas.

As per the latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for India, “2014 is the sixth year in a row that enrolment levels are 96% or higher for the 6–14 age group” (ASER Centre 2015). While this is a satisfying development at the national level, despite the serious “quality” concerns pointed out by the ASERs, this article looks at the special needs of difficult areas where even the “quantity” needs of schoolgoing children have not been met. It appears from the key findings of the ASERs that the real challenge in the future for public policy in the education sector is how to address “quality” issues; a slow but sure evolution from the earlier concerns about “quantity” issues and the enrolment levels. But those concerns remain for some parts of the country.

In Tripura—a state which I focused on in an attempt at a more detailed analysis of the problem—many schools have been set up in difficult areas, school buildings have been constructed and adequate number of teachers have been posted in those schools.1 But the schools do not appear to be functioning properly, particularly in the villages in remote hilly areas. A casual observer may dismiss this issue as one of dereliction of responsibility by individual teachers, but a careful analysis suggests that the problems are more systemic in nature.

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