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

A+| A| A-

Overcast Minds

Caste Consciousness and Academic Performance

Children from historically disadvantaged castes face systemic hurdles in education in India—ill-equipped schools, poorly trained teachers, discrimination—leading to high failure and dropout rates. Children from disadvantaged castes also face subtler psychological impediments. One such impediment is consciousness of negative stereotypes. Via an experiment, this study illustrates how caste consciousness could affect academic performance, and finds that children from disadvantaged castes perform poorly in tests when made aware of their caste and reservation status than otherwise. The study underlines the need for reform in how India implements its reservation policy to narrow some of the inter-caste differences in educational attainment.

Inherited caste identity is known to block the progress of many Indians from historically disadvantaged castes (Thorat and Newman 2009). In the sphere of educationwhich is critically linked to other life outcomes, such as employment, income, health, and standard of living, disadvantaged castes continue to face hurdles in access to schooling and skill attainment despite remedial affirmative action programmes by the national and state governments.1 Case studies document that schools serving disadvantaged caste communities are poorly staffed, with teachers having inadequate subject knowledge and training (Subramanian 2017). Studies also detail the discrimination children from underprivileged caste groups experience at school, including being segregated during school lunches, denied access to drinking water, subjected to casteist slurs, and asked to do menial tasks seldom asked of pupils from traditionally privileged castes (Balagopalan and Subrahmanian 2003; Nambissan 2009; Subramanian 2017). Children from disadvantaged castes are also known to suffer prejudice within classroomswith teachers silencing them, and seating them in the back while reserving front seats for students from traditionally privileged castes (Nambissan 2009).

Data from across India reveals the systematic nature of the hurdles that children from disadvantaged castes face in education: far fewer children from historically disadvantaged castes are likely to enroll in schools than children from traditionally privileged castes, and are more likely to fail in class and drop out of education before school completion (Desai et al 2010). Empirical analysis of the India Human Development Survey data indicates that people from historically disadvantaged castes have fewer years of education than people from privileged castes, and children from disadvantaged caste groups have a significantly lower ability to read even simple sentences or perform basic arithmetic calculations than their counterparts from privileged caste groups (Borooah 2012; Desai and Dubey 2012).

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Or

To gain instant access to this article (download).


Pay
INR 236

(Readers in India)


Pay
$ 12

(Readers outside India)

Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.