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By Ajay Dandekar and Vijay Kulkarni

For an inclusive education, the government of India had launched a series of programmes and schemes such as National Policy on Education (NPE), Programme of Action (POA), NFE/Education Guarantee Scheme and Alternative and Innovative Education (EGS&AIE), District Primary Education Programme (DPEP), SarvaShikshaAbhiyan (SSA) etc. especially aimed at spreading education to marginalized sections of the society – Scheduled Tribes are one such community that need special attention from the government.

As per the Sixth All India Education Survey (1993), there were about 176,500 habitations (mostly tribal habitations) without access to schooling facilities. The situation is presented in a better condition by the latest estimate of 2003-04 which states that there are 81,000 habitations without primary schools in India. The largest number of habitations without primary schools is found in the states of Bihar (14200), Orissa (13100), Assam (12300), Rajasthan (8000), West Bengal (6600) and Andhra Pradesh (4100). The SarvaShikshaAbhiya has covered these unserved habitations in its programme.

According to the Selected Educational Statistics 2001-2002, there were two million ST children who did not attend school in 2001. There had been a positive trend in the enrolment of tribal children including girls at primary and upper primary schools – the enrolment increased by 2.4 and 4.2 times from 1981 to 2001 respectively. Despite this obvious increase in the enrolment, the achievement of Quality Education remains a big question. The issues and challenges that have affected tribal education have been categorized as external – related to issues at levels of policy, planning and implementation; internal – related to inter alia school system, content, curriculum, pedagogy, medium of instruction etc; socio-economic and psychological – related to social, economic and cultural background of the tribals and the psychological aspects of the first generation learners.

Various scholars have argued that the poor performance of tribal children is due to low levels of parental education, occupation, low income and deprivation. Besides low level of motivation and poor self-esteem of the children, parents are found to be non-committal in sending their children to schools and are unsupportive in schoolwork. This has largely to do with the social and economic conditions of the tribal people who chiefly rely on agricultural and minimum subsistence farming activities. The daily requirements to engage themselves in agricultural field works for livelihood have blinded them from realizing the importance of educational attainment which is a long term goal.

With the objectives of understanding the level of competency achieved at standard IV and standard VI and to determine the factors influencing the tribal education, NEG-Fire undertook a fieldwork research in tribal areas of Dang district in Gujarat. The literacy rate of the northern part of the district remained abysmally low at 40.9% as against 60.2% and 69.7% at the average district and state levels respectively.

(For the Executive Summary, contact research@negfire.org)