Back to: Contemporary India and Education-Unit 1
Caste in social stratification is based on the transmission of lifestyle, hereditary, and endogamy that involves a hierarchy status, occupation, and customary social practice of exclusion that revolves around purity. In ancient India, there existed a practice called ‘untouchability’. Individuals who belonged to low caste were not allowed to enter temples and were treated with discrimination. They were considered to be impure and therefore, regarded as untouchables. Lundberg states,
“A stratified society is one marked by inequality, by differences among people that are evaluated by them as being lower and higher”.
Features of the Caste System in India
The features of the caste system in India are as follows:
Social stratification based on social class and status is the ranking of individuals and groups on a social hierarchy. This ranking depends on the honor, prestige, wealth, and property held by an individual or group in society.
Individuals have a caste hierarchy based on whether they belong to the lower or higher caste in an order of inferiority and superiority.
There are restrictions based on food. Some castes do not accept food offered or touched by lower caste people. They believe that the food gets polluted when it is touched by lower caste people.
Pollution plays an important role in the Indian caste system as high caste people refrain from touching an individual belonging to the low caste. They keep a distance from the person to avoid getting polluted.
Based on their caste, individuals are accustomed to hereditary occupation. For instance, Brahmins are expected to become priests, and low caste people are expected to become sweepers, tailors, cobblers, and the like.
How Does the Caste System Affect Education in India
The caste system in India affects the education system in the following ways:
Even though many approaches have been adopted by the Indian government to prevent discrimination towards lower caste people like the abolition of untouchability, upper-caste learners may still be privileged inside the classroom.
Access to Educational Institutions
Most people coming from a lower caste background are expected to work as sweepers, cobblers, tailors, and the like which makes them belong to a poor socioeconomic background. Due to this, their children may not be able to access the best educational institutions as they are expensive.
Lack of Educational Resources
While the government facilitates public education, the institutions do not offer adequate facilities, learning resources, and opportunities to children which prevents the proper development of learners belonging to the lower caste.
Schools and teachers may take methods and steps to combat discrimination and inequality of lower caste children but they may still be bullied by their classmates and peers.
Caste is synonymous with the class as per the social hierarchy which leads people of low caste to also belong to the low class. Most lower-class people send their children to public schools rather than private schools due to the shortage of financial resources which leads to fragmentation.
The government banned the negative discrimination of lower caste people in 1948 which caused a disturbance in the national unity of the country. Despite these measures, caste discrimination still exists in many parts of the country, especially in rural areas.