The latest National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) findings put the gross enrolment ratio in higher education at just 11.4 per cent as against University Grants Commission claim of 13 per cent.
The NSSO clearly demonstrates a widening urban-rural gap in education, girl child and weaker sections not reaching the highest level of competitive education and dramatic fall in classroom attendance as students reach higher level of education.
With higher education infrastructure growing mostly in urban areas, as many as 20 per cent of urban youth are enrolled in colleges as compared to just 7.9 per cent in rural India. Orissa, which gets dismal allocation for higher education from the Centre, has only 4.1 per cent rural youth enrolled. Similar pattern is observed in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. The exception are the north-eastern states, where most universities are funded by the Central Government, with overall higher education enrolment figure close to 40 per cent.
The debate over reservation to socially weaker sections in admission in higher educational institutions gets an interesting backing from the report findings. The study says the forward castes are much ahead of SCs/STs and OBCs when it comes to enrolment in colleges. As compared to just 8.2 per cent for SC, 8.9 per cent for STs and 9.5 per cent for OBCs, the enrolment figure for forward castes is about 17 per cent. However, their enrolment at primary level is comparative with forward castes.
The social bias against the girl child is clearly evident from the NSSO findings. Though 79 per cent of the girl population enrol in schools only 7.7 per cent reach higher educational institutions. The enrolment rate of boys in colleges is almost double than that of girls even though the difference in admission between the two at primary level is just five per cent.
If the girl is born in the weaker section, reaching higher education becomes even more difficult. Only 4.9 per cent Scheduled Caste girls reach higher education, with girls in Other Backward Classes slightly better with 5.8 and as high as seven per cent in Scheduled Tribes. But among forward castes, the number of girls taking admission in colleges is as high as 13 per cent.
Earlier this week, UGC chairman SK Thorat at an ASSOCHAM seminar on higher education had called private participation to bridge these disparities.