Steps need to be taken to make campuses socially inclusive : Study
Universities and colleges in India are gradually moving towards social diversity as more and more students from weaker sections are pursuing higher education. But, a long distance needs to be travelled before social inclusion in institutions becomes a reality, said a study by the Centre for Policy Research in Higher Education (CPRHE).
And to make campuses socially inclusive, steps need to be taken at the level of the institutions, it felt.
The study finds that while social diversity is a part of campus life, disparities in academic integration in classrooms and the teacher-learning process still remained.
“Social inclusion, stereotypes and identity-based peer group formation also remain as unresolved concerns and pose challenges for students from socially excluded groups,” it observed.
The study noted that compared to others, scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students were more likely to be the first in their families or first generation higher education learners.
“Being academically underprepared, the disadvantaged students exhibit low levels of proficiency in language and low pre-college scores, which culminate in their failure to clear examinations in the initial semester, thereby posing challenges not only for their academic integration in college, but also in the completion of their graduate level studies and the acquisition of degrees,” it said.
The entire process leads to a series of “undesirable social outcomes (like suicidal tendencies)”, the study found, adding, it was due to this lack of confidence that students from disadvantaged backgrounds asked fewer questions in the classroom.
It also found that although remedial classes existed on many campuses, often there was little awareness about them.
The study concluded that while educational bodies were moving towards diversity in terms of the background of their students, institutional support and commitment were needed to move towards inclusive campuses. In their analysis published by the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, CPRHE’s Nidhi S Sabherwal and C M Malish relied on the data generated during a research project involving 12 higher educational institutions across six states in addition to questionnaire based responses and interactions with students and faculty.
“Diversity surely is increasing and access to education is expanding for students of all backgrounds. However, making everyone comfortable, integrating students from all sections with the mainstream remains an issue. The need is to be liberal and sensitive to success on this vital front,” said Sushma Yadav, a former Dr Ambedkar chair professor at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, who is now a UGC member.