By K S Chalam
Tamilnadu government has passed an Act delinking the state from NEET ushering a successive litigations on two important issues in contemporary India. One, this brings to public domain the Emergency era Constitutional amendment removing education from the state list. Two, the present BJP government’s overreach in usurping the powers of the state to conduct tests and admit students of the state not only in their Medical and other professional colleges, but also implementing social justice clauses of each state as per the proportion of the populations of the identified SC, ST, OBC and EBC groups. In this context, Tamilnadu legislation and the initiative taken by Stalin government brings in a new epoch in centre -state relations.
The upward mobility of certain social groups in the Madras presidency during the first quarter of the last century was attributed to Dravidian ethos echoed not only in social reform but also through democratization of education. This is considered by the author as ‘Dravidian Marvel’ in a book published in 2002 in terms of Human Development Indicators estimated for All India and the four South Indian states. It is now in limelight once again in achieving reservations for Other Backward Classes in NEET after a protracted fight with the centre.
The credit must go to the present Tamilnadu government for its perseverance and intelligent maneuvering in getting all the parties together in asking for the legitimate share. It is in this back drop, we need to look at the progress achieved by the present Five South Indian states that were once part of Madras presidency minus Telangana and other princely states. Education particularly higher education is considered today not as a preparation for life but is an essential condition to be part of a civilized society. Higher education in terms of content and process of the last century is different from the twenty first century.
There is knowledge explosion and the corresponding methods of converting it in to educational programmes and skill sets have undergone a change. The states or regions that had an advantage of early beginning with the preparation for university education with the establishment of three modern universities in 1857 at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay expected to gain from this historical advantage. But, the data show that it is South India particularly Tamilnadu , Karnataka , Kerala and the combined state of Andhra Pradesh that have marched ahead of other states in the Country.
The All India Survey on Higher Education for the year 2019-20 has presented gross enrolment ratios (18-23 age groups) for different states show that Tamilnadu crossed the 50 per cent mark being the first state to cross the mark (excepting small state of Sikkim, 75 percent ). Interestingly the ratio for Tamilnadu is 51.4 per cent almost double the size of national average (27.1 percent). Enrolment ratios in Tamilnadu, Kerala (38.8 percent) , Telangana (35.6 percent ), Andhra Pradesh (35.2 percent ) and Karnataka (32.0 percent ) that are found to be not only higher than national average but also have exceeded some rich states in the country
This magnificent journey of the South is found both in higher education and also in several development indicators making it unique compared to states whose per capita GDP is relatively high. This seems to be a paradox, but is an empirical reality made possible by the innovative and intelligent manipulation of the opportunities captured by the enlightened Edpreneurs (Educational Entrepreneurs) of the South during late 1990s. It is noticed that out of 3.8 crore enrolment in higher education at different levels, fifty per cent are in six states that included Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and U.P. Tamilnadu is in the forefront in making use of the scheme of deemed to be universities having maximum of 26 (the highest number in the country) , followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka.
The lead is also noted in the number of engineering colleges at 455 followed by Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. It is not only getting more number of Engineering colleges but also slowly establishing institutions in diversified fields of study. It is quite natural that Tamilnadu led the movement for OBC quota in NEET as it has the highest number of 42 Medical colleges in the state followed by Karnataka 39, Telangana 22 where the OBC reservation has been implemented from the 1960s and before.
The quantitative expansion of higher education is reflected in the number of colleges per lakh of population at 59 in Telangana, Karnataka 53, AP 48, Kerala 44 and Tamilnadu 38 and the national average being 30. Interestingly the highest number of colleges in a city is recorded at 1043 in Bangalore. The quality and prestige of the system of education can be assessed roughly in terms of number of foreign students enrolled in a state.
Again South India excels. Out of 49348 students, 10261 are enrolled in Karnataka followed by UP, 5189, Maharashtra, 4599, Tamilnadu, 4461 and Andhra, 4356. It means almost 60 per cent are enrolled in these five states alone. The issue of equity in education as a quality parameter can be ascertained in terms of enrolment ratios for Scheduled castes, tribes and women. After all one of the objectives of providing higher education is to create a genuine civilized population that respects equity and democratic space. We can notice that the ratios for SC at the national level were 13.5 per cent while the average was 19.4 in 2010. The gap was 5.9. The gap has come down to 3.7 by 2019 where the national average is 27.1 percent and SC is 23.4 per cent
The corresponding figures for Scheduled Tribes are disappointing as the gap has widened during the period. The Gender parity index is positive at 1.01 for all categories and SC is 1.05 while it is 0.97 for ST category. The enrolment ratio for SC is highest at 39.6 per cent in Tamilnadu during 2019, replacing Maharashtra from the first rank in 2010. All the South Indian states have excelled in the gross enrolment ratios of Scheduled Castes in terms of national average. However, the quality and the content of education imparted to these sections need to be probed as IIT, Madras has excelled in the negative sense where the drop- out rates for scheduled castes are higher compared to other institutions indicating the counter revolution in higher education. The sooner the government addresses this problem, the better days are awaited for South India to celebrate. (IPA Service)