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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Washington Post on India’s Schools and Caste system

Following up to my previous post - here’s something else that needs work in India - if it is to come up to the 20th century.

A WaPo story on Indian schools and another on the caste system. (see Indian Author Tackles Prejudice “Inspired by ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ storyteller seeks to raise youth awareness of unjust caste system.” by Emily Wax and India’s Schools Work to Break Its Iron Castes)

The government since independence has done various things to fight “casteism” following up Gandhi’s original fight for the “untouchables”. This includes the various “reservation quotas” for college admissions and jobs - similar to the affirmative action programs in the US. But as in the US, the wealth effects of a growing economy, has created anomalies, and it is not uncommon to hear educated (upper) caste hindus (and others that do not fall into such favored categories) bemoan the limited access to college and government jobs because these have been whittled down after various scheduled castes and tribal reservation (i.e. lower caste) quotas are included. And evidence (as if it were needed) that inspite of the so-called rigidness of the caste system, India is a dynamic society - Indians have adjusted to this artificial “quota” by turning it on its head: you often hear that there is a heavy blackmarket in fake documents certifying scheduled caste/tribal ancestry obviously for the use of upper castes - after all this is a country that has pretty much invented the parallel economy, with parallel colleges, parallel licenses for everything from driver’s licenses to building contracts, housing pugdees etc. -

But more later.

While my post on fighting child labor seemed as if I might be fighting for the status quo - neither there nor here am I saying that the status quo is satisfactory - but as in the case of fighting against the women’s veil in Arab countries, I think the groundswell of a country’s own internal public opinion is what should force change not the arbitrary or vested interests of foreign governments and media that want a slice of that country’s economic pie.

In India’s case I hope I am not a paranoid sitting here - but the US educational industry seems to have put India’s vast market potential in its sights.

As long as that is not the driving factor behind the push for change in India…

More later.

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