Every society that values social justice and is anxious to improve the lot of the common man and cultivate all available talent must ensure progressive equality of opportunity to all sections of the population. This is the only guarantee for the building up of an egalitarian and human society by which the exploitation of the weak will be minimised.”
Need for Equalisation of Educational Opportunities:
The equalisation of educational opportunities is essentially linked with the equality notions in the social system. The social system which intends to provide equal opportunities for the advancement of all has to make provision for equal educational opportunities also. The need for emphasising the equality of opportunity in the education arises for various reasons. They may be cited here.
1. Equality of educational opportunities is needed for the establishment of egalitarian society based on social equality and justice;
2. It contributes to the search for talents among all the people of a nation;
3. It is essential to ensure rapid advancement of a nation;
4. It is needed for the successful functioning of a democracy. Educated and enlightened people alone can ensure a meaningful democracy, and
5. It helps to develop a closer link between manpower needs of a society and the availability of the skilled personnel.
Problems Concerning Equality of Opportunities in Education:
Education is of great help in establishing equality and ensuring social justice no doubt. But the system of education itself can add to the existing inequalities, or at least perpetuate the same. This has been the major problem in providing equal educational opportunity for all. Inequalities of educational opportunities arise for the following reasons.
Causes for the Inequalities of Educational Opportunities:
1. Inequalities of educational opportunity occur due to the poverty of a large number of people. The poor cannot afford to meet the expenses of education.
2. Children in rural areas studying in poorly equipped schools have to compete with the children in urban areas where there are well-equipped schools. The poor exposure of rural children may lead to their poor performance.
3. In the places where no primary, secondary or collegiate educational institutions exist, children do not get the same opportunity as those who have all these in their neighbourhood.
4. Wide inequalities also arise from differences in home environments. A child from a rural household or slum does not have the same opportunity as a child from an upper class home with educated parents.
5. There is wide sex disparity in India. Hence, girls’ education is not given the same encouragement as boys.
6. Education of backward classes including scheduled castes and tribes and economically backward sections is not at par with that of forward communities or classes.
Suggestions for Reorganising Educational System for Providing Equality of Educational Opportunity in India:
The Government of India has been striving to achieve the target of providing equal educational opportunities to all the people. Some suggestions could be cited in this regard. These suggestions may be of some help in reaching the target.
1. In order to reap the fruits of education and also to remove the prejudices and biases, adult illiteracy has to be removed by launching appropriate programmes.
2. By following a “policy of protective discrimination” all efforts must be made to increase the opportunities for education to all the weaker sections of the society like the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, backward communities and even women.
3. Honest attempts be made to provide compulsory education to all the children at least upto 14 years. No one should be made to suffer for want of educational opportunity and facilities.
4. The higher educational chances should be extended to all on merit.
5. Education Commission suggests that for equalisation of educational opportunity the following measures may be adopted:
(a) Education should be made tuition free for all immediately at the primary and secondary levels and in course of time, at the university level at least for the needy deserving students;
(b) Free textbooks and writing materials should be supplied at the primary stage;
(c) Transport facilities should be provided to reduce cost on hostels and scholarships;
(d) Facilities for the students to earn a part of their educational expenses, that is, “earn while you learn” schemes should be developed;
(e) There should be liberal schemes for scholarships;
(f) Wide differences that are found in the educational development in different states and districts must be minimised to a desirable extent.
In the industrialised countries the idea of equality of opportunity is very firmly rooted. Halsey believes that the principle of equality has a powerful and a persistent appeal. He further points out that “its influence is reinforced in advanced society by the impersonal demands of the economy for efficiency, for a fluid labour force, and for rational allocation of jobs by tests of fitness to fill them.”