“Despite improvements in access to education, Scheduled Tribes (STs) continue to face significant disparities in educational outcomes.” Discuss the underlying factors contributing to these disparities and suggest measures to address them.


India Employment Report 2024, shows that while access to education has improved for all social groups, “hierarchy between social groups persists; Scheduled Tribes are still the most disadvantaged.”


  • Introduce by highlighting the persistent educational disparities among Scheduled Tribes despite policy efforts.
  • In the main body, discuss factors contributing to disparities in educational outcomes of STs like economic barriers, geographical isolation, cultural disconnect, inadequate infrastructure, institutional biases, etc. Propose measures like financial support, infrastructure development, inclusive curricula, mother tongue education, teacher training, etc.
  • Conclude by advocating for a holistic approach integrating NEP 2020 principles to effectively address and bridge these educational disparities.


Despite India’s progress in education, Scheduled Tribes (STs) still face educational disparities, with their literacy rate at 59% compared to the national average of 73%. These gaps, rooted in socio-economic, cultural, and institutional factors, require targeted strategies for effective resolution.

Factors Contributing to Disparities in Educational Outcomes of STs:

  • Economic Barriers: Many ST families live in poverty, which limits their ability to afford educational expenses.
    • The ASER 2023 report highlights a high dropout rate among rural students, with STs being disproportionately affected due to economic constraints.
  • Geographical Isolation: ST communities are often located in remote areas with limited access to quality educational institutions. This physical distance exacerbates educational disparities, as seen in the lower enrollment rates.
    • The district of Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh have schools often miles away from students.
  • Cultural Disconnect: The existing educational curriculum often does not reflect the cultural heritage and languages of ST communities, leading to a sense of alienation.
    • The curriculum does not reflect the rich cultural heritage of tribes like the Santhals in Jharkhand.
  • Inadequate Infrastructure: Many schools serving ST populations lack basic infrastructure and resources, contributing to poor educational outcomes.
    • Schools in tribal areas of Chhattisgarh often lack basic facilities like electricity and toilets.
  • Quality of Education: The quality of education, including the relevance of the curriculum and the effectiveness of teaching methodologies, and teacher absenteeism remains a significant challenge.
    • The ASER Report consistently finds that schools in tribal-dominated areas lag in learning outcomes, with students struggling with basic reading and arithmetic.
  • Gender Disparities: ST girls face additional barriers due to gender-based discrimination and societal norms prioritizing boy’s education over girls.
    • Higher dropout rates for girls in tribal communities in Rajasthan.
  • Institutional Biases: Prejudices and stereotypes against STs within the educational system can demotivate and alienate ST children from educational institutions.
  • Lack of Representation: There is a scarcity of teachers and role models from ST backgrounds in the education system, which affects ST students’ motivation and engagement levels.

Measures Needed to Address These Disparities:

  • Enhanced Financial Support: Implement scholarship programs and financial aids specifically targeted at ST students to reduce the economic burden on their families.
    • GOI offers Pre-Matric, Post-Matric scholarships and National Fellowship Scheme For Higher Education of ST Students.
  • Infrastructure Development: Prioritize the establishment and upgrading of educational facilities in ST-dominated areas to improve access and quality.
    • The Union Government decided to establish one Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS) in every block with more than 50% tribal population.
  • Inclusive Curriculum: Revise the curriculum to incorporate ST cultures, languages, and histories, promoting a sense of belonging and identity among ST students.
    • The inclusion of Gondi scripts in primary education in Chhattisgarh.
  • Mother Tongue Education: at the primary level by developing and distributing instructional materials in tribal languages in schools.
    • The Odisha government introduced textbooks in ten tribal languages.
  • Teacher Training: Conduct sensitivity and inclusivity training for teachers to eliminate biases and equip them with strategies to support ST students effectively.
    • NCERT conducts specialized training programs for teachers to sensitise them towards the cultural and educational needs of tribal students.
  • Representation in Education: Recruit and train teachers from ST backgrounds to serve as role models and mentors for ST students.
    • The Tribal Teachers Program in Jharkhand focuses on recruiting teachers from local tribal communities.
  • Community Engagement: Involve ST communities in the educational process, including decision-making and curriculum development, to ensure that educational practices are culturally relevant and accepted.
  • Addressing Gender Disparities: Launch awareness campaigns and initiatives to encourage the education of ST girls, ensuring gender equity in educational access and outcomes.

Addressing the educational disparities faced by Scheduled Tribes requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic factors. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 represents a transformative stride in this direction, aiming to make education more accessible, inclusive, and diverse.

‘+1’ value addition:

National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 on educational enhancement in rural and tribal areas:

  • Multilingual education with focus on local languages improves the FLN outcomes of rural & tribal students.
  • Special Education Zones (SEZs) in areas with a high concentration of disadvantaged students, including those from rural and Tribal backgrounds.
  • Teacher training on tribal languages to equip them with skills to teach effectively.
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