Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by V. Kalyan Shankar.
V. Kalyan Shankar is ICSSR Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Economics, University of Pune (India). His doctoral research was based on the emergence and deepening of inter-country value-addition chains among select Southeast Asian economies.
In the delivery systems of higher education in India, there has been an attempt to counter social inequalities through implementing a system of affirmative action policies – implying positive discrimination – in favor of the disadvantaged. Lack of access to education is posited as a problem of those left out from the delivery systems, of inadequate representation and participation of certain social groups. The state intervention in countering underrepresentation has been through the constitutional provisions for reservations. The debates surrounding reservations and their implementation have been fought on several turfs. In addition to the more conspicuous divide of affirmative action versus meritocracy, academic enquiries have probed into reservations on caste versus class grounds, on the need for expanding the umbrella of reservations to a wider segment of the society and more recently, on the inadequacy and irrelevance of affirmative action once the turf changes from academics to employment.
Even as these debates are running their course, what about the delivery systems of education, the terrain on which the edifice of reservations is built? While socio-economic backgrounds do influence individual participation in education, can differentiated access to education be attributed solely to them? Can the systems be really termed fair in their attempt at creating equality of access? It needs to be recognized that the systems themselves generate their own set of embodied institutional distortions that get superimposed over and above socio-economic inequalities. This project seeks to explore the systemic dimensions of inequality in Indian education. This work has been centered on the distortions resulting from structural overlaps in the delivery systems and the restriction of choices in higher education based on the medium of instruction in schooling.