There are people from all walks of life who aim of accessing education but, the elitism around it stands as an overcast shadow, giving chances to some and leaving others behind.

Each year, when the results of the 12th grade examinations are declared, the nation collectively holds its breath. It does not matter if your kid is actually in 12th, or if they are in the second grade. The results reach new heights each year, with students working hard to achieve seemingly impossible scores. It is with these scores that come the impossible cut-offs.

It is a thinly veiled fact that the University of Delhi (DU) remains to be one of the most sought after universities in India. The “DU Tag” is a golden goose to catch, since it offers both – a subsidised education, and a status symbol. Thus, every passing year becomes a blood-bath of score battles to get into the best colleges. The idea of over-achievement is now so deeply internalised that even students who are fully aware that one exam set for one day is hardly enough to judge their worth, get carried away and caught in this vicious trap.

Many feel a sense of elitist pride for having been admitted to one of the more prestigious universities of India and our conditioning tells us – “well, why shouldn’t we?” After all, we worked hard to achieve it and it is a big deal. It is at this stage in the stream of thoughts that we contribute to forgetting our privilege. In economics, the “cycle of poverty” is the “set of factors or events by which poverty, once started, is likely to continue unless there is outside intervention”. This cycle is built on gate-keeping the weaker sections of our society from accessing the resources, education being an important one of them, which they direly require to come out of their existing state of situations.

Education is freedom. It is for that reason that education became such an important tool for the British to keep their colonies “in-line” – for that is precisely why only a certain set of Indians were educated in order to create a divide, and the perfect set of subordinates. It is then, that it becomes interesting to see that even after 72 years of Independence, it is exactly what we continue to replicate in slightly different ways. This is not a secret that in India, a Government school education is inherently sub-par when compared to the private education. This divide exists not just because of more highly qualified, high-paid teachers who can be held accountable but it also exists because of every other element that a private education entails. It entails an ability to afford dedicated teachers, extra reading material, and even private tuitions – something that has become a rite of passage in possibly every Indian household that can afford to do so, and most importantly, a support system that enables this culture of education.

It is then that the prospect of Government colleges being revered over private institutions becomes an asset. It works towards bridging a gap of working towards the façade that it is not just money that would get you a good education, but it is your own merits, too. However, when the Government of India introduces policies like the National Education Policy of 2019, which works towards privatisation of these government institutions, this re-enforces a privilege that already has had a strong base, to begin with. When we make Government institutions autonomous and give them the liberty to set up courses with their own fee-structures, when we allow the Government to take away the job security of those who put “quality” in quality education, we allow a culture of gate-keeping.

Not every student can afford to pay lakhs to be able to go to a university. It is then that it becomes important to recognise this cycle of elite education, and to make conscious efforts to resist it.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Shreya Juyal

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