The role of education in facilitating social and economic
progress is well accepted today. The ability of a nation’s population to
learn and perform in an environment where scientific and technological
knowledge is changing rapidly is critical for its growth. While the
importance of human capital and its augmentation for a nation’s
development cannot be overemphasized, its micro economic consequences also
need to be acknowledged. Improvements in the functional and analytical
ability of children and youth through education open up opportunities
leading to both individual and group entitlements. Improvements in
education are not only expected to enhance efficiency (and therefore
earnings) but also augment democratic participation, upgrade health and
quality of life.
At the time of adopting the Constitution the Indian state
had committed itself to provide elementary education under Article 45 of
the Directive Principles of State policy. Article 45 stated that "The
State shall endeavour to provide within a period of ten years from the
commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for
all children until they complete the age of fourteen years." In 1993,
in a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to
education is a fundamental right flowing from the Right to Life in Article
21 of the Constitution. Subsequently in 2002 education as a fundamental
right was endorsed through the 86th amendment to the Constitution. Article
21-A states that "The State shall provide free and compulsory education
to all children of the age six to fourteen years in such a way as the
State may, by law, determine." The 86th Amendment also modified
Article 45 which now reads as "The state shall endeavour to provide
early childhood care and education for all children until they complete
the age of 6 years". However, despite this commitment the number of
children in this age group who have remained out of school is alarmingly
The successive governments have vacillated on enacting the
Right to Education Bill despite the fact that Article 21-A makes it the
responsibility of the State to provide free and compulsory education to
every child. Since education is a concurrent subject, both the State and
Central governments are responsible for it. By not passing the required
legislation for Right to Education, the Central governments have abdicated
their responsibility. As a consequence the educational conditions of the
children of India remain precarious.
This chapter provides a broad perspective on issues
relating to the education of Muslims in India. It shows that Muslims are
at a double disadvantage with low levels of education combined with low
quality education; their deprivation increases manifold as the level of
education rises. In some instances the relative share for Muslims is lower
than even the SCs who are victims of a long-standing caste system.
2. Indicators of Educational Attainment
To measure differentials in attainments at various levels
of education between Muslims and other SRCs the following indicators have
Ø Literacy rates: Despite its inadequacies,
literacy remains the most easily understood and widely used indicator of
educational achievement. The Census measures literacy rates in terms of
the percentage of persons aged 7 years and above, who can read and write.
Ø Proportion of population completing specified level
of education: The proportion of the population that has completed at
least graduation is used as an indicator of higher levels of educational
achievement. Similarly, matriculation provides an indication of the
intermediary level of education. Educational attainment for primary,
middle and higher secondary levels has been similarly defined. In each
case the number of persons is expressed as a percentage of the population
in the relevant age group.
Ø Mean Years of Schooling: The average number of
years a person has attended school during the relevant age span. This has
been estimated for the age group 7 to 16 years corresponding to
Ø Enrolment Rates: These are estimates of children
who are currently enrolled in schools and attending classes.
3. Levels of Literacy
The most commonly used estimate of literacy is available
in the Census. Just about 65% of India’s population is literate. Literacy
levels are expectedly higher for males than for females — 75.3% against
53.7%. Literacy is also higher in urban areas (79.9%) than in rural areas
(58.7%). This gap of about 20 percentage points between rural and urban
areas and across gender has been a persistent feature of Indian society
over the last two decades despite the increase in literacy levels during
The low literacy level of Muslims and SCs/STs is well
documented in research studies. In the mid 1960’s literacy levels of both
these groups were low, and far lower than that of ‘All Others’. In many
States however, the position of SCs/STs was worse than that of the
Muslims. The literacy rate among Muslims in 2001 was 59.1%. This is far
below the national average (65.1%). If the SCs/STs, with an even lower
literacy level of 52.2% and Muslims, are excluded, the remaining category
of ‘All Others’ show a high literacy level of 70.8%. In urban areas, the
gap between the literacy levels of Muslims (70.1%) and the national
average is 11 percentage points and in relation to the ‘All Others’
category it is 15 percentage points. Although the levels of literacy are
lower in rural areas (52.7% for Muslims), the gap between the compared
categories is also narrower. It is important to note, however, that the
SCs/STs are still the least literate group in both urban and rural India.
Although the literacy levels of 64% and 68% amongst male SCs/STs and
Muslims respectively are not low, they are far below the level for ‘All
Others’ which is 81%. In contrast, Muslim women with a literacy level of
50% have been able to keep up with women of other communities and are much
ahead of the SC/ST women in rural India.
However, there are states like Tamil Nadu where Muslims do
better in all sub-groups and states like Kerala where the differences
across SRCs are minimal. Since both place of residence (rural-urban) and
gender (male-female) identities can be a focus of policy instruments, it
is advisable to look at the disaggregated picture before taking decisions
regarding allocation of financial resources.
3.1. Time Trends in Literacy Levels
Over time, there has been an improvement in the literacy
levels of all communities, but the rates of progress have not been
uniform. The all-India picture shows the presence of a significant gap
between Muslims, SCs/STs and ‘All Others’ in the 1960s. The gap between
Muslims and ‘All Others’ has decreased somewhat in urban areas but has
remained the same in rural areas over this period. Literacy levels amongst
SCs/STs have increased at a faster rate than for other SRCs. This enabled
them to overtake Muslims at the all-India level by the mid-1990s, while
reducing the gap with ‘All Others’. This trend is common to both males and
females and in both urban and rural areas. Thus communities with a
relatively high literacy level have continued to improve over the years
but the SCs/STs too have also benefited from affirmative action in
indirect ways. Muslims, on the other hand, have not been able to respond
to the challenge of improving their educational status. Consequently,
their gap vis-à-vis the group labelled ‘All Others’ (with initially high
literacy levels) has increased further, particularly since the 1980s.
4. Enrolment Rates and Mean Years of Schooling
Years of schooling and current enrolment are intricately
intertwined. Without enrolment and attendance students cannot benefit from
schools. Lower enrolment and attendance would typically result in fewer
years of schooling, on average.
4.1 Mean Years of Schooling
On an average a child (in India) goes to school for only
four years. The MYS of Muslims is the lowest (about three years four
months). A comparison across SRCs both by gender and by place of residence
also reveals consistently lower levels of MYS for the Muslim community.
The MYS of Muslim children is only 83% that of the MYS of all children and
the disparity is highest in the case of rural boys (MYS of Muslims is only
78% that of all rural children), closely followed by rural girls. It is
interesting to observe that the differential is higher among boys than
among girls even with regard to urban children.
The poor performance of Muslims is also observed in almost
all the states, particularly in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. In these
two states, the MYS among Muslim children is the lowest among all SRCs.
The MYS of Muslim children is lower than that of ‘All Others’ in almost
all states. Only in Chattisgarh (with 2% Muslims) is the MYS for Muslims
higher than that of ‘All Others’. There are considerable variations in the
relative status of Muslims and SCs/STs. The MYS of Muslims is lowest in
States like West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Uttaranchal and Delhi. On
the other hand, Muslim children remain in schools for a longer period than
SCs/STs in states like Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra,
Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.
4.2 Enrolment Rates
From the data available it can be seen that there has been
a significant increase in the current enrolment and attendance rates for
all SRCs. But the increase has been the highest among SCs/STs (95
percent), followed by Muslims (65 percent). Though this substantial
increase has not really changed the relative position of Muslims in terms
of ranks, the gaps among SRCs have narrowed dramatically. In 1999-00,
Muslims had the lowest enrolment rate among all SRCs except SCs/STs and
this rate was 78% of the average enrolment rate for the population as a
whole. In 2004-05 the Muslim enrolment rate was slightly higher than that
of the OBCs but was somewhat lower than the average enrolment rate. This
is a positive trend consistent with the increasing focus of the Muslim
community on education reflected in various interactions with the
A state-wise analysis reveals reasonably high enrolment
rates amongst Muslim children in most states. In Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi,
Maharashtra and some other states the enrolment rates among Muslims are
higher than the state average. On the other hand, in states like Uttar
Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal, enrolment rates are very low
(below 70% of the state average). In fact, in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and
Andhra Pradesh, enrolment rates for Muslim children are lower than all
As many as 25 percent of Muslim children in the 6-14 year
age group have either never attended school or have dropped out. This is
higher than that of any other SRCs considered in this analysis. The
incidence of dropouts is also high among Muslims and only SCs/STs have a
marginally higher dropout rate than Muslims.
Overall, while the share of dropouts and children who have
never attended school is still higher among Muslims than most other SRCs,
enrolment rates have risen significantly in recent years. In a recent
study it was found that apart from the economic circumstances of the
households, school enrolment for different communities is significantly
affected by the local level of development (e.g., availability of schools
and other infrastructure) and the educational status of the parents. The
study using 1993-94 data showed that higher levels of village development
and parental education resulted in higher enrolment rates for all
communities. Interestingly, once the children are placed in ‘more
favourable’ circumstances (e.g., when parents, especially mothers are
literate and infrastructural facilities are better), inter-community
(Hindu/SC-ST/Muslims) differences in enrolment rates become insignificant.
Moreover, differences in parental education were more important in
explaining inter-community (especially Hindu-Muslim) differences in
enrolment than regional development variables. In the light of these
findings, the increase in enrolment rates in recent years is quite
remarkable as one cannot expect a significant increase in parental
education between 1999-2000 and 2004-05. Muslims seem to be overcoming
barriers to enrolment arising out of parental illiteracy and other
5. Differentials in Educational Attainment:
Typically, the attainment levels of Muslims are close to
or slightly higher than those of SCs/STs and much lower than those of
other SRCs. However, in the aggregate, the attainment levels of Muslims in
rural areas are often lower than those of SCs/STs. This is essentially
because the educational attainments of Muslim women in rural areas are
lower than those of SC/ST women. At the all-India level the educational
attainment of Muslims worsens in relative terms as one moves from lower to
higher levels of school education. The differentials can be seen according
to both gender and place of residence. This can be seen at both middle and
primary levels of education.
5.1 Time Trends in Educational Attainment: Matriculation
While 26% of those 17 years and above have completed
matriculation, this percentage is only 17% amongst Muslims. As was the
case for literacy, even at the matriculation level, expansion of
educational opportunities since Independence has not led to a convergence
of attainment levels between Muslims and ‘All Others’. Rather, the initial
disparities between Muslims and ‘All Others’ have widened in all four
groups disaggregated on the basis of place of residence and gender. The
increase in disparity is most apparent in urban areas for females and
amongst rural males. However, some degree of catching up can be seen for
SCs/STs, especially in the case of urban males and females, and also for
rural males. This transition seems to have started as early as the 1960s.
Detailed data suggests that these patterns exist even in
states like Kerala. In spite of the achievements at lower levels of
education, the inequality between Muslims and ‘All Others’ for both urban
males and females in the state has increased significantly.
The transitions within school education — completing
primary, middle, secondary and higher secondary education — are important
insofar as they influence the economic and other opportunities available
to an individual. The probability of completing different levels of school
education (primary, middle, secondary etc.) has increased for all
communities during 1983-2000. The sharpest rise has been in the
probability of completing middle school for all communities, including
Muslims. But differences still exist and the Muslims and SCs/STs are
behind others. On an average based on four years of data, about 62% of the
eligible children in the upper caste Hindu and other religious groups
(excluding Muslims) are likely to complete primary education followed by
Muslims (44%), SCs (39%) and STs (32%). However, once children complete
primary education, the proportion of children completing middle school is
the same (65%) for Muslims, STs and SCs but lower than ‘All Others’ (75%).
The next transition also shows a similar pattern; about 50% of Muslim and
SC/ST children who have completed middle school are likely to complete
secondary school as well, which is lower than the ‘All Other’ group (62%).
Interestingly, in the transition from secondary to college education,
Muslims perform somewhat better than SCs and STs; while only 23% of the
SC/ST students who complete secondary education are likely to complete
college education, this percentage is 26% for Muslims and 34% for other
groups. Given these estimates, while disparities exist at every level,
completion of primary education seems to be the major hurdle for school
education. Availability of good quality schools like Jawahar Navodaya
Vidyalayas in rural areas was expected to partly relax the supply side
constraints on good quality education but Muslim participation in these
schools is not satisfactory.
6. Differentials in Educational Attainment: Higher
In India, a significant proportion of the relevant
population still remains deprived of the benefits of higher education and
the Muslims comprise an important category of the deprived communities.
According to Census data, while only about 7 percent of the population
aged 20 years and above are graduates or hold diplomas, this proportion is
less than 4 percent amongst Muslims. Besides, those having technical
education at the appropriate ages (18 years and above) are as low as one
percent and amongst Muslims, that is almost non-existent.
Estimates from the Census 2001 data suggest that just
about 38 million men and women above 20 years old have secured a
graduation degree and beyond; and only 4 million have received a technical
diploma/certificate. Overall this amounts to about 6% of the relevant
population having completed graduation and just under one half percent
having technical qualifications at the diploma/certificate level. In the
case of Muslims the number is under 4 million graduates, which is about
3.6% of the appropriate population, and those technically qualified is a
The NSSO 61st Round data (provisional) regarding graduate
level education, furnished by the NSSO to the Committee, show that the SCs/STs
and Muslims are the most disadvantaged as their respective shares are much
lower than their share in the population. In the case of Muslims their
share in graduates is 6% while their share in population aged 20 years and
above is about double at over 11%.
Further disaggregated estimates according to gender, place
of residence and SRCs show that the relative share of upper-caste Hindus
is disproportionately high in all four segments, especially for males and
in urban areas. The share of graduates among Hindu-OBCs is lower than
their population share but the "deficit" (ratio of share among graduates
and in the population) is much lower for this community than for Muslims
The proportion of technical graduates is important as it
indicates the stock of technical skills available in the community/nation.
While the pool of technical graduates is even lower with only about 2 in
every 1000 persons being a technical graduate, the performance of Muslims
is worse than all SRCs, except SCs/STs, with a sharp differential existing
in urban areas and amongst males.
Diploma courses correspond to a lower level of education
and skill formation but even at this low level of technical education the
overall pattern remains the same with Muslims not doing very well amongst
the SRCs, except when compared with the SCs/STs. The gap between Muslims
and other SRCs is particularly relevant for such training as Muslims have
a substantial presence in the artisanal activities and have the potential,
with some technical training, to do well in a variety of emerging and
economically viable activities.
6.1 Time Trends in Educational Attainment: Higher
The analysis of the age-specific proportion of graduates
at the all-India level reveals that the overall proportion of graduates
has increased over time. But there are two matters of concern: (a) that
the proportion of graduates is still too low and (b) at even this low
level the disparities amongst the SRCs are considerable. In the case of
Muslims the attainment is less than half compared to ‘All Others’ and the
gap is much more prominent in urban areas for both men and women.
The gap between Muslims and ‘All Others’ was relatively
low at the time of Independence. Since then, however, it has widened
steadily to a significantly high level. The disparity levels are currently
as high as 15 percentage points in urban areas for both genders. The
overall progress has been much less in rural areas, especially among
women. But one does not yet find a significant widening of the gap between
Muslims and ‘All Others’.
A comparison between Muslims and SCs/STs also reveals
interesting results. Initially, Muslims had a marginally higher Graduation
Attainment Rate (GAR) than SCs/STs. In the initial phases of planning, the
SCs/STs had performed more slowly and this had led to a slight widening of
the gap between them and the Muslims. In the 1970s, however, the GARs for
SCs/STs grew at a faster rate than for Muslims.
State Level Patterns
The all-India trend of increasing disparities in GAR
between Muslims and ‘All Others’ is found to be prevalent in all states.
In urban areas, Muslims are falling behind not only vis-à-vis ‘All
Others’, but also SCs/STs in several states. This trend can be observed
among both males and females. The rural scenario is equally bad from the
perspective of attainment levels of Muslims. In most states, the
differential in GAR between Muslims and ‘All Others’ has increased. In
quite a few, SCs/STs have reduced the differential with Muslims, or even
6.2 Participation in Institutions of Higher Learning
The proportion of graduate and postgraduate students in
different SRCs pursuing higher education in well-known institutions of
higher learning is very small.
Indian Institutes of Management and Indian Institutes of
As a special case the Committee has considered the
enrolment of Muslim students in two sets of elite institutions — the
Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and the Indian Institutes of
Technology (IITs). Efforts were made to collect data on enrolments for
recent years — 2004-5 and 2005-6.
About one out of three Muslim applicants is selected,
which compares favourably with, in fact is somewhat better, than the
success rate of other candidates. Despite a better success rate Muslims
constitute only 1.3% of students studying in all courses in all IIMs in
India, and in absolute number they were only 63 from out of 4743.
One needs to understand as to why a small number of Muslim
students reached the interview stage. One possible factor could be low
levels of achievement in the CAT examinations while another could be that
although the achievement levels are similar across SRCs, not many Muslim
candidates took the CAT examination in the first place. It needs to be
re-emphasized that once the Muslim students reach the interview stage
(which is essentially based on the scores obtained in a written admission
test) their success rate is quite high.
In the case of the IITs, out of 27,161 students enrolled
in the different programmes, there are only 894 Muslims. The break up of
students according to different course levels is available; the share of
Muslims in the postgraduate courses is just about 4% but it is even lower
in undergraduate courses at 1.7%. Muslims’ share in PhD courses is
somewhat better compared with other courses. It needs to be noted that
while entry into the undergraduate programmes at IITs is only through the
common test taken after leaving school, for postgraduate courses, graduate
students from other educational institutions can also enter through
another IIT-wide entrance examination. Apparently, Muslims are able to
compete better in the examination taken after completing graduation. In
terms of the demand for these courses the competition at this stage may be
Participation in Premier Colleges in India
The Committee undertook a survey of students currently
enrolled in some of the premier colleges offering streams of regular
science, arts and commerce courses and the premier Medical Colleges. The
enrolment of Muslims in the regular streams of science, arts and commerce
courses is: Only one out of 25 students enrolled in Undergraduate (UG)
courses and only one out of every 50 students in Postgraduate (PG) courses
is a Muslim. The share of Muslims in all courses is low, particularly at
the PG level, and marginal in the science stream. However, it is
interesting that the enrolment ratio is higher among girls than boys in UG
courses. At the PG level, however, this proportion falls - except in arts
The Committee was able to obtain adequate responses from
the top Management institutions (management colleges other than the IIMs).
The share of Muslims enrolled in MBA courses was found to be only one
percent among both boys and girls. While the data is not sufficient to
come to any conclusion, it is consistent with the data collected from the
The representation of Muslims in the top Medical colleges
is only marginally better. It is about 4% of students enrolled in all
courses. Most of them are studying at the UG level namely in MBBS, Dental,
Nursing etc. The representation of Muslims in other courses is marginal.
Except in PG Diploma courses, the percentage of Muslim girls is lower than
Muslim boys in all courses.
There are around 300 universities across India. Each of
these universities manage exclusive departments and a large number of
affiliated colleges. All universities were asked to provide data on the
socio-religious background of students on roll both at the undergraduate (UG)
and postgraduate (PG) levels. A total of 129 universities and 84 colleges
provided data. The "all-India" estimates generated from these data pertain
to just over 1.3 million graduate (bachelors degree) and another 1.5
million postgraduates (masters degree and above).
Given that there are about 11.7 million students studying
for an undergraduate degree, and about 4.3 million pursuing postgraduate
education, the available data reflect only about 11% of undergraduates and
about 38% of the postgraduates spread across India. As these data are
partial the following analysis is only indicative. The total of 2.8
million students for whom data are available constitute about 19% of men
and women studying in various colleges and universities all over India.
According to these estimates a considerable proportion of
students, more than one third, are enrolled in the arts stream.
Engineering and commerce are the other popular streams. Although the
differences are not large the proportion of Muslim students in the UG
courses is about 9%, lower than their share in the population. Muslims are
more likely to be located in science and commerce streams followed by
arts. Since the sample size of colleges is not large and representative,
this conclusion needs to be evaluated on the basis of more detailed data.
But, in each case, the share of Muslims is lower than their share in the
population, and significantly below that of both the SCs/STs and the OBCs.
The participation of Muslims in engineering and medical courses is
The status of Muslims in PG courses is equally
disappointing. Only about one out of 20 students (5%) is a Muslim. This is
significantly below the share of OBCs (24%) and SCs/STs (13%). However,
Muslim students typically tend to seek professional courses, followed by
commerce; in terms of absolute numbers and relative share they are at the
bottom amongst the SRCs.
7. Some Correlates of Educational Attainment
Overall, other things being equal, the chances of
completing graduation for persons belonging to Hindu-Gen category were
significantly higher than for persons of all other SRCs. There were,
however, differences across other (excluding Hindu-Gen) SRCs and for males
and females in rural and urban areas. The probability of Muslims and SCs/STs
completing graduation were similar but lower than for all other SRCs.
While these differences were not significant in rural areas, especially
for females, Muslims/SCs/STs had significantly lower chances of completing
graduation than persons belonging to OBCs and other minorities in urban
areas. This was especially the case for males in urban areas. In other
words, after controlling for other factors, as compared to other SRCs,
being Muslim and SC/ST reduced the chances of completing graduation,
especially in urban areas and for males.
The next relevant issue is whether the above-mentioned
gaps are specific to graduate education or are a reflection of gaps that
existed in earlier years of education.
While the chances of eligible (those who have completed
higher secondary education) Muslims completing graduate studies are still
significantly lower than those of eligible Hindu-Gen persons, the gap
narrows down. Besides, in many situations the chances of eligible Muslims
completing graduate education are not very different from those for
eligible OBCs and other minorities. In other words, once the Muslims cross
the hurdle of the minimum qualification and are placed in the same
situation in terms of location, economic status etc., differences between
Muslims and other SRCs narrow down and are often not very different.
Overall, this section reveals that though all the SRCs
have been able to improve their status over time, the process has not been
convergent. The gap between Muslims and ‘All Others’ has widened
consistently at the all-India level and for all States - especially at the
higher education levels. It is interesting to note that SCs/STs have been
able to catch up with Muslims. This may be due to the targeting of SCs/STs
households in special programmes that establish schools or improve
infrastructure and provide incentives for enrolment. Job reservation, too,
may have had an indirect effect, by providing the economic means to
educate children and simultaneously increase the economic returns to
8. Choice of Educational Institutions: The Case of
The type of educational institution in which children
study is also an important marker of educational status. Both Muslim and
‘Other’ children mostly attend the inexpensive Government or
Government-aided schools; about one third attend private schools. Many of
the government-aided schools may effectively be privately run; an analysis
of the proportion of children going to government versus government-aided
schools would be instructive. A small proportion (4%) of Muslim children
also attend Madarsas.
It is often believed that a large proportion of Muslim
children study in Madarsas, mostly to get acquainted with the religious
discourse and ensure the continuation of Islamic culture and social life.
A persistent belief nurtured, in the absence of statistical data and
evidence, is that Muslim parents have a preference for religious education
leading to dependence on Madarsas. It is also argued that education in
Madarsas often encourages religious fundamentalism and creates a sense of
alienation from the mainstream. In actuality the number of Madarsa
attending students is much less than commonly believed. For example, in
West Bengal, where Muslims form 25% of the population, the number of
Madarsa students at 3.41 lakhs is only about 4% of the 7-19 age group.
NCAER figures indicate that only about 4% of all Muslim
students of the school going age group are enrolled in Madarsas. At the
all-India level this works out to be about 3% of all Muslim children of
school going age. The NCAER data is supported by estimates made from
school level NCERT (provisional) data; which indicate a somewhat lower
level of 2.3% of Muslim children aged 7-19 years who study in Madarsas.
The proportions are higher in rural areas and amongst males.
The importance of Madarsas as a source of education is not
high in any of the regions, except the Northern one. But even here,
according to the higher NCAER estimate, less than 7% children of the
school going age group attend Madarsas.
One reason for the misconception that the majority of
Muslim children are enrolled in Madarsas is that people do not distinguish
between Madarsas and Maktabs. While Madarsas provide education (religious
and/or regular), Maktabs are neighbourhood schools, often attached to
mosques, that provide religious education to children who attend other
schools to get ‘mainstream’ education. Thus Maktabs provide part-time
religious education and are complementary to the formal educational
The common belief that a high proportion of Muslim
children study in Madarsas stems from the fact that they are actually
enrolled in the local Maktabs. As emphasized, such local Maktabs provide
not a substitute, but a supplementary educational service.
When modernization of Madarsas is planned, policy makers
should be careful to distinguish between these two types of institutions.
The Maktabs and residential Madarsas are necessarily traditional and meant
only for religious education, because their social function is to carry on
the Islamic tradition. On the other hand, it is the constitutional
obligation (under Article 21-A) of the Government to provide education to
the masses. Aided Madarsas are often the last recourse of Muslims
especially those who lack the economic resources to bear the costs of
schooling, or households located in areas where ‘mainstream’ educational
institutions are inaccessible. The solution in such cases is not only to
modernize Madarsas, but also to provide good quality, subsidized
‘mainstream’ education and create an adequate infrastructure for
Apart from the role Madarsas have played in providing
religious education one needs to recognize their contribution towards the
education of Muslims in the country. Very often one finds that Madarsas
have indeed provided schooling to Muslim children where the State has
failed them. Many children go to Madarsas and thereby acquire some level
of literacy/education when there is no school in the neighbourhood. This
effort needs to be recognized. This could be done by establishing
‘equivalence’ to Madarsa certificates for subsequent admission into
government schools and universities. For this purpose, equivalence between
the two systems of education will need to be established at different
levels. Many Madarsas provide education that is similar to that provided
in ‘mainstream’ schools.
9. Educational Attainment and the Issue of Language
The non-availability of education in the Urdu language is
seen by some as one of the reasons for the low educational status of
Muslims in India. A substantial number of the Urdu-speaking people in most
States made this point during the Committee’s interaction with them.
9.1 The Context
The advantage of providing education (especially primary
education) in the mother tongue is undisputed as it enables the child to
understand and apply skills more easily. It was for this reason that the
three language formula was adopted in the early 1960’s.
9.2 Urdu Medium Schools
Despite the positive recommendations of different
Committees, in many states there is a dearth of facilities for teaching
Urdu. The number of Urdu medium schools is very low in most States. This
can be seen from the low percentage of children enrolled in Urdu medium.
In contradiction to the widely held belief, the
Urdu-speaking population is not merely confined to the Indo-Gangetic
plains. Urdu is also reported to be the mother tongue of a sizeable
section of the populations of Karnataka (10%), Maharashtra (7.5%) and
Andhra Pradesh (8.5%). Interestingly, in all these states, the percentage
of Muslim population reporting Urdu as their mother tongue is
substantially higher than the states in the Hindi-Urdu belt. In these
states, the percentage of children enrolled in Urdu medium as a percentage
of Muslim children in the school going age (6-14 years) is quite high.
Surprisingly, the figures for enrolment in Urdu medium in Uttar Pradesh,
in particular, is dismally low. It remains unsatisfactory in Bihar and
Jharkhand too. Is it that Urdu is not considered as an option for Muslim
children in Uttar Pradesh and other Northern states while it is preferred
in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh?
The importance given to Sanskrit in the educational
framework in Delhi and many North Indian States has tended to sideline
minority languages. Students have to opt for Sanskrit as there is no
provision to teach Urdu (or any other regional language) in many schools.
This, in effect, makes Sanskrit a compulsory subject.
Not surprisingly, the performance of Urdu medium students
is very poor. This creates a vicious circle where the lack of facilities
for learning in Urdu leads to poor results. This in turn reduces the
functional worth of Urdu, lowers the demand for learning in Urdu and
offers an excuse for downgrading facilities for teaching Urdu. The
Committee recognizes that the Government’s objective is to improve the
educational status of Muslim children, rather than increase the number of
Urdu medium schools, per se. However, in view of the large proportion of
Muslim children with Urdu as their mother tongue, the Committee feels
steps should be taken to ensure that Urdu is taught, at least as an
elective subject, in areas which have a substantial presence of Urdu