ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Casteist Pheromone in Elementary Schools of Tamil Nadu

It has been brought to our notice that this article, which was published in the 28 June 2014 edition of EPW, reproduced, without providing a citation, two paragraphs in the section “Casteism in Schools,” from an article by Jean Drèze (“Patterns of Literacy and their Social Context,” in Veena Das et al (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Sociology and Social Anthropology, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003). The paragraphs in question begin with “According to Dreze and Kingdon (1999), this bias has several possible reasons….” —Ed.

Despite its "modern" education system with its progressive values, caste-based values dominate India's educational institutions. The brahminical way of understanding educational achievements is prevalent and the state has become increasingly docile in the arena of social justice in this neo-liberal political economy.

Education plays an important role in the transmission of social experiences – which includes culture, knowledge, language, beliefs, etc – and its progress and hurdles, from one generation to the next. The school as an agency plays an important role in this transmission, along with family, community, religion, economy, and politics (Dewey 2004). However, social experiences vary among different groups according to their material condition, and the social status allied with it. The (contentious) question is: How far do these agencies take into consideration these diverse realities?

According to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, the school system reproduces the economic and social inequalities existing in a society. The school will generally disregard the sociocultural characteristics of children from poorer sections of society. This is the prime cause behind the low educational achievement of students from poorer socio-economic backgrounds, and it leads to a culture of resistance to class or education; the strategies of the schooling system, though, will be to isolate, transform and eradicate that expression of resistance, together with its very forms (Harker 1984). The educational achievement of students is being influenced by the unequal socio-economic conditions that exist in society, which helps to maintain the social hierarchy under the guise of individual talent and academic meritocracy. Thus, academic success is mostly based on cultural experiences, social ties, and economic resources, a fact that remains largely unacknowledged in any society.

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