Education has a key role to play in alleviating social and economic inequalities that our world suffers from. Our world has since centuries been divided based on social and economic lines. There are the rich and poor, the haves and have-nots, the Royals, and social elites, on one hand, and the untouchables and outcasts on the other hand. Such divides have existed among us for centuries. These divides break the fabric of the society we live in. They make this world more inhabitable for some as compared to others. Respect, quality of life, and honour are disproportionately distributed across these divides. The question is how to eliminate this divide. Education is the only possible answer. Value-based education is the only conceivable way through which we can weed out the root causes of these divides from our generational psyche.
This blog presents how education can address social and economic inequalities around us.
Creates a level playing field
A sound and equal education levels the playing field between the privileged and underprivileged, between the haves and the have-nots. Unfortunately, there is a vast section of our population that is deprived of access to quality education. While our government through the Right to Education regime makes primary education a right for all, the reality is vastly different. Access to quality education is still largely accessible to the rich and elite. The economically poor lack quality education which results in them continuing in poverty. On the other hand, the economically rich and privileged get access to the best of education which positions them to further augment their economic status. Equal education for all, though ambitious, is a must-have for our society if we aspire to bridge economic and social inequalities.
Employability is an essential criterion for economic progress and growth. Employability leads to employment which leads to wealth creation. Widespread employability can deliver mass employment leading to democratisation of wealth creation thus reducing economic inequalities in our society. If you look at the key difference between the wealthy and elite versus the poor and socially backward, the key difference lies in their ability to earn a living. This ability to earn a living is what gets determined by their employability. Education, especially of vocational type, can help in developing employability amongst the masses. As per various estimates, more than 50% of our population is unemployable. This leads them to staying unemployed or doing unskilled labour which deepens the social and economic divide in our societies.
Unemployability along with lack of access to quality education leads to generational poverty. One generation after another continues to suffer in poverty due to a lack of opportunities that only education can provide. Education can build employability that has the potential to break the chain of generational poverty. Improved access to education can help in coming out of this poverty loop and improve their standard of living. Education can give them access to jobs, sources of higher incomes, skill-based jobs, and other entrepreneurial ventures. Higher education levels have also been widely accepted to directly contribute to a country’s growth in terms of its GDP and exports. One of the primary reasons for the emergence of India as a global IT services hub is our large population of English-speaking engineers which is unparalleled across the world. As a result, IT companies have created millions of jobs in India and Indian IT professionals are currently located in all nooks and corners of the world.
Builds a values-based society
A value-based education system can play a significant role in building the value system of individuals and society. This value system forms the bedrock on which a society functions. A strong value-based education leads to societies that see all as equals without any discrimination based on caste, creed, race, or religion. Even the most educated societies across the world are fighting against social injustice. This indicates that any form of education may not be the elixir to all our problems. A robust values-based education is essential to build a strong society that respects all individuals irrespective of their gender, caste, colour, creed, status, wealth, or religion.
Expands social horizons
Education opens up avenues for expanding our networks both within and outside our city, state, or country. It opens up access to new places, new cultures, new people and new ideas. A simple example – being able to converse in English opens up so many avenues to connect with foreign nationals all over the world and exchange ideas with them. This exchange of ideas not only strengthens our societal ties but also opens up avenues of knowledge transfers, business joint ventures, technology partnerships, etc. Engaging with diverse social networks and cultures opens up our minds beyond our current horizons. It can be a great source of new ideas that can change the overall welfare and well-being of our societies.
Also Read: The Importance of School Education
The democratisation of education is key
The role of education in addressing social and economic inequalities is widely accepted. However, there must be a caveat attached to it. Inequality in access to quality education can have a counter effect in exacerbating these inequalities. If only the rich and elite have access to quality education, they will become richer and more elite while the poor and backward will further slide down the socioeconomic spiral. Hence, quality education must be accessible to all. India’s Right to Education provides a framework for this where education is free and compulsory for children between the age of six to fourteen years. However, there is still a long way to go when it comes to the implementation and the quality of education provided. There is still a significant gap between the quality of education being provided in a government school versus that in an urban international school. While the sky’s the limit when it comes to the quality of education, basic minimum quality parameters need to be made available to all if India aims to bridge our vast divide in terms of social and economic inequalities.