Higher education: Online entrance, digital admission add new layers of hurdle for marginalized students

online entrance

By Aarti Mangal

Watching movie “Super 30” not only evoked emotions while one watched subtle layers of discrimination being exposed but also it unveiled the processes through which power structures are maintained through education.

It is unfortunate that the education system especially higher education in our country is such that it excludes those who belong to the marginalized sections of society, and those who are able to gain access to higher institutions have often been seen succumbing to the culture of such institutions which is designed to suit the needs and interests of the haves of the society. Every year suicide cases in Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) or recent case of suicide by Payal Tadavi is indicative of such reality.

It is only through higher education that one can at least see an opportunity to break the shackles of poverty and marginalization as school education can only act as stepping stone in accessing to higher education and cannot ensure a decent means of employment. Hence, access and success through higher educational institution is critical for the upliftment of the downtrodden in the society.

It is not hidden from anybody that the public higher education institutions in our country are so meager that it only accommodates a few of the students. Rest of the students then take recourse to the private institutions, however, such institutions are so expensive that only elite can manage to get access to these.

In order to secure an admission to the public institutions the ‘poor’ students not only have to compete with the ones who had school education from convent and international schools but they also have to fight with the costs that admission process of these institutions levy on them.

Recently, introduction of online entrance examinations and making the entire process of admission digital adds another layer of hurdle which further takes these spaces away from their grasp. In a country such as ours where most of the students from marginalized section are first generation learners and have studied in government schools; expecting them to be digitally equipped as their counterparts from the international schools shows the fault lines in the systemic treatment of education of have nots.

Most of the students who had studied in government schools studied in it because they lacked resources to buy even uniform, pen, paper and book, it is understood that they might not be having access to computers. Some of the government schools might be having computer lab but it largely remains non-functional. Students coming from rural remote areas have often reported not having seen computer throughout their school education.

According to the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) survey held in 2015, only 14% of Indian households possessed computers. The survey further highlights the rural urban divide in computer accessibility by noticing that only 6% of rural households and 29% of urban households possessed computers.

Also, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) in 2016 shows that only 26% of schools in rural India have access to computer aided learning. Further, a survey conducted by Google and KPMG in 2017 finds that more than 66% of people do not have access to internet facility. And 78% of people access internet through mobile devices. It is clear that more than half of the population do not have access to either computer or to the internet.

Moreover, using mobile devices or using internet on mobile devices is different from using computer and creating, reading or filing of documents. In such a backdrop, what provisions do we have for students who come from computer deficient background and have to now give the admission form and entrance examination only in online mode through computer?

The digital entrance examination or the admission procedure has been implemented at a time when one third of the world illiterates are in India. The problem appears stark when computer education is not a compulsory subject in schools neither computer efficiency of students has been ensured. It certainly is going to hinder the deprived sections’ access to the higher education institutions.

A recent story in one of the newspapers shed light on the glitches of public distribution system (PDS) which is based on online linking of ration cards, Aadhaar cards and uploading of data. Such technicalities and its implementation without giving proper thought have left people in starvation.

This is what happens when policies are made at top which when implemented often works in tandem with the existing power structures to exclude those who had always been excluded in the society.

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