If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always be where we’ve always been
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap]s a nation, we’ve have been stuck with reservation policy as the only panacea for SC-ST empowerment since independence. Our founding fathers, including Ambedkar, had envisioned reservation as a short term measure. Seven decades later, neither SC-STs are happy nor is the rest of the society. Many believe reservation policy is undermining meritocracy.
Why are SC-STs unable to reach competing level of performance vis-a-vis others, be it in academics or in jobs, despite reservation?
All effort towards SC-ST empowerment have come, so far, from political quarters; almost none from the rest of the society. Little wonder that SC-STs look up to politicians for help, not the rest of the society, and produced more of political leaders than in any other realm.
Why are SC-STs unable to reach competing level of performance vis-a-vis others, be it in academics or in jobs, despite reservation? Why have they been unable to get employment in the private sector where there is no reservation?
If the answer is, “it is in their genes and so they will never perform on par with others”, then we should reconcile to 2 realities, that reservation has to continue forever, and the current plight of SC-STs will continue forever; they may never be able to compete with the rest of the society. In the “nature vs nurture” debate, this view comes from those who support the “nature” side.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]B[/dropcap]elievers of a more promising, modern “nurture” view, hold that lack self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect is the reason why SC-STs are unable to compete. Once they gain these, they will compete with the rest, within a few years.
Since ‘performance’ is a subjective term, the question also arises whether SC-STs are really unable to compete with others. Since they factually lag far behind others at least in academics and private sector jobs, we may accept this as a fact.
If we agree that SC-ST students can be trained to believe in themselves and compete, then it follows that they can integrate into the society seamlessly. Then, the number of SC-STs who compete for their reserved quota in every realm will increase dramatically. Some of them will even get into merit lists without needing reservation. And some will get into private sector jobs by their own merit. Within a generation or sooner, they may no longer need reservation. This is the outcome both SC-STs and others should want.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he question is: Does such a training exist which can help them develop self-esteem and start competing with the rest of the society on an equal footing? The answer is: Yes, there is at least one, if we go by the results of a couple of social action research projects conducted by Aim Insights, Mangalore, a training & development trust.
Now 169 students who were children of the cleaners of the city, from SC-ST communities were chosen.
At Aim Insights, an action research was done with 100 students who had failed in all their subjects. They were not a motivated group and were drawn from different locales in one district. They were given 10 full days of training, which did not include any tuition in academic subjects. Confirming the effectiveness of the training, 43 students passed in all subjects in their school subjects and all the students passed in several subjects. Since these students were drawn from different locales, inbreeding was not an issue.
What is the specific kind of training that made this possible? It merely focused on developing the self esteem, self-confidence, self-respect and leadership skills of the students.
To study whether the training would still be effective for students drawn from weaker sections from similar locales and similar cultures (and hence inbreeding could be an issue), from regular schools, another action research was done.
Now 169 students who were children of the cleaners of the city, from SC-ST communities were chosen. Their parents had almost no education, and they had scored below 40% in their school exams. After the training intervention for a period of 10 days, once they were back in their schools, their marks in the ensuing exams increased substantially, some of them reaching up to 90% in some subjects, despite absence of family support. Some of the children, incidentally, had exceptional talents which could be promoted.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]o, we have a successfully tested and proven model of a training program which can help improve the performance of SC-ST (or for that matter, any disadvantaged) students, in academic as well as all other realms, and help produce leaders for all walks of life. This action research can be replicated and proven anywhere with similar outcomes.
The promise made in this article may sound incredible, but it is worth a try as the cost of such an experiment involving about 200 students will be less than Rs 20 Lacs per year, ideally for 3 years.
The cost of these training programs will be less than Rs 7,000 per student, and less than Rs 2,500 per teacher to support a group of students, including excellent food and training support material, which are both essential for the success of the intervention.
The training program will be most effective if conducted for at least 3 successive years, with increased levels of complexity in the second and third years, so that the effect of the training doesn’t wear away over time. Also, since the students could continue to face neglect and ostracisation from their peers and teachers in typical schools, they would need sustained mentoring and support; appropriate local teachers can be trained to be their mentors at school, which is included in the above costing.
The promise made in this article may sound incredible, but it is worth a try as the cost of such an experiment involving about 200 students will be less than Rs 20 Lacs per year, ideally for 3 years. Results can be seen right from year 1, though. State/ Central Governments (or private sector companies as part of CSR) can sponsor a ‘proof of concept’ pilot study and then the Governments can scale it up for nationwide/ statewide implementation from their budgets for SC-ST development.
Unlike reservation which has benefitted a small fraction of SC-STs, this could be one big idea to empower all the SC-STs, within a generation if not less, and thus help them outgrow the need for reservation, since this would benefit the entire SC-ST community.