Adivasi culture, knowledge forms and language find no place in the dominant education system – UNICEF report by National Institute of Advanced Studies

Adivasis in India receive the “lowest-cost, poorest-quality and indifferently administered education”, a study backed by the UNICEF has revealed. Not only are the Adivasis marginalised, even affirmative action/reservation programmes for Adivasis (as Scheduled Tribes) in higher educational institutions have not had the desired effect, the report suggests.

Conducted by the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, the study found that mainstream education has failed to recognise the aspirations, needs and predicament of Adivasis. The Naxal violence has made it worse, leading to “widespread destruction of Adivasi homes, livelihoods and larger support structure, including healthcare, schools and spaces for civic action”.

Submitted to UNICEF last week, the report is a broad perspective on Adivasi education in India noting the “systemic” marginalisation and ‘invisibilisation” of adivasi interests across political, policy and administrative levels. Indigenous adivasi culture, knowledge forms and language find no place in the dominant education system, it notes. […]

To correct the situation, the report recommends broad-based, inclusive policies paying specific attention to Adivasis, as well as streamlining and converging of parallel tribal-specific programmes.

Source: “UNICEF-backed study paints poor picture of Adivasi education” by Anubhuti Vishnoi,, 28 August 2012
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“Tribal languages are a treasure trove of knowledge about a region’s flora, fauna and medicinal plants. Usually, this information is passed from generation to generation. However, when a language declines, that knowledge system is completely gone.” – Ayesha Kidwai (Centre for Linguistics, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) quoted by Abhijit Mohanty in “Seven decades after independence, many tribal languages in India face extinction threat” | Learn more about the work done by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India and endangered languages worldwide >>

“The notion of ‘mainstreaming’ needs to be challenged not just because Adivasi culture is being crushed, but also because Adivasi values and ways of life offer insights that the ‘mainstream’ needs. If we are to halt the destruction of ecosystems, we need to understand how closely biodiversity and cultural diversity are intertwined. Perhaps it is time to reverse the gaze and begin to learn afresh from Adivasis.” – Felix Padel & Malvika Gupta (The Hindu) | Learn more about the role of tribal communities in fostering biodiversity, ethnobotany and cultural diversity | Success stories | Tribal identity >>

“I think that by retaining one’s childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and … toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable, and that by preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.” – George Orwell | Learn more: Childhood | Customs | Games and leisure time | Literature – fiction | Storytelling >>

“The theoretical debate on caste among social scientists has receded into the background in recent years. [C]aste is in no sense disappearing: indeed, the present wave of neo-liberal policies in India, with privatisation of enterprises and education, has strengthened the importance of caste ties, as selection to posts and educational institutions is less based on merit through examinations, and increasingly on social contact as also on corruption.” – Harald Tambs-Lyche (Professor Emeritus, Université de Picardie, Amiens) in “Caste: History and the Present” (Academia Letters) | Learn more: Accountability | Democracy | Education and literacy >>

“It was assumed that tribal people have same health problems, similar needs and hence the uniform national pattern of rural health care would be applicable to them as well, albeit with some alteration in population: provider ratio. The different terrain and environment in which they live, different social systems, different culture and hence different health care needs were not addressed.”– Abhay Bang, Chairman, Expert Committee on Tribal health (2018 Report of the Expert Committee on Tribal Health)

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