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Kurukshetra (September 2022): Education of Tribals

Kurukshetra is a Monthly Magazine which is issued by the Publications Division of the GOI.

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  • President under Article 342 is empowered to declare communities as scheduled tribes. While Parliament by law can amend the list.
  • Despite government efforts to promote education among the Scheduled Tribes (STs), their literacy rates as compared to the national average have remained low.
  • According to Census 2011, tribes constitutes 8.6% of our total population and out of which only 58.96% are literate.


What is the Status of STs Education?


  • The literacy rate as per Census 2011 is 73 percent but for STs is 59 percent only.
  • The overall literacy gap amongst the various groups and STs has come down from 19.77 percent in 1961 to 14.03 percent in 2011, a scrutiny of state-wise literacy data reveals that in most of the north eastern states like Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, STs are at par with the general population.
  • While in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, which have sizeable ST population in remote areas, the literacy gap is as high as 18 to 26 per cent.


Change is in Making!


  • The number of students belonging to the tribal population has shown consistent growth in the periphery of school education.
  • The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) has improved over the years and in the last five years i.e. from 2016-17 to 2020-21.
  • GER for ST students is above the national average for the last five years at primary and upper primary level, however, it starts decreasing at secondary and senior secondary level.
  • There is also consistent improvement in the last few years is the dropout rate of students.
  • The data on dropout rates at primary, upper primary and secondary level from 2016-17 to 2020-21 indicates a decreasing trend and hence an improvement in the status of school-going tribal children at all levels.

Focus on Tribal Education in Educational Policies


Commissions for Tribal Education

  • Commissions for Tribal Education recommended the formation of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribe Commission (1960 – 61) under the chairmanship of U.N Dhebar for investigating and reporting the problems of Scheduled Tribes.
  • The Commission recommended educating the tribes by using vernacular language as the medium of instruction with the support of trained teachers from the tribal communities in the nearby places. The commission suggested promoting tribal culture and arts, by adding folklore, songs, etc. in the curriculum.
  • The commission also identified the basic issues related to the educational backwardness of tribal communities and the drop-out of the students.

Kothari Commission

  • The Kothari Commission also supported the recommendations and suggestions of the Dhebar Commission.
  • The second National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986 gave priority to the promotion of tribal education, such as the establishment of primary schools in tribal areas; Model Residential Schools including Ashram Schools for tribal students; starting Anganwadis in tribal hamlets, etc.


Various Government Programmes on Education


  • Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009
  • Samagra Shiksha Scheme
  • The other programmes run by the Union Ministry of Education are Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalays.
  • Fifteen percent seats for Scheduled Caste and 7.5 percent seats for Scheduled Tribes are reserved in all fresh admissions in all Kendriya Vidyalayas.
  • The Central Sector Scheme ‘National Means­cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme’ has the objective to award scholarships to meritorious students of economically weaker sections to arrest their drop­out at class VIII and encourage them to continue the study at secondary stage.


Government Schemes for uplifting the education amongst tribal communities


Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs)

    • Announced in the Union Budget of 2018-19, they are established under every block with more than 50% Schedule Tribe (ST) population and at least 20,000 tribal persons by the year 2022.
    • These are being set up by grants provided under Article 275(1) of the Constitution.
    • The objective of EMRS is to provide quality middle and high level education to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students in remote areas, and to have access to the best opportunities in education at par with the non ST population.
    • These EMRSs were to be at par with Navodaya Vidyalayas with special facilities for preserving local art and culture besides providing training in sports and skill development.

Ashram Schools

Funds are provided to States for setting up residential schools for STs for primary, middle, secondary and senior secondary levels of education.

ST Hostels

Central assistance is given to States/UTs/Universities for construction of new hostel buildings and/or extension of existing hostels.

Scheme of Strengthening Education among ST Girls in Low Literacy Districts

100% Grant-in-Aid is given to NGO / Voluntary Organizations for running and maintenance of educational complexes for ST girls.

Post Matric Scholarship and Pre-Matric Scholarship for ST students studying in classes IX & X

Funds are provided under Special Central Assistance to Tribal Sub-Scheme (SCA to TSP), Grants under Article 275 (1) of the Constitution and Scheme for Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) for various interventions relating to improvement of education including construction of hostels, schools, construction of boundary walls in schools, construction of playground, toilets and arrangement of drinking water, kitchen garden in schools etc.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)

A Centrally Sponsored Scheme is also being implemented in conjunction with the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 for universalisation of elementary education for all children in the 6-14 age group.

Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs)

They are residential schools from class VI to XII for girls belonging to disadvantaged groups such as SC, ST, OBC, Minority and Below Poverty Line (BPL). The objective behind establishing KGBVs is to ensure access to quality education to girls from disadvantaged groups by setting up residential schools and to reduce gender gaps at all levels of school education.

National Fellowship and Scholarship for Higher Education of ST students

Under the scheme, Fellowships are provided to ST students to take up higher studies after completing Post Graduation, such as M.Phil and Ph.D courses.

Support to Tribal Research Institutes (TRI)

The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs under the scheme “Support to Tribal Research Institutes (TRI) provides grants to States/UTs to strengthen the Tribal Research Institutes (TRIs) for their infrastructural needs, Research & documentation activities and Training & Capacity Building programmes etc.

Development of PVTGs

    • The Scheme for Development of Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups was first introduced and implemented from 1st April 2008.
    • The Plan characterises PVTGs as the foremost defenceless among the Planned Tribes and the Plan hence looks to organise their assurance and improvement.
    • The Scheme adopts a habitat level approach to improve the quality of life through intervention in housing, drinking water, education and health services, livelihood services and cultural aspects.


NEP 2020 on Tribal Education


  • The National Education Policy 2020 strongly emphasised to ensure equity and inclusion and has given a national perspective to the education of tribals.
  • NEP 2020 proposed the policy strategy to identify special education Zones (SEZs) to ensure inclusion of marginal communities in quality educational space of India.
  • NEP 2020 puts special emphasis on Indian Knowledge Systems, including tribal knowledge, and indigenous and traditional ways of learning.
  • It provides specific courses in tribal ethno­medicinal practices, forest management, traditional (organic) crop cultivation, natural farming, etc.
  • As per NEP 2020, special attention should be given to employing local teachers or those having familiarity with local languages.




Government should continuously expand the scope of education for Tribal children to include sports, physical education, vocational education, Tribal Art, painting, crafts, health, hygiene and nutrition, traditional food (minor millet) in school meals, etc., to make the school education useful, relevant and interesting for the children and tribal communities.

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