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.
The report uses the term Adivasi for groups identified as 'tribals, 'scheduled tribes' and 'denotified tribes' across India. There are more than 600 Adivasi/tribal communities in India and most of them are among the most disadvantaged social groups.
Reviewing a number of educational programmes for tribals in institutes and schools in educationally backward blocks to fully residential Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas and ashramshalas, apart from fellowships for ST students, the report points to how the many tribal specific schemes run by the government are mostly poorly implemented, go un-monitored, and are often parallel and inadequate.
The report cites the example of tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh where a significant proportion of the schools are by the roadside or highways, though most tribals live in forests and hilly tracts.
According to the study, factors such as these explain why tribals remain at the bottom of the ladder in terms of educational achievements and why there is a huge increase in the dropout rate even before students reach the secondary level of schooling. The dropout rate is higher among women.
The report also comments on the vacancy rate as well as lack of qualification among teaching positions.
The special programmes for Adivasis in higher educational institutions have not translated into assuring them "improved access to education nor have they resulted in net benefits for the community as a whole", adds the report, noting that the bulk of tribal student fellowships and opportunities in higher education end up being cornered by influential segments of the ST population.
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.