AISHE report and low Muslim participation in higher education

Context: The Ministry of Education, Government of India has released All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2020-2021. The Ministry has been conducting All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) since 2011, covering all higher educational institutions located in Indian Territory and imparting higher education in the country. The survey collects detailed information on different parameters such as student enrollment, teacher’s data, infrastructural information, financial information etc.

Key findings of AISHE 2020-21:

  • The total enrollment in higher education has increased to nearly 4.14 crore in 2020-21 from 3.85 crore in 2019-20.  Since 2014-15, there has been an increase of around 72 Lakh in the enrolment (21%).
  • Higher education’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) has also surpassed 27.3%. The GER measures the proportion of adults between the ages of 18 and 23 who are enrolled in college. It was determined using data from the 2011 Census.
  • The Female enrolment has increased to 2.01 crore from 1.88 crore in 2019-20.  There has been an increase of around 44 Lakh (28%) since 2014-15.
  • Female GER has overtaken Male GER since 2017-18. Gender Parity Index (GPI), the ratio of female GER to male GER, has increased from 1 in 2017-18 to 1.05 in 2020-21.
  • There has been a noticeable increase in the enrolment of students from Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) in higher education institutions between 2014–15 and 2020–21. ST students have seen the largest growth, with a nearly 47% increase.

Government universities constitute contribute 73.1% of total enrolment of students. Whereas, private universities account for only 26.3% of the total enrolment.

Declining representation of Muslim minority groups in Higher education:

One contrasting trend observed in the recent AISHE report is the declining representation of Muslims in higher education.  Enrollment of Muslim students dropped by 8 per cent from 2019-20 – that is, by 1,79,147 students. This level of absolute decline has never happened in the recent past for any group. 

Possible reasons:

  • Bias in labour markets: As per Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report, unemployment rate of Muslims is comparably lower than other religious groups. This data is partly a reflection of some discrimination in the job market. 
  • Barriers to female education: Economic and social backwardness of the minority community and other cultural barriers inhibited participation of Muslim women in higher education. 
  • Violence: Increased violence against Muslims has restricted their spatial mobility and has forced them to withdraw into their shells, a development evident from the ongoing process of ghettoization in almost all Indian cities. 

This increased marginalisation of Muslims in higher education and public employment, which was also reflected in Sachar committee and Ranganath Mishra reports, calls for need to extend affirmative action policies to Muslims.

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