Guest Post: Reservations on Reservation in Indian Education

India is a country that’s renowned for its diversity – the country is a potpourri of different languages, religions, castes and cultures. While this variety makes the nation more interesting and intriguing, it’s kicking up a storm in the sphere of education. The country’s government-aided institutions all allow a certain quota of seats to be reserved for educationally and socially backward classes and for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

The allocation of admissions in private and unaided colleges across the country has always been a contentious issue between the Government and the institute management honchos. Following a decision from the country’s Supreme Court two years ago that the Government had no say in how private institutions allotted their seats to freshmen, the Indian Parliament passed the 104th amendment to the Constitution. This bill allowed reservation of a certain percentage of seats for the backward classes.

It’s a sort of a reversal to the caste system of the days of yore, only now it’s the backward classes who are the privileged sort, with access to education and perks at any of the country’s institutions. The most premier of these, the Indian Institutes of Technology, have a 22.5 percent reservation for backward classes. Even as the wisdom of this decision is being debated, the country’s HRD Ministry is proposing to increase the percentage to 49.5. While the government is looking at the issue entirely in terms of its vote bank and its popularity with the lower classes (who make up a large chunk of the voting majority), here are a few reasons why this move could be considered detrimental to the general education policy of the nation:

  • For starters, the standard of education is considerably lowered when institutions of the highest standards admit students on any basis other than merit and ability.
  • Statistics show that around 20 percent of students who enter IITs through the quota system drop out without completing their degree, a figure that supports the argument that they are not prepared for the rigorous and harsh schedules and standards that these institutions set.
  • While the IIT institutions are bound to set aside 22.5 percent of their admissions for students from the backward classes, they are not compelled to fill all those seats each year. Only those students who meet the institutions’ relaxed admission criteria for backward classes are eligible for admission. If the colleges are unable to fill the reserved number of seats, they are not allowed to allocate them to deserving upper caste students, thus doing them a gross injustice.
  • The quota system in general is discouraging to backward class students since it does not motivate them to do their best. They are secure in the knowledge that they do not have to work as hard as their counterparts from the higher castes in order to be able to secure the same kind of, if not better, education opportunities.
  • The quota system does not set rules for people belonging to backward castes in name only – they are extremely rich and enjoy all the luxuries in life but still hang on to their lower caste status only because it gives them an undisputed advantage in the field of education.

This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of top online universities. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address: