In charts: Southern states outperform Hindi heartland in Muslim higher education enrolment. But why?

This has been stated in a study titled "State of Muslim Education in India" compiled and analysed by former professor Arun C Mehta.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Feb 23, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedFeb 23, 2024 | 9:00 AM

In charts Southern States outperform Hindi heartland in Muslim higher education enrollment. But why

The southern states have by far a bigger rate of enrolment in higher education of students from Muslim communities as compared to their peers in other parts of India — particularly Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, where the community’s population is significant.

This has been stated in a study titled “State of Muslim Education in India” compiled and analysed by former professor Arun C Mehta, who was heading the Educational Management Information System (EMIS) at the National University of Educational Planning & Administration (NIEPA).

The study was compiled based on the 2020-21 and 2021-22 data from the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE Plus) — the largest school education database — and the 2020-21 data from the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE).

The two are under the supervision of the Union Ministry of Education.

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Muslim education in southern states, UTs

From 17,39,218 Muslim students enrolled in higher education in 2016-17 in South Indian states and Union Territories (UTs), the number increased to 21,00,860 students in 2019-20.

However, there was a decline of 8.53 percent in the following year, as the number of Muslim enrolments in higher education stood at 19,21,713 — a drop of 1,79,147 students.

Muslim Gross Enrolment Ratio in Higher Education in Southern and Hindi heartland states (2020-21)

Muslim Gross Enrolment Ratio in Higher Education in Southern and Hindi heartland states (2020-21)

The national average of Muslim students’ Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) between the age group 18 and 23 was 8.41 percent, with women performing better with a higher GER of 9.43 percent and males (8.44 percent).

The GER of Muslim students in seven the southern states — Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana — and UTs was higher in general.

The Telugu state of Telangana leads the pack with a GER of nearly 34 percent, followed by Tamil Nadu, which lies at around 28 percent, as per the study.

Among the states, next in the list is Kerala — the literacy hub of India — where a total of 20 percent of Muslim students make it to higher studies.

Impressively, over 25 percent of them are women — with a huge 10 percentage point gap over their male counterparts.

Kerala is followed by neighbouring Karnataka, with 15.78 percent students enrolled from the Muslim community.

According to the study, the other Telugu state of Andhra Pradesh falls at the bottom of the list with a mere 10 percent of the Islamic students goes to college.

As per the 2011 census, the state had a Muslim population share of 9.56 percent in 2011.

When it comes to the UTs in southern region, over 25 percent Muslim students in Puducherry were found enrolled in higher studies as compared to a meagre of over 4 percent in Lakshadweep irrespective of its predominant Muslim population (over 96 percent).

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In Hindi-heartland states

The Hindi heartland comprises at least nine states and a UT — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Delhi.

As per the study, all of them have an average of nearly 7 percent of Muslim students enrolled in higher studies, which is 12 percentage points lower than their southern counterparts.

Among them, Jharkhand has the highest share of Muslim students receiving higher education (nearly 15 percent) followed by Uttarakhand (12.48 percent). These are the only two states with figures amounting to double digits on that account.

Uttarakhand — the state that recently became the first state to approve Uniform Civil Code (UCC) — also has the highest share of Muslim female students (over 13 percent) enrolled in college among the Hindi heartland states.

Meanwhile, third in the overall pack is national capital Delhi, with 7.09 percent of students from the Muslim community enrolled in college, with Chhattisgarh (7 percent) right behind it. Sitting at 6.57 percent, Madhya Pradesh closely follows.

Next on the list are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, with 6.13 percent, 5.43 percent and 5.08 percent — respectively — of students taking up higher studies, at least till graduation level.

Haryana, with a meagre 4.49 percent, sits at the bottom of Hindi heartland states where Muslim students made it to higher education institutes.

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Sharp difference in socio-economic indicators 

KM Ziyauddin, a professor at the Department of Sociology of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), noted that there was a sharp difference in socio-economic indicators among students from the southern states and the ones belonging to Hindi heartland.

Transition rate of Muslim Students' Enrolment in School Education in Southern states and Hindi heartland states (2021-22)

Transition rate of Muslim Students’ Enrolment in School Education in Southern states and Hindi heartland states (2021-22)

“Be it in terms of per-capita income or the development of southern states, the southern states are ahead. Affirmative policies by the state — like reservation — started long back in Karnataka,” noted Ziyauddin.

These policies “were introduced to increase student enrolment of the marginalised and backward communities”, he explaind.

“In Telangana, several schemes — like KG2PG and Minority Residential Welfare Schools — are running,” he noted.

Ziyauddin added that the aforementioned steps helped increase the availability of schools and institutions — not just for minorities but to almost all citizens.

“The teaching quality and regular monitoring are also comparatively better, as we found in several studies,” Ziyauddin told South First.

The professor also pointed out that the state’s support system was regarded relatively better among its southern counterparts.

“Whether it’s entrepreneurship, independent employment, or skill-based works, the opportunities are more there in general as a result of which consciousness among Muslim communities is also more. Teaching children is kind of an aspiration,” he explained.

As for greater female enrolment to higher education among Muslims, Ziyauddin remarked that men usually carry the burden of running the family after secondary education, due to which they have to discontinue the studies.

“Families believe it is good for women to study as men have the burden of running the family while women usually do not. However, how many of them are employed is another question,” he said.

Imtiaz Ahmad, a sociology professor at Delhi’s Jamia Milia Islamia University, said the southern states were more tolerant and inclusive towards minority communities.

“The community feels more safety there as the societies are inclusive. The internal composition of societies are balanced. If you see, most of the conflicts take lace in Hindi belt region. The political environment in Hindi belt is a crucial reason. It is possible that minorties people are worried about safety of life so they think what will happen even after higher studies studying and opt to run family business or do odd jobs. As a result, they opt out of higher education,” the professor told South First.

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Other concerns

Ziyauddin also raised concerns about the financial exclusion of the community across the country as a result of overall low GER in higher studies.

“In India, banks don’t support the Muslim community much as they don’t give credit,” he claimed.

“The majority of Muslims [in India] belong to lower-income groups and don’t have much by way of assets. Their concern is more towards survival following more hands more earning rule. Due to this, the enrollment in higher studies is down,” he added.

Citing the G Sudhir Commission’s 2016 report, which dwelt on the socio-economic and educational conditions of Muslims in Telangana, he said banks hesitating to provide financial aid to Muslims aspiring higher education multiplied their backwardness.

“While people in lower-income groups should actually be the ones who needs to be supported through public schemes, that does not appear to be the case. It is mentioned in policy, but does not appear in implementation. It was pointed out in the reports of the Sudhir Commission and the Sachchar Committee,” noted Ziyauddin.

Muslim Students Drop Out Rate at Secondary Level in Southern states and Hindi heartland states.

Muslim Students Drop Out Rate at Secondary Level in Southern states and Hindi heartland states.

He added that private educational institutions were on the rise in the southern states — particularly in Karnataka, Kerala, and Telangana.

“But most Muslims belong to the lower-middle class or even below, and cannot get their children educated in private institutes. That is why they opt for public ones. But when they do not get admission there, they drop out. This is why you see an increase in dropouts after primary education,” said the professor.

According to the study, Andhra Pradesh witnessed the highest rate of Muslim students dropping out after secondary education ahead of Karnataka and Kerala.

Among the Hindi heartland states, Bihar and Jharkhand were the only two states to record over 20 percent school dropouts. They were followed by Rajasthan, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, respectively.

Ziyauddin noted that this was a signal for the states to intervene in such situations and frame policies accordingly.

In 2022, the Union government decided to scrap the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) — aimed at minority students — from the 2022-23 academic year.

Union Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani informed Parliament that the scheme would be stopped as it overlapped with other — and similar — scholarships.

Speaking about the MANF, he said: “It was the last nail in the coffin. The data seen before and after its launch saw a better enrolment ratio as students registered due to fellowship.”

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According to the study, the barriers preventing Muslim students from pursuing higher education could include financial constraints, limited access to quality education, and societal and cultural factors.

It added that offering financial support to economically-disadvantaged Muslim students would help alleviate the financial burden associated with higher education.

Scholarships, grants, and educational loans tailored to the needs of Muslim students could encourage them to pursue higher studies.

It also suggested that increasing the number of scholarships and grants explicitly targeting Muslim students would incentivise and enable them to access higher education. These financial aids could make a significant difference in encouraging enrolment.

As per the study, ensuring that Muslim students in rural and underserved areas had access to quality education was vital.

Establishing more schools and educational facilities in these regions and improving their infrastructure and teaching standards could enhance the likelihood of students progressing to higher education, it said.