The southern states outperform most of their counterparts elsewhere in the country in terms of human development. Recent research, however, has found that regional differences exist not only in educational outcomes but also in educational choices and household expenditure on education.
The southern states outperform most of their counterparts elsewhere in the country in terms of human development. Recent research, however, has found that regional differences exist not only in educational outcomes but also in educational choices and household expenditure on education. Using data from two sets of NSSO surveys, researchers from the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, found that individuals residing in the southern states are more likely to pursue higher education, especially in technical streams like medicine and engineering, than those residing in northern states. Even among rural populations, who are less likely to pursue tertiary education than urban residents, those who do pursue it tend to opt for technical courses over general education, and science and commerce over humanities within general education. The study also found that students from South Indian states are more likely than their North Indian counterparts to enroll in private, unaided institutions, thereby adding significantly to their educational expenses, especially through educational loans—southern states were found to account for over 70% of all education loans in India.
A large part of this regional variation is explained by the differences in levels of economic development between northern and southern states—along with finding a positive association between this spatial pattern in education and urbanisation levels, researchers argued that poorer households, being risk-averse, are unlikely to invest in the longer-term gains from higher education over immediate benefits. Yet, differences between the infrastructural and policy environment surrounding higher education—quality of educational institutes and instructors, seat capacity, prospects of future employability, ease of obtaining loans, etc—too, are a contributing factor. If the North wishes to catch up with the South, it is in these regards that it must take a leaf out of the latter’s book.