Minority Education In India

Author – Gayatri Sethi


The government of India, in November 2022, announced that it would discontinue the Maulana Azad National Fellowship for students pursuing higher studies. 

MANF, launched in 2009,aimed to provide financial assistance to students from six minority communities pursuing an M.Phil. or a PhD for five years. It was implemented by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Since its discontinuation, the Ministry claimed the fellowship would continue as planned for existing beneficiaries. However, as per major news outlets in the country, students are yet to receive their funds as promised. There are an estimated 30 crore people from minority communities in India, making their empowerment a crucial policy theme. 


For a country so plagued by financial inequality, educational schemes ensure that students from economically and culturally weaker sections of society can enroll in schools and colleges and pursue higher education. The first major step in this direction was The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which ensured that every child between the ages of 6 to 14 was entitled to free and compulsory education regardless of their socio-economic background. To this effect, even state governments carried out some essential schemes, including Kerala’s National Minorities Development & Finance Corporation (NMDFC) Education Loan Scheme, which provides loans with low- interest rates to minority students for studying in India and abroad. Though central and state governments had initially administered numerous such schemes, the topic of discussion in recent times has become the discontinuation of four important schemes and scholarships, including the MANF. 

Ministries have responded, saying that an overlap between many other such initiatives is the reason behind this step, but citizens and news outlets have been quick to show their disdain for the government’s announcements. The Ministry of Minority Affairs stated that the MANF was discontinued due to an overlap with other schemes, but since an individual student can only benefit from one scheme at a time, the decision seemingly affects minorities negatively, leaving them with less help than they had before. 

Schemes like ‘Naya Savera’ provided coaching to the six minority communities for examinations for technical or professional courses. Since its implementation, the scheme has benefitted 1,19, 223 students as of 2023, with its discontinuation being in effect from 2022-23. Other schemes include the ‘Padho Pardesh’ interest subsidy for minority students pursuing higher education overseas. The discontinued scheme has benefited 20,365 beneficiaries since it was announced. Another such scheme was the ‘Nai Udaan’ scheme, which, before its discontinuation, provided financial assistance to students who were appearing for competitive exams (UPSC, State Civil Services, etc.). Since 2019, the scheme has benefited around 4000 students. Along with this, the government discontinued pre-matric scholarships for students from classes 1 to 8, making the scholarship available to students from classes 9 and 10.  

Educational challenges faced by minorities 

Insufficient financial support, cultural disparities and language barriers are just some of the many challenges that keep minorities from having an equal opportunity for education. The biggest of these is financial support; culturally weaker communities are generally financially weaker, and thus lack the means to pursue higher education. 

Muslims are the largest minority in India, yet they face socio-economic and educational challenges. According to a report by the Sachar Committee, their literacy rate is alarmingly low, with only 59% of Muslims attending primary schools, and with a high dropout rate. The All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) reported that for the year 2019-22, there was a significant decline in the number of Muslim students’ enrolment. While other minorities such as Dalits and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) saw some improvement, Muslims constituted only about 5.5% of enrolment overall.  

With high migration numbers, education remains elusive for many communities, higher education even more so. There is a lack of counseling, mentorship and support mechanisms, further deterring minority students from opting for higher education. Societal roles, traditional customs, gender stereotypes, etc, are more challenges faced by some communities.  

Even with certain initiatives and government schemes in place, there is a gap in policy-making regarding higher education for minorities. The discontinued schemes further hamper minority participation. The Ministry of Minority Affairs stated that certain schemes, including the MANF, were discontinued due to an overlap with other schemes, but since an individual student can only benefit from one scheme at a time, the decision seemingly affects minorities negatively, leaving them with less help than they had before. 

Policy Recommendations 

The socio-economic development of minorities depends heavily on access to education. There is a need to revise and improve the existing schemes rather than discontinuing more of them. Proper government funding for existing policies is also needed to ensure their implementation. The Naya Savera Scheme, for example, faced a 60% drop in funding from Rs 79 Crore in 2022-23 to Rs 30 Crore, even though the scheme had benefited 1.19 Lakh minority students. The government’s expenditure on six educational schemes also dropped to Rs 2.186 Crore in 2021-22 from Rs 2.498 Crore in 2019-20.  

With MANF students awaiting stipends and funds that allow them to continue their research work and fellowship, there is an urgent need to address the gap between policies and their actual implementation.  

Niti Aayog’s 2018 document stated policy suggestions for education of minorities, some of which included the enhancement of the Maulana Azad National Fellowship, overseas scholarships and a 15% increase each year, along with a 10% increase in scholarships for girl students every year. The suggested methods should be considered and implemented to overcome the issue of minority education.  

The need for infrastructure development around minority areas, if met, can enhance the opportunities these communities have to enroll in schools and colleges, leading to greater chances of pursuing higher education. 


Education is one of the most fundamental tools in reducing poverty and increasing development. The World Bank estimates that for every additional year of schooling, there is a 9% increase in an individual’s hourly earnings. It also estimates that a country’s GDP can increase by almost 0.3% for every 1% increase in the literacy rate.  

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in its “Education at a Glance 2019’ report, shared that 71% of Indian adults do not have an upper secondary education, with India also being the country with the highest share of adults without a primary education among the G20 countries. Education attainment remains low in India, even more so for women, with 58% of men and 70% of women not having an upper secondary education.  

With the implementation of the National Education Policy 2020, the government of India aims to establish an education system that will provide quality education to all, irrespective of the learners’ economic or social backgrounds. This policy aims to overcome the many existing barriers, revamp the entire structure of education and improve the regulation and governance of education structures in the country.  

Though such initiatives are hopeful endeavours, the only way for policies and schemes to reach those that they are meant for is through awareness. There seems to be a lack in policies reaching citizens, leaving many completely unaware and consequently excluded from availing the benefits of said schemes.