A critical analysis of the efficacy of MDG 2: case study of the Dalits of Kerala, India
My research study sought to understand whether the United Nation’s (UN) Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2, with its main target of 100 per cent school enrolment and primary school level completion, could act as a major instrument of poverty eradication, using the case study of the Kerala state of India. The MDG programme focuses on the measurable objective realities of poverty; ignoring the cause and context of poverty. Correspondingly, MDG 2 is aimed at human capital formation. This thesis challenges the underlying assumptions of MDG 2. I argue that MDG 2, as currently conceptualised in terms of conventional primary schooling and universal access, without pedagogical reform, is unlikely to achieve its current promised goals.
This study used extensive interactive material based on critical ethnographic methods to explore the lived experience of the Dalits of Kerala, which constitutes the case study for this thesis. Kerala has already achieved the targets of MDG 2; it has enjoyed universal primary education for over a hundred years, and yet remains a poor state. As the poorest community in Kerala, the Dalits highlight the contradiction inherent in MDG 2 and poverty eradication. Therefore, this research interrogates the efficacy of MDG 2 by examining the conditions of the Dalits of Kerala, an educated population in terms of MDG 2, who, notwithstanding, remain enmeshed in poverty.
Inherent in MDG 2 is a theory that changing indicators, in this case universal primary education, will eradicate poverty. However, eradicating poverty is much more complex than changing indicators. Poverty is associated with a complex web of factors such as the level of oppression, social exclusion and lack of opportunities experienced by the subaltern population. Critical theory, which provides the framework for this thesis, argues that the role of education is emancipatory, which implies transforming social institutions and emancipation of the oppressed. These goals cannot be achieved by the MDG 2 objective of human capital formation through education. Although this research focused on one case study in one country, nonetheless, it provides a critical perspective, which may help better understanding of the limitations of MDG 2 as an instrument of poverty eradication.