As a nation whose growth is talk of the town, quality education in India remains still a distant dream. A lot has been written about the system of education in this country.
A lot of questions have been raised against it- are we doing the right things for progress, is our research output anywhere near other nations of our league and inspite of having bright minds and enough numbers on our side we have failed to produce proportionate number of Nobel laureates.
So, before I proceed any further let me tell you that I am not going to offer any magical solutions to the problem but shift your focus to the deeper issues of this problem, I am sure going to do.
A couple of weeks back the results of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey were out and led to quite some frenzy. The reason – out of the 74 economies that had participated in the survey (which compares the quality of education in these participating economies) India was placed second from last, only ahead of Kyrgyzstan. The results were shocking for many of us in India probably due to the fact that the country’s education system has been considered to be one of the most rigorous and even Obama could not help but tell-he fears that the Indian and Chinese students may capture all the jobs- but for those who have been continuously lamenting the real state of Indian education system which lacks quality, it came as no surprise, only that the results made their point more evident and helped them back it up with comparative facts.
It is impossible to disbelieve all that was in the findings especially considering the fact that this is a country where education just means passing examinations to get degree or certificates! To earn your degree, you need not innovate, think creatively, work hard on your mind as higher studies would require you to, you just need to cram the answers that your teacher would want to see in the answer sheet. There is nothing for us to point finger at the poor student here, he just can’t be blamed for anything, that’s the way it is and we have been trained to do it since our very childhood. So it doesn’t come as a surprise when a survey, which was done in Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, shows primary students in a very poor light. Only 17% of students, in Tamil Nadu, were estimated to possess proficiency in reading that is at or above the baseline. And in Himachal Pradesh, this was 11%. The PISA study also found that only 12% of students in Himachal Pradesh and 15% in Tamil Nadu were proficient in mathematics. Put it without any statistics and according to the survey, not even half of the children, 15 years of age, could perform basic arithmetic or basic reading – something which brings in a lot of concern especially driven from the fact that the two states being talked about here, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh, have always been on the right side of development and are considered among those progressive states in the country. A lot of concern for the quality of products in India but no value for quality of education or human resource!
Although one could easily dismiss the report, saying that most countries considered, as a part of the survey, are either developed economies or small countries with a history of quality education but that does not take away from the fact that our system has failed to provide what it is supposed to –quality. In fact, we are still stuck in a state of absurdity where only a meager percentage of the population, usually the urban middle class and upper castes, have access to good schools and teachers and it would be no exaggeration to say that majority of our children, especially in the rural areas, are either employed as laborers or study in those schools which lack teachers and resources. With such disparities, it’s true that we can’t really be serious about economic development by just including the fortunate sections. Real development lies with the inclusion of all the people and for that quality education is the key.
Increasing enrollment is a major task in the process. It is indeed wonderful that mid day meal scheme and Right to Education Act have actually achieved that to an extent, but standards of what constitutes education are problematic themselves. Is it a mere ability to write one’s name or is it something more than that- to actually go out into the real world?
The RTE and the mid day meal scheme maybe buzzwords, but the real truth is that we can’t just stop with these laws alone, we just cannot afford to have children in schools just because they are getting a meal or fulfilling a law. Mid-day meal and Right to Education are indeed important but equally important is THE RIGHT EDUCATION and we just have to find ways and means to ensure quality for our own good and also to prevent a possible scenario where the world may see us as ‘Bharat drowning’.