Indian schools do not provide enough exposure to children from Under-Represented Groups

Written by Giri Shankar K | Published on: August 1, 2019

With the increasing pace of technological advances and globalisation rapidly taking over, India is all set to become the next hub for economic growth. Adding to this is a young population with an average age of 29 years, which puts India at an advantage. But is India’s human capital prepared to face the challenge? The role of education is crucial in this aspect, and it is high time that we rethink our approach towards necessary education policies. The focus here is on basic school education as it lays the foundation for an individual’s future and career and is also facing some severe problems. India’s education system is in dire need of a change right now than ever.


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The government has indeed done a great job in establishing awareness of Right to Education among the masses. Nowadays, most parents are aware of school education being compulsory for children. But what they do not realise is the real benefit and importance of availing school education. Even school going children seem to be not very invested in attending school. The reason is that schools in India do not provide enough exposure to the children and their parents in terms of the long term benefits of education. This is especially common among families from Under-Represented Groups (URGs). As a result, children enrolling to schools are dropping out, and minimal efforts are made in stopping them from doing so.

This is where the Indian schooling system has failed. It has been unable to generate interest in learning among the students. The first thing that a school should teach a child is the art of learning, and everything else follows. But mechanistic, factual and rote learning is what is being done in schools. Also, too much emphasis on academic scores and minimal focus on co-curricular and extra-curricular activities such as arts, skills and physical education have pushed us into this worrisome situation.

By making school education compulsory for children within the age bracket, our government had thought that it had solved the problem of illiteracy in India. And to the credit of the government, it did to an extent. According to the figures indicated in NITI Aayog, adult literacy in India stands at about 74%, which is one of the lowest among developing nations but is still an improvement over the last decade. But one also needs to look at how literacy is defined – “Literates are people above the age of 7 who can both read and write”.  This is what a child entering primary school is capable of, and rightly so one can observe a sharp rise in the number of dropouts right after primary school.

It also brings us to another problem, which is that even school going children are not well versed in basic literacy and numeracy skills despite graduating primary school. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 states that almost 30% of Class 8 students cannot read a Class 2 level text, which is alarming. The situation is even worse in the case of basic numeracy skills.

In the current education system, once a student gets left behind, there is little to no hope for them to catch up with their peers. This situation is further aggravated by the fact that there are also not enough teachers to teach the students. According to ASER 2018, the Pupil to Teacher Ratio for overall India is 57.8. The government should note that this is a huge employment opportunity sitting right in front of us and take necessary actions to recruit enough teachers for the betterment of everyone.

This begs the question: Has the education system in India achieved the goal that it had set out to achieve? If enrolling children to schools is the first step in achieving literacy, it has certainly achieved that. The government has solved the problems in the accessibility of education. But will that alone suffice in building a substantial human capital for our nation?

How can this situation improve?

Now is the time to focus on improving the quality of education across India. With the rapid advancements being made in the tech industry, there has arisen a high requirement for skilled individuals more than ever. Some steps to be taken in ensuring a quality education system in India and thus a better future are:
 
  • Introducing children to interactive and interrogative methods of learning right from their nursery phase.
  • Maintain the Pupil to Teacher ratio at an optimal level by recruiting and training new teachers. The quality and method of teaching should also be improved. Regular training modules should be designed to check and enhance teachers’ performance continuously.
  • Evaluation should be based on the all-round development of children and should not in any way restrict the student to their scores.

The government should realise that it still has a long way to go in ensuring quality education for all and start making investments in improving school education.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin.

The National Education Policy Draft 2019 does bring in some hope in this aspect, such as the Emphasis on Early Childhood Education, Focus on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, Development of Balanced Curriculum and Focus on hiring local teachers. The vision set by the committee for the future of school education in India seems to be bright. But how it will accomplish these goals and generate the financing required for them are not laid out and remains to be seen.

Courtesy: Counter View