Monday, April 15, 2013

Current Education Scenario

In India today, 4% of our children never start school – that’s 8 million. 
57% don’t complete primary schools – that’s 74 million.
And 90% don’t complete school – that’s 172 million.
The fact that only 10% of our children go on to college is really saddening.
Since the SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) started in the year 2001 we have seen a lot positive changes in terms of Infrastructure and resources for schools and children, though not yet up to mark. Mid day meal program has added to the advantage. The enrollment rate for students has jumped high over to over 95 % in many of our districts.
But here’s my question, is it really helping kids to whom we are reaching out to.
Yes, they are getting freebies and meals to jump into school but they  are missing out, on what they actually come to school for, QUALITY EDUCATION.
Our system currently deals with a lot of problem when it comes to delivering academics. A study says, 25% of teachers are actually not present in the class while the class is running and out of those present, only 50% of teachers teach at any given time. Our students are still burdened with rote learning methods and answering the questions dictated to them in their notebooks. This is instead harming and their thoughts more than what they are learning.
Teaching profession has always been the last choice for the people in India any many feel it’s a sit and earn job. (that is what I have heard many of the youth say, so called, PERMANENT NAUKRI ) Many parents still prefer private schools over municipal schools as they consider their kids have an edge there and that’s not false. All over across India government schools are facing low enrollment year on year (for eg. MCGM In Mumbai from having 9 lakh student in the year 2003 to less than 4 lakh student in 2012)

What needs to be focused to change it?

  • ·        Avoid Rote learning

Yes, we do know that many IB schools across India are trying to bring in interactive education and we laud that immensely. But the evil of rote learning is yet to be wiped out from a majority of Indian schools. Owing to the fixated style of question papers that have been doing the rounds in board exams from time immemorial, rote learning has continued.
We’re very sure that most students won’t be clear about many of the basic foundation concepts taught in school even after they’ve graduated. Ever heard of students mugging up balanced equations? This is one fundamental change that needs to come about in our Indian Education System!

  • ·        Marking System

All the other evils of the Indian education system ultimately come down to the method in which students are marked.
Is it justified that a student is evaluated only on the basis of his/her performance for the duration of three hours of the exam? If the axis of grading and marking is shifted to classroom participation, project work, communication and leadership skills and extracurricular performance, only then will a genuine student shine out.
This might sound like a utopian proposition but the Indian education system badly needs to bring about this change.

  • ·        Respect for all streams

"Oh has she done a MA in English? She’ll end up becoming a teacher"
"What good is a diploma in hospitality management? It ultimately means doing a job in a hotel as a cook right?"
If you’ve heard these lines time and again from you elders, don’t you think it’s time you stop them?
How long are we going to look down upon vocational streams and look up to medicine,engineering, the IIT’s and the IIM’s? Students at the school level need to be educated through career counseling regarding the kind of streams that exist and what importance each of them plays to make an economy diverse.

  • ·        Variety in education streams

Why do we always see students being envious of their counterparts in the USA?
It’s because there are just three options that student have after Class 10 – they’re stuck with Science, Arts or Commerce. If they’re not good enough for either of these, they jet set straight into diplomas and certificate courses. Don’t you think the Indian education system needs to introduce combination courses in which students can opt for a major and a minor subject? If students in America can pursue Physiotherapy with Art History and Biological Science with Photography, why not in India?

  • ·        The system of tuition classes

Commenting on this subject is like plunging one’s hand into a vicious cycle which seems to have no beginning or end. Reasons for tuition classes mushrooming are because students say that the teaching in schools is lax and not good enough for them to clear exams. Whereas teachers say that students jump ahead many chapters in the tuition classes before they are even taught in school.
This makes them loose all motivation and steam to attend school in the first place. Forget all of this, what about the poor parent who’s hard earned money gets drained in school and tuition fees alone?
Although the picture does seem dismal, there is hope because some of these changes are slowly being made by select education providers. But how quickly will these changes percolate down to common man in India, only time will tell.

  • ·        Make the Teaching Profession Valuable

Currently, majority of the educated youth in India choose teaching as a profession only after other options are exhausted. As a result, the wrong people are entering the teaching profession – people who are not motivated, and are really not interested in teaching. Ofcourse, India being a democracy, one cannot stop people from choosing any career they want. But what one can do is improve the process of teacher eligibility/selection, and improve the value of a school teacher. Similar to some of the Scandinavian countries like Finland, the teaching profession needs to be made respectful in India….on par with the Engineering, Medical, Law professions. Easier said than done ofcourse, but India desperately needs to bring some fresh blood and enthusiasm in the teaching profession.

  • ·        Address the Teacher Accountability Issue

After the 6th Pay commission gave teacher pay and benefits a great boost, the implementation of the Right to Education Act has put heavy emphasis on the inputs to the education system – infrastructure, student enrolment rates etc. The Indian government has spent 88,000 Crore rupees on education since 2004, yet the quality of education is abysmal, with high drop out rates (50% student drop out by 8th grade, with only 12% actually graduate college). What explains this?? One statistic stands out – 65% of the teaching resources are wasted in India due to the combination of teacher absenteeism and teacher inactivity in school classrooms. And the main reason being the lack of accountability. The teacher unions have become disproportionately powerful with heavy political connections, due to which there is total lack of monitoring – the school inspections are a joke. Also, there is a huge demand and heavy shortage of teachers in India (unofficial number is 3 million), which is not helping in improving accountability. Policy makers and the people in power in India know about this issue, but are very hesitant to deal with it. But i think it’s about time, India stops shying away from it and starts addressing the teacher accountability issue.
  • ·        Improve Quality of Demand

One cannot blame the Indian government for all the educational problems. Equal responsibility has to be shared by the people. Talking to the locals/parents in India, i got a feeling that the people have lost faith in the public education system due to its poor quality. They have given up hope. And the fact that the educated, well-to-do population send their kids to private schools, makes it difficult to motivate them to care about India’s public education system. But that needs to change. India needs a better quality of demand. And this starts with the educated population, motivated, helping out, and demanding a better quality of public education. The illiterate population and the locals/parents from the under-privileged communities, need to be educated about their rights, the need to be given a voice/hope, that good quality public education is their right and the government needs to deliver it. It is also critical that the disproportionate power of the teacher unions is counter-balanced by some sort of parent unions, or student unions.
Final Thoughts:
With the inputs to the education system taken care, it’s about time India starts focusing on student outcomes, and on improving the quality of education. And although technology has an important role to play, it is not the silver bullet, and should not be the focus when creating any educational strategy in India. The focus should be the 3 things mentioned above – raising the value of the teaching profession, addressing the teacher accountability issue, and improving the quality of demand in India; and technology should be used as a tool to supplement other tools that address the social, cultural and economic realities on the ground.
Recommended Video to Watch, ASER 2013 Report :

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