• Education is empowering and redefining. For hundreds of millions of the young in India, education is also about discipline, development, curiosity, creativity and a path to breaking the cycle of ignorance and poverty leading to employment and prosperity.
  • India’s demographic dividend depends on the learning level of students. The quality of education has a direct bearing on any economy.
  • Education is a significant step to achieving all other basic human rights. Education can help decrease poverty, reduce social inequalities, empower women and others marginalised, bring down discrimination and finally help individuals live life to their fullest potentials.
  • It helps improve access to opportunities for a better life in terms of employment and business. It can also bring about peace and overall prosperity to a region. Therefore, education is one of the most important rights.
  • By 2030, India will have the largest number of young population in the globe, a population size which will be a boon only if these young people are skilled enough to join the workforce. Quality education will play a major role in it.

Status of Education in India

  • The Indian education and social arrangements are very inflexible on kids and completely ignore their feelings, thoughts and ambitions. Kids are pressed to study from the age of 3. Non-performers are treated as dunces and detested by parents and society.
  • As per UNESCO data, India has one of the lowest public expenditure rates on education per student, especially compared to other Asian countries like China.
  • Education in most schools is one dimensional, with an obsessive focus on marks. Added to this is the lack of availability of trained teachers at all levels. Quality teachers are the missing link in the Indian education system. Although pockets of excellence exist, the quality of teaching, especially in government schools, does not meet the standards.
  • The current state of Education faces major challenges like lack of adequate infrastructure, low government expenditure on education( less than 3.5% of the GDP) and as per Unified District Information System For Education (UDISE) the pupil-to-teacher ratio at national level for elementary schools is 24:1.
  • With a literacy rate of 77 percent, India lags behind other BRICS nations, which have literacy rates above 90 percent. All these countries have better student-teacher ratios. So not only does India grapple with poor quality teachers, it also has fewer total teachers in comparison with other countries that do a better job at education.
  • Data from the Ministry of Human Resource Development show that only half of all students who enter primary school make it to the upper primary level and less than half that get into the 9-12 class cycle.
    • Only 58 percent of children enrolled in classes three to five could read a class one text.
    • Less than half (47 percent) were able to do simple two-digit subtraction.
    • Only half of the children in classes five to eight could use a calendar.
    • They were not found proficient in even basic skills; about two-thirds of the students in class four could not master the measurement of the length of the pencil with a ruler.
  • Study after study has shown that the true indicator of economic development in a country is the education and wellbeing of its people. Although, India has made rapid economic progress over the last three decades, one area that has not received enough attention is the quality of primary education.

Importance of Education for India

  • Education is the tool which alone can inculcate national and cultural values and liberate people of false prejudice, ignorance and representations.
  • Education provides them required knowledge, technique, skill and information and enables them to know their rights and duties towards their family, their society and towards their motherland at large.
  • Education expands their vision and outlook, provokes the spirit of healthy competition and a desire to advance for the achievements of their consciousness regenerating truth, and thereby capability to fight injustice, corruption, violence, disparity and communalism, the greatest hazards to the progress of the nation.
  • Quality education is today’s need as it is the development of  intellectual skills  and knowledge  which will equip learners to fulfill the needs of professionals, decision makers and trainers.
  • Education provides many opportunities in various fields for the development of the country. Education makes people independent, builds confidence and self-esteem, which is very important for the development of a country.
  • The UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report and the Education Commission’s Learning Generation Report:-
    • 171 million people could be lifted out of extreme poverty if all children left school with basic reading skills. That’s equivalent to a 12% drop in the world total.
  • Education increases individual earnings
    • Education increases earnings by roughly 10% per each additional year of schooling
  • Education reduces economic inequalities
    • If workers from poor and rich backgrounds received the same education, disparity between the two in working poverty could decrease by 39%.
  • Education promotes economic growth:-
    • No country in the world has achieved rapid and consistent economic growth without at least 40 percent of its adult population being literate.
  • The creation of green industries will rely on high-skilled, educated workers. Agriculture contributes 1/3 of all greenhouse gas emissions. Primary and secondary education can provide future farmers with critical knowledge about sustainability challenges in agriculture.
  • Education benefits people’s health throughout their entire lives, from a mother’s pre-birth lifestyle to the likelihood of developing diseases later in life.
    • Women with at least six years of education are more likely to use prenatal vitamins and other useful tactics during pregnancy, thus reducing the risk of maternal or infant mortality.
  • Education has proven to benefit women and girls at a higher rate than boys. The empowerment that girls receive from an education both personally and economically is unmatched by any other factor.

Issues related to Education Sector

Contemporary challenges in education sector in India

  • Inadequate government Funding: The country spent 3% of its total GDP on education in 2018-19 according to the Economic Survey which is very less in comparison to the developed and OECD countries.
  • Pandemic impact: Some 23.8 million additional children and youth (from pre-primary to tertiary) may drop out or not have access to school next year.
    • As per ASER Report 2020, 5% of rural children are not currently enrolled for the 2020 school year, up from 4% in 2018.
    • This difference is the sharpest among the youngest children (6 to 10) where 5.3% of rural children had not yet enrolled in school in 2020, in comparison to just 1.8% in 2018.
  • Digital Divide: There is a major digital divide within the country across states, cities and villages, and income groups (National Statistical Organisation Survey on Digital Education Divide). Nearly 4% of rural households and 23% of urban households possessed computers and 24% of the households in the country had internet access.
  • Quality of Education: Only 16% of children in Class 1 can read the text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognise letters. only 50 per cent of Grade 5 children being able to read a grade 2 text. (ASER Report findings.
  • Lack of infrastructure: According to the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) for 2019-20, only 12% of schools have internet facilities and 30% have computers.
    • About 42% of these schools lacked furniture, 23% lacked electricity, 22% lacked ramps for the physically disabled, and 15% lacked WASH facilities (which include drinking water, toilets, and hand wash basins).
    • Most of the schools are not yet compliant with the complete set of RTE infrastructure. They lack drinking water facilities, a functional common toilet, and do not have separate toilets for girls.
  • Inadequate teachers and their training: The 24:1 ratio of India is way lower than Sweden’s 12:1, Britain’s 16:1, Russia’s 10:1 and Canada’s 9:1. Moreover the quality of teachers who are sometimes appointed politically or are not trained adequately is another huge challenge.
  • Falling share of Government school enrolment: The proportion of India’s children attending a government school has now declined to 45 per cent; this number is 85 per cent in America, 90 per cent in England, and 95 per cent in Japan.
  • Too many schools: We have too many schools and 4 lakh have less than 50 students (70 per cent of schools in Rajasthan, Karnataka, J&K, and Uttarakhand). China has similar total student numbers with 30 per cent of our school numbers.
  • Huge dropout numbers: The drop-out rates in schools, especially girls, is very high. Many factors like poverty, patriarchal mindset, lack of toilets in schools, distance to schools and cultural elements lead to children dropping out from education.
    • COVID creates new urgency; reports suggest 25 per cent of Haryana private school students may have dropped out this year due to parental financial challenges.
    • Most of the students in 6-14 age groups leave the school before completing their education. It leads to wastage of financial and human resources.
    • According to the National Family Health Survey-5not being interested in studies was the reason given by 21.4% of girls and 35.7% of boys aged between 6 to 17 years for dropping out of school before the 2019-20 school year.
  • Problem of Brain Drain: Due to cutthroat competition for getting admission in top institutes like IITs and IIMs, a challenging academic environment is created for a large number of students in India, so they prefer going abroad, that makes our country deprived of good talent.
    • There is definitely a quantitative expansion of education in India but the qualitative front (essential for a student to get a job) is lagging behind.
  • Mass illiteracy: In spite of constitutional directives and efforts aimed at enhancing education, around 25% of Indians still remain illiterate, which also leaves them socially and digitally excluded.
  • Lack of Adequate Attention to Indian Languages: Indian languages are still in an underdeveloped stage, the medium of instruction particularly in science subjects is English, resulting in unequal opportunities for rural students.
    • Also, standard publications are not available in the Indian language.
  • Gender-Inequality: Despite the government’s effort to ensure equality of opportunity for education for both men and women in our society, the literacy rate of women in India, especially in rural areas, still remains very poor.
    • According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)poverty and local cultural practices ( female infanticidedowry, and early marriage ) play a big role in gender inequality in education throughout India.
    • Another obstacle to education is a lack of sanitation in schools across the country.

Other existing issues

  • Infrastructure deficit:
    • Dilapidated structures, single-room schools, lack of drinking water facilities, separate toilets and other educational infrastructure is a grave problem.
  • Corruption and leakages:
    • The transfer of funds from the central to state to local governments to school leads to involvement of many intermediaries.
    • The fund transfer is drastically reduced by the time it reaches the true beneficiaries.
    • High rates of corruption and leakages plague the system, undermine its legitimacy and harm the many thousands of honest headmasters and teachers.
  • Quality of Teachers:
    • Lack of well trained, skilled and knowledgeable teachers which provide the foundation for a high quality education system.
    • Teacher shortages and poorly qualified teachers are both a cause and effect of poorly paid and managed teaching cadres.
  • Poor salary:
    • Teachers are paid miserly salaries which affect their interest and dedication to work. They will look for other avenues like tuitions or coaching centers and coax the students to attend it.
    • This has dual effect, firstly the quality of teaching in schools drop and secondly, the poor students are forced to spend money despite constitutional provision of free education.
  • Teacher Absenteeism:
    • Absence of teachers during school hours is rampant. The lack of accountability and poor governance structures add to the woes.
  • Lack of Accountability:
    • School Management Committees are largely dysfunctional. Many exist solely on paper.
    • Parents are often not aware of their rights and if they are it is difficult for them to make their voice heard.
  • School closure:
    • Many schools are closed to low student strength, lack of teachers and infrastructure. The competition posed by private schools is also a major challenge to government schools.

Measures Needed for Issues related to Education Sector

  • The current approach, mainly academic in nature, recognizes that piecemeal initiatives are unlikely to improve student learning.
  • new systemic approach to reforming education is now emerging in Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan.
  • It is accompanied with administrative reforms that create an enabling environment for these new practices to take root.
  • It involves aligning all stakeholders and orienting their collective efforts towards following a single and “comprehensive transformation road map” towards better learning outcomes.
  • Academic interventions involve the adoption of grade competence framework instead of just syllabus completion.
  • Effective delivery of remedial education for weaker students like after-school coaching, audio-video based education.
  • Administrative reforms that enable and incentivize teachers to perform better through data-driven insights, training, and recognition. Example: Performance based increments in Salary.
  • Together with human enablement, a seamless ecosystem or a system enabler (often a technology platform) is also set up.
  • This streamlines communication and saves teachers’ valuable time that they might have otherwise spent on administrative tasks, such as leave applications, allowance claims, transfers and service book updates.
  • It is also important to track the performance of the schooling system on a regular basis to course correct where needed.
  • Therefore, a robust accountability system is required wherein there is a clear articulation of the roles and responsibilities of all relevant stakeholders, and the administration is empowered to act where necessary.
  • This involves frequent real-time, data-enabled review meetings at the block, district, and state levels.
  • These states have also developed user-friendly dashboards that assist education officials and the state leadership in decision-making.
  • reworking of curriculum and activities is urgently needed for the entire age band from 4 to 8, cutting across all types of preschools and early grades regardless of whether the provision is by government institutions or by private agencies.
  • The year 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of the RTE Act. This is the best moment to focus on the youngest cohorts before and during their entry to formal schooling and ensure that 10 years later they complete secondary school as well-equipped and well-rounded citizens of India.
  • Increase accessibility: The pandemic has taught us a lot about adjusting to changes in new and creative ways. But taking the weaker sections along is equally necessary.
  • There’s a need to explore the possibility of high and low technology solutions to digital learning, on the basis of power supply, digital skills of teachers and students, and internet connectivity.
  • Inclusion in distance learning programs, especially for students coming from low-income groups or the presence of disability, etc.
  • Governance must shift from control of resources to learning outcomes; learning design, responsiveness, teacher management, community relationships, integrity, fair decision making, and financial sustainability.
  • Governance must enable performance management to be substantive.
  • Decentralized decisions: For instance, recruitment at the block level will minimise teacher absenteeism and reduce the stakes and payments on the “transfer industry” and school consolidation will reduce teacher shortages.
  • Implementation of National Education Policy: The implementation of the NEP can help shake the education system from its slumber.
    • Moving away from the current 10+2 system to a 5+3+3+4 system will bring the pre-school age group formally into the education set-up.
  • Education-Employment Corridor: India’s educational setup needs to be enhanced by integrating vocational learning with mainstream education and providing right mentorship at school (especially in government schools) to ensure that students are guided in the right direction from the start and are aware of career opportunities.
    • Students in rural regions have great potential and are motivated to study but lack the right mentoring. This is required not just for the children but also for their parents that will in a way also reduce the gender gap in education.
  • Reducing the Language Barrier: While keeping English as a means of education for international understanding (EIU), it is important to give other Indian languages equal importance, and special publication agencies can be established to translate resources into a variety of languages so that all Indian students have the same opportunity regardless of their linguistic background.
  • Taking a Note From Past to Future: It is important to look to the future while keeping our long-established roots in mind.
    • There is much to learn from the ‘Gurukul’ system of ancient India, which focussed on holistic development beyond academics, centuries before the topic became a buzzword in modern education.
    • Ethics and value education remained at the core of learning in the ancient Indian education system. Values such as self-reliance, empathy, creativity, and integrity remain a major area in ancient India that have relevance even today.
    • The ancient evaluation of education was not restricted to grading thematic knowledge. Students were assessed on the skills they learned and how well they can apply practical knowledge to real-life situations.

Way forward for Issues related to Education Sector

  • Digitization:
    • Create a single-window system for infrastructure and mainstream fund-flows: In Bihar, only around 10 percent of the schools fulfils infrastructure norms. A study revealed that files for renovating schools often go on a two-year journey through various departments.
    • The same can be applied for teacher salaries and school funds. These can be transferred directly from the State to the teachers and schools. There is no need to involve the District or Block in this process.
    • Leveraging the audio-visual edutainment to make education more interesting and easier to understand for the children. This will improve the quality as well as reduce the drop-out rates.
    • Implementing bio-metric attendance for teachers and students for every class can help reduce absenteeism.
  • Empower School Management Committees by using mobile phones:
    • To develop a system that facilitates School Management Committee members by fostering democratic accountability.
    • Social audits should also be carried out for effective functioning.
  • Better pre-service teacher training coupled with transparent and merit-based recruitments is a lasting solution for teacher quality.
  • Improve the quality of teacher education by making teacher training mandatory. Example: National Council for Teacher Education Act amendment billDiksha portal to train teachers.
  • Increase the public spending on education to 6% of GDP as recommended by NEP.
  • Teachers are rarely reprimanded for non-performance, while there are recommendations for removal of non-detention policy. The blame is squarely on the children; such an attitude must be wiped out.
  • Education policy in India is focused on inputs rather than learning outcomes; It has a strong elitist bias in favour of higher education as opposed to primary or secondary education. This needs a change by coming out with NEP.

Education is the key to upliftment of people from poverty, inequality and oppression. India’s demographic dividend is dependent on quality education at primary, secondary and high school levels. Focus must be on pedagogy and a safe and stimulating environment where wide range of learning experiences are offered to the children. Only when we align incentives of all stakeholders, and enable them while holding them accountable, can we shorten the distance between the nation’s current state of education and its aspirations.

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