Ageing Public Schools
“Caring for a girl means caring for the future of the nation. Each girl must be educated”
Being a proponent of education in India I have always tried to dampen my enthusiasm and chosen not to be against government on problems like Poverty and Illiteracy, irrespective of what people around the world are cribbing about our opportunist politicians and seeing people becoming victims every second day; just because of my belief that one day our government will realize its duties and become rational, but that hasn’t happen so far and will never be until the public overrule.
I firmly believe that the future of India depends largely upon the future of education in our country. If there is anything we can do for the poor is to educate them. It is only through education that poor can get back his lost individuality and become a bread winner in family. Hence, there have been various initiatives taken by the government to equate the education system with that of other developing countries, such as SSA (Sarva Skhisha Abhiyaan) and RTE (Right to Education), that mandates free and compulsory education for all Indian children under the age of 14. Besides maintaining a huge corpus for education and launching other schemes there are many children who feel left out and opt for child labor and other unfair jobs to earn money, because of unavailability of means of education (Schools, Books, Teachers etcetera). No doubt that government has been constantly spending huge money on education with good intention to improve education facilities and educate more students but still the situation is abysmal. Now, it has become so grim that despite running such lucrative schemes and spending in crores many students go uneducated and add-up to the illiterates of India, making it a country with the highest number of illiterates.
LACKLUSTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS
There are around 1.3 million Government schools being run as per government guidance in the country where majority of population lives in the rural or semi-urban areas. In grade 8, more than 10% of the children couldn’t read grade 2 texts and around 15% couldn’t do simple subtraction. Still half the class V children cannot read class II texts, and 40% of class V children cannot solve a two-digit subtraction. This represents unexpected outcomes especially in government schools in the Hindi belt. In 13000 schools visited by surveyors, student absenteeism was 505 and teacher absenteeism 45%. Even today there is a shortage of around 3 lakh classrooms at elementary level and 1.70 lakh classroom at secondary school level with more than half of all schools lacking basic sanitary and water facilities. Going by official estimates, there is a shortage of 6.89 lakhs teachers for SSA programme and 6000 for Kendriya Vidhyalayas and more than 3,000 teachers for IITs and NITs. Government’s failure in enhancing education in country has become a worrisome matter especially when eyes are on growing young population of India. Hence this burden can’t be diverted onto the private sector which is already doing its duties, alongside following government mandates like maintaining fixed quota for some categories of students and relaxation in tuition fees & percentage during admission. As per the National Alliance for the Fundamental Right to Education (NAFRE), in about 600,000 villages, the education imparted is only basic, literacy instruction by semi educated teachers! In higher education, 80 per cent of Indian students are enrolled in science, commerce, humanities and social sciences and only 20 per cent are enrolled in professional programs. To reconcile that, India’s Prime Minister in 2007 announced the setting up of 8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, 20 new Indian Institute of Information Technology, and 5 new Indian Institute of Science Education; with the purpose of churning out greater number of people with professional degrees. Of these, many are still to even see their foundation stone being laid.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS OUTCRY
Government has been blatantly foisting its primary responsibility of educating poor onto the private sector unnecessarily. But it was unexpected this time when it recently upheld 25% seats in all the schools public or private in each class, without any mutual consent. Well that’s a smart step Supreme Court has taken but I have a doubt here, will it really solve the problem or rather aggravate it. The decision has been disseminated but the funding part is still skeptical. When it came to funding, Sir Kapil Sibal (HRD Minister) bluntly said that government will look after the minimum funding possible and for more private schools can seek help from corporate sector. Why so, that sounds absurd since fees in public schools is paltry as compared to those of private or international schools. In private schools the yearly fee is around Rs.70,000 and Rs.4-5 lakh in International schools as compare to Rs.2000 or less in public schools and after accommodating students from backward classes, as per law, making space for 25% more in each class is a cumbersome task. Private schools are left with few options available. Firstly, they can depend on the aid provided by the government, the basic aid, which will be insufficient. Secondly, they can decrease the quality of services they provide which is again not feasible. And thirdly, they can increase the fees, especially of those 75% students, since private schools will unwillingly have to pass on the burden on those students due to their inability to recover fees from those 25% students, in any case it is going to affect the private sector which has been doing its duties with due diligence, unlike public schools. However,in the private sector people like Azim Premji and Shiv Nadar of HCL and many others ave already been immensely contributing by educating poor people. Therefore it is not necessary to always choose the easiest way to tackle the simplest of issues, but the irony is that our leaders have become habitual of shrugging off their responsibilities.
Compared with China we are far behind in almost every segment but I would like to stress on education for now. Since, spending on education in both countries is almost 4% of GDP. The appropriation for education in Chinese budget is $60 billion as compared to $12 billion in India. In India most of the government run Indian rural schools are mired with problems of infrastructure and above all suffer largely from the curse of teachers’ absenteeism. On an average, more than 30 per cent of teachers are found absent in rural schools, might be due to insufficient paychecks, lack of teaching facilities or some other reasons. Situation could have been same with the most populated country like China but in order to curb such menace, China pays their teachers based on student scores. Thus, a large component of teachers’ salaries depends on their students’ performance. The better the school (based on the students’ score) more is the fees they charge, thus increasing competition and quality both at the same time. Which consequently reduce absenteeism of both teacher and students. India is way behind China in terms of even the number of universities. There are 545 universities in India compared to 2,236 in China. Even in medical colleges, there are about 630 colleges in China compared to 251 in India. The total enrollment in Indian universities is only 4.7 million compared to 11 million in China.
A LAME INSTANCE
We say we are running out of money, we don’t have enough so we have to take loan from the World Bank and sometimes foist private sector to share the responsibility. And on the other hand we have enough money to splurge on criminals. I am quoting a very lame example here which has become a stigma on our country, yes that’s Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab who was involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks and had been convicted a murder by Bombay High for waging war on India, possessing explosives, and other charges. And on 6 May 2010, the same trial court sentenced him to death for attacking Mumbai and killing 166 people on 26 November 2008. The same criminal has been living an affluent life in Indian jails and eating up our money, government has been splurging inordinately on him, it is said it has spent more than Rs 50 crore until now, that proves how strong we are financially and judicially. Reason behind highlighting this is only to pinpoint about the floundering of money, a country where people are starving and unable to afford basic education, under the same roof criminals are being served biryani in jail.
MOST NEGLECTED, PUBLIC PLEA
I have no intentions to undermine government efforts in any sector, after the right to health – a right which guarantees life – and the right to employment that guarantees living, it is right to education that is the most important duty of the government, as it guarantees the right to life and living with dignity. Every child born in India should have access to good schooling and should have access to the means required to get educated, be it books, infrastructure, computational facilities etc. If there is anything that accounts for a level playing ground, it is education, education and only education. An educated man is any day a more worthwhile resource for an economy than an uneducated man, and education, it must be said, is the best service that any government can provide its citizens. And education has nothing to do with poverty. A poorer Kerala has almost double the literacy rate than a far richer Punjab; as is the case with a poorer Vietnam when compared to India. There are millions of talented and deserving students from poor backgrounds who are forced to opt out of professional courses because they cannot afford the cost or avail bank loans despite the best intentions of the government. It is time for the government to set up a massive corpus that would provide scholarships for such deserving candidates from poor backgrounds alongside keep track of every penny spend on education instead of shrugging of its responsibilities. Education is not the prerogative of any particular class or creed, it should be equally available to everyone be it Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs – all Indians irrespective of ethnicity or caste. And the most important and the most critical step for the government is to provide education to the female child. If country like china which was once famous for demolishing poor people’s home for not following the one child policy can have a slogan like, ‘“Caring for a girl means caring for the future of the nation,” then I believe India can do much better on this. We should unanimously invest massively in educating women. Worldwide, study after study has proven that when the women are educated, the social and economic benefits that accrue to a country are enormous-including the minimization of social evils. One of the key reasons behind the state of Kerala having such envious indicators of Human Development is the high literacy rates for females. However it would be better off educating 25% females from poor families for free. And most importantly there should be more investment in debilitating public schools and constant vigilance on every penny spent. Alongside, government should appreciate the efforts of private sector for making humongous contribution by educating the underprivileged children.