In this article Aishwarya Karunakar addresses the current status and issues revolving around Primary education in India with special emphasis on rural areas.
A proper educational system lays the foundation for the progress of any nation. In the last decade, India has shown promising statistics revealing that it has reached up to 93% enrollment in primary schools. However, behind this veil lies the sad truth that these children show little progress when it comes to quality education. India is ranked a measly 63 on 64 in the Program for International Student Assessment. The ASER Report, 2011 stated that only 48.2% of them have been able to continue till Grade 2 level. Such shocking decrease in levels raise questions regarding the state of primary education in the country.
WHAT AILS THE PRIMARY EDUCATION SYSTEM IN INDIA?
India with more than 740,000 schools has supposedly the largest education system in the world. This is a country of 1.25 billion people with about 200 million kids studying in primary and secondary school. When one comes to think of it,India is rightly called the ‘land of villages’. A majority of this population lives in villages and herein lies the problem of educating India’s young population. Taking education to rural areas is a difficult task. Statistics reveal that more than 80% kids begin grade 1 but less than 50% make it to grade 8 clearly indicating the fact that dropout rates are exceedingly high. This is primarily due to lack of awareness about the merits of education in rural areas. Also reasons such as parents wanting their kids to work for a living and gender bias towards girls in rural area adds to the problem. Tackling the issue of gender equality remains a problem till date in India and this issue has gnawed its way to education as well with people in rural areas keepig girls on a lesser footing as compared to boys.
The Government of India started a grand initiative called ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan'(SSA) in 2001 with the aim of educating with a pledge of making every child enrolled in a school by 2005. SSA has shown significant progress in improving primary education in India. The number of out -of -school children reduced from 8 million(2009) to 3 million(2012). 1,95,000 primary schools were sanctioned, 2 million additional posts for teachers were created, 2,30,000 drinking water projects were approved and most importantly, gender parity was achieved.
In spite of this, primary education India still does not meet the required standards.
The reasons are as diverse as this country’s population. India’s education system faces a multitude of challenges.
The first one is lack of proficient teachers or inadequate support. The teachers teaching in rural areas are faced with numerous problems. Dhin Jhingra is a senior civil servant in the IAS and has been quoted saying:“Teachers have to teach multiple grades, textbooks are pitched far above the comprehension level of students, and each classroom has children with different levels of learning achievements.” A rural school teacher may have to juggle different grades at the same time.
Then comes the problem of linguistic diversity. India has a number of spoken regional languages which makes it difficult for students to communicate. English is the medium of education to be used in schools .However, when the teachers themselves are not fluent in the language, imparting skills in English to students becomes a stressful job indeed. Statistics show that as of 2008-09, 45% of these teachers haven’t studied above 12th grade, revealing the embarrassing state of the teachers in primary schools. Combined with this is the lack of interest on part of the teachers. It was observed that many teachers were marked absent on working days with an average of 3 present on any given day.
The Government of India is making numerous efforts to increase the literacy rates and to get education to every nook and corner of the country. Keeping this in mind, the midday meal plan was initiated and surprisingly enrollment rates shot up due to providing just one meal a day. This shows that poverty has a huge role to play as well. India lives in its poor villages. At the end, everything boils down to the hard truth of poverty in India. Forced to lead lives in such limited means, people have no option but to make every member work for feeding themselves.
But, keeping these factors aside, the biggest flaw is the rote learning system that is plaguing not only primary but also all other levels of education in India. Students in India are under great pressure of scoring marks and added to this is the extremely ridiculous teaching methodology that teachers use making students repeat parts of text over and over again. This type of learning scars the mentality of a student and makes him unable to comprehend the technicalities of the syllabus. All these problems need to be tackled with great perseverance and patience if any development is to be expected.
A number of NGOs today cater to the needs of education of rural kids which is a welcome change and greatly helps in the aim of ‘Education for all’. India, right now, has the proper means , funds, good infrastructure in place for primary schools , well remunerated teachers. Primary education is showing improvements, enrollment rates are increasing. What remains to be seen, however, is how India tackles these persistent problems using a skilled workforce for this very well decides India’s growth in the world in the coming years. Education lays the foundation for a nation’s success and India has to surpass regional, socio-economic and cultural boundaries to achieve education for everyone. Here’s to ‘EDUCATION FOR ALL’.