Monday, February 13

Affordable Quality Basic Education

Education is not a privilege. It is a human right.  Then why does our society tolerate illiteracy?Why do we find that many children are still not going to schools or have dropped out after a few years?

Mahatma Gandhi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” And, according to Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can choose to change the world.”
Education is fundamental for human, social and economic development and a key element to achieving lasting peace and sustainable development. The benefits of quality basic education are manifold. One World Bank study observes that every extra year of primary education increases a person’s productivity by 10 to 30 %. The high rate of return on education clearly defines it as the surest way of breaking poverty cycle.
According to 2011 census, India’s population is 1.21 billion with overall literacy rate of 73% which meant about33 crores Indians were still illiterate till 2011, a staggering number indeed.
Talking about the quality of education, PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2009 results ranked Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh (two of the better educated states of India) 72 and 73 out of 74 participants, higher only than Kyrgyzstan. The single most significant finding of ASER survey, the largest non-governmental household survey undertaken in rural India and facilitated by the Pratham Education Foundation, is that learning levels across the country, whether in public or private school, have not improved.
The gravity of situation can be summed up in the words of Nobel laureate Dr. Amartya Sen that India does have many achievements in the success of a relatively small group of privileged people well trained in higher education and specialised expertise. Yet our educational system remains deeply unjust. Among other bad consequences, the low coverage and low quality of school education in India extracts a heavy price in the pattern of our economic development. The remarkable neglect of elementary education in India is all the more striking given the widespread recognition, in the contemporary world, of the importance of basic education for economic development. Somehow the educational aspects of economic development have continued to be out of the main focus in our country.
The Constitution of India in a Directive Principle contained in article 45, had made a provision for free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of fourteen years within ten years of promulgation of the Constitution, but it took us 60 long yrs to implement Right to Education Act to provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right. That clearly indicates the seriousness of Indian state or rather lack of it!
There are plenty of reports, roadmaps, findings, suggestions given by experts on this issue. For e.g. the need to have greater expenditure on education as %ge of GDP, improvement in school infrastructure, better pupil-teacher ratio, preventing absenteeism of students as well teachers, training and skill development facilities for teachers, but these measures need to be implemented earnestly and urgently.
It should be remembered that it’s not just the responsibility of the state itself, but the responsibility of individuals and society as well. It pains to see people now-a-days more concerned about social media gibberish, reality shows, half truths presented in the form of breaking news than about the status of basic education in India. If nothing else, people can sensitize others and spread awareness about it in their locality to (in the words of former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon) build a better future for all.

PS: The data and the texts referred in the article have been collected from various sources and their contribution is duly acknowledged though the sources are not explicitly mentioned here.

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