The Government made education for children between 6-14yrs compulsory and also a justiciable right in 2010. Three years later, report after report from all places across India, rural and urban centres show how the Act has resulted in no improvement of qualitative education and how numbers do not signify anything when it comes to education in the country. The ASER Survey 2011, which was an all India representative survey of school children in rural areas found that only 58% of children enrolled in classes 3 to 5 could read Class I text. Less than half (47%) were able to do simple two digit subtraction. And only half of the children in classes 5 to 8 could use a calendar. The central government, after the introduction of Right To Education Act (RTE) boasts that “more than 75,000 schools were opened and nearly a million teachers appointed in just the last three years.” However one only needs to peek into a classroom of a government school in any village to know if these numbers have translated into outcomes.
Many are the stories of people discontinuing school because the teacher beat them, in other instances, one wonders what would be the learner interest in shoddy classrooms, dark and dingy with broken windows, and uneven floors, and a teacher who considers it a burden to teach. Student, and so school and teacher, evaluation has been much criticised and discussed, and student evaluation has been completely done away with, and a no detention policy introduced. The RTE has added to this a continuous comprehensive evaluation of the students. How would this improve the scenario, and how would it lighten/increase teacher’s burdens? Questions also need to be raised on what exactly are schools equipping children for? Is it to hold low level Government jobs, or is it for something else. If so what is that?
Content and curriculum also needs to be questioned here. A child out of school is learning and imbibing a huge amount of information and knowledge all the time, about her surroundings, about the animals and the ecosystem, about her parents work, etc. Schooling begins with a process of de-skilling by making the child sit in a place for hours on end, and engage in pursuits that are of little practical value. This is not to negate school education, but to put a large question mark on its present form. Passing out of school, few if any of the children want to go back to their parents way of life, and start looking for jobs, regular or contractual. Thus, precious resources and investment is lost to the community, as the schooling creates an almost irreversible process of alienation.
At the international level, the development experience in social sectors shows that a literate society has enormous gains over an illiterate society and no illiterate society has ever been able to modernize and progress. Poor quality of teaching learning and systemic level inefficiencies affect the learners as well the society in many ways. The long-term implications include lower productivity levels of the perspective workforce, resistance to modernization and perpetuation of inefficient production systems where cost benefit ratio adversely affect the economic sustainability of production processes.
The real challenge is to conceive of an educational system, a process that takes into account the considerable knowledge and skills present amongst the uneducated and make a concerted effort to initiate all young people into these; that does not alienate, but combines in a creative fashion the best in modern and traditional systems and sciences for control and use by one and all; that enables individuals to channelise their energies and potentials for creative and productive use, and does not reduce them to job seeking stooges in a bureaucratic megalith. Today, with growing disillusionment with the existing system, many creative alternatives are being tried out. There should be more government support for these in terms of subsidies, research supports, infrastructure, etc. There should also be a systematic effort to help these initiatives provide long term sustainable alternatives, as many of them are forced to submit to the larger system in the long run, due to the mainstream pressure. A much greater effort needs to be made to encourage such initiatives in the rural areas, as many of the present efforts centre in and around cities.