By Harshmeet Singh
“I would say that if the village perishes, India will perish too. India will be no more India. Her own mission in the world will get lost. ”
– Mahatma Gandhi
When we think of our villages, we usually think about farmers, lack of infrastructure and, maybe, about social backwardness. But rarely do we associate the word education with villages. Our evident neglect towards the education system in rural areas is perhaps the root cause of the several of problems that it faces.
Most of our statistics related to the school system in India are concerned with the enrollment ratio in schools. There is no denying the fact that with legislations such as the Right to Education and Mid Day Meal program coming into force, the overall school enrollment ratio has gone up dramatically. However, we give minimal to absolutely no thought to the increasing dropout rate from the schools. It may be because this problem is usually associated with schools in villages and smaller areas. With acute poverty a common phenomenon in these areas, most parents prefer considering their kids as earning members of the family who usually find employment at small time dhabas, rather than sending them to school.
There are many kids in the rural areas who are on track to becoming the first ever literate from their families. Illiteracy of the parents is a major roadblock in the child’s learning. On top of the financial hardships, the kids are, all of a sudden, burdened with a new language and skills to master with zero help from the parents. In some cases, the parents encourage their kids with all the possible resources at their disposal since they see it as a chance to come out of their caste hierarchy. But in most cases, the parents are guided by false religious beliefs which they interpret as being opposed to education. Such beliefs are majorly responsible for a lower literacy rate in Muslims, as compared to the national average.
Today, most of the rural population has easy access to schools. The problem lies in the lack of infrastructure in these schools. Leaky roofs, no toilets, unfinished floors and no electricity are common sights in most schools running in the rural areas. The students sit on the floor with the brightest ones getting to sit in the front row.
The absolute best teaching scenario inside these classes is teachers asking the students to copy from the board (if there is one) and reciting from the textbook. The worst can range from no teachers at all to one teacher running the entire school. Words like ‘creativity’ or ‘joy’ hold no meaning in these schools.
Our education system is a classic case of choosing quantity over quality. In our bid to inflate our literacy rate at any cost, we hastily adopted the slogan ‘Schooling for all’ when we should have adopted ‘Learning for all’.