Thursday June 27, 2019
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Plight of the students: Modi govt needs to drastically reform education sector

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By Gaurav Sharma

Education is a multi-faceted process that encompasses a wide array of disciplines such as transfer of knowledge, learning values, ideas and other life enhancing skills. While these life-enhancing skills involve an inextricable element of survival, viz-a-viz creation of employable assets, this is not the only purpose that they should serve.

In this regard, Albert Einstein, the Nobel-prize winning physicist known for his intelligence acumen, realized something very profound: imagination is more powerful than knowledge.

Talking about India

Yet, the current education system in India is completely anti-imaginative, thoroughly infused with knowledge prioritizing rote-learning. It rewards memorizing of hard and bulky facts with little or no emphasis on critical analysis of the information that is given to students. The inadequacy of such a short-sighted education system, however, does not take much time to reveal its ugly face.

As the student cum prospective employee steps into the professional arena, he soon realizes how amateur he is and has to undergo the tedious process of ‘job-training’.

So, what is wrong with the Indian education system and the way it is run presently?

First and foremost, the education structure is highly rigid, both in terms of the curriculum and the manner of teaching.

Those possessing an independent, questioning and free-thinking mind are castigated as ‘out-of-touch-with-reality’ lunatics. Such presumptions inhibit the sprouting up of the natural artistic talent that might be embedded deep inside the heart of a sparkling child.

Critical inquiry, which is a crucial fulcrum of education in any field, is also looked down upon. This essentially means that logical and analytical thinking, which are essential aspects in the formation of a well-rounded personality, are entirely missing from the purview of our school set-up.

The consequence of such a warped system of educational ideals is reflected in the high dropout rates at the school level and low attendance record at the undergraduate plank.

Higher education in India

While institutes of higher education, such as IITs, IIMs, JNU etc routinely figure among the top places to study in the world, only a few manage to earn their place in such prestigious universities.

Six decades after gaining independence, barely 6-7 per cent of the Indian citizenry goes to centers for higher education or universities at the right age. The United States, on the other hand, boasts more than 60 per cent participation in the tertiary education segment.

To add to the educational woes, the abysmal shortage of higher education institutes is hardly given its due importance by the government. The lax attitude of our ministers is quite apparent when a miserly 3 per cent of the total budget is allocated towards education by the department under their wing.

School system in India

At the primary and secondary level, the government is the major provider of education with more than 70 per cent of the schools being run under its direction.

The facilities in the state run schools are in a dismal condition; lack of safe drinking water and unhygienic lavatory systems being the defining features of their infrastructural structure.

The shoddy state of affairs in the public schools is not just limited to infrastructure facilities. The teacher-pupil ratio stands at an awful ratio of 1:37. The general practice of citing health concerns to mark their leave of absence further amplifies the apathy with which the school children in public schools are treated.

Of Modi government and education

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an eye towards capturing a higher growth rate, is working on taking forward the UPA government’s plan of establishing 8 IITs, 7 IIMs and 30 Central Universities.

While such an ambitious target is certainly awe-inspiring, one wonders if such a strategy is an appropriate anodyne for lifting more than a billion poor people from the vicious circle of illiteracy and unemployment.

At a deeper level, the growth measure by Prime Minister Modi involves a basic yet serious flaw.

Advocating more Central Universities and making dramatic changes in the higher echelons of education by overlooking the quality of education at the school level is like building a grand castle on shifting sand. It is only a matter of time before the castle collapses.

First precipitate, now solution

A serious revamp of any system, including educational setup, should start with the foundation. If Modi honestly intends to overhaul the education system in India, he should first and foremost lay down a firm footing for the child, to smoothly and gradually traverse the rungs of higher education.

Equally important is the need to allocate a higher budget for establishing more schools, training teachers, introducing better facilities such as libraries and laboratories, along with the propagation of the benefits of education.

Another problem that needs to be nipped in the bud is the seething number of private unaccredited institutions offering dubious degrees that have arisen due to the slack regulatory environment prevailing within the country. This can be arrested by ensuring transparency through the introduction of strict data disclosure policies for the institutions to adhere to.

It is high time that the HRD ministry under the aegis of the Modi government takes a long, hard look at the pathetic state of affairs in the education sector and initiates concrete and long-lasting steps to reverse the awry trend.

 

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India Needs to Improve its Educational Outcomes to Catch up with China

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes

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The Article 30 of the Constitution gives religious and linguistic minorities “the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
India needs to improve its educational outcomes to catch up with China. Pixabay

By Amit Kapoor

Both China and India started building their national education systems under comparable conditions in the late 1940s. Different policies and historical circumstances have, however, led them to different educational outcomes, with China outperforming India not just in terms of its percentage of literate population and enrollment rates at all levels of education, but also in terms of number of world-class institutions in higher education, and greater research output.

The roots of China’s successful education system date back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which unintentionally expanded access to the primary education through democratising the schooling system, which was previously elitist in character, thus addressing the problem of mass illiteracy.

In contrast, India continued to focus on its higher education system since independence and only realised the importance of basic education in 1986, keeping it behind China and many other countries in Asia in educational development. In terms of enrollment, China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

In terms of secondary school enrollment, India and China both started at the similar rates in 1985, with about 40 percent of their population enrolled in secondary schools. However, due to a wider base of primary school students, the rate of increase in China has been much faster than in India, with 99 percent secondary enrollment rate in China and 79 percent in India in 2017.

India is closing in on the Chinese rate in terms of access to education, but on the literacy level front, there is a huge gap in the percentage of literate populations in the two countries. In the age group of 15-24 years, India scores 104th rank on literacy and numeracy indicator, compared to China’s 40th rank.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses after every three years the domain knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, science and finance, revealed that students in China performed above the OECD average in 2015. Moreover, one in four students in China are top performers in mathematics, having an ability to formulate complex situations mathematically. Further, China outperforms all the other participating countries in financial literacy, by having a high ability to analyse complex finance products. For India, the comparable data is not available as it was not a participating country in PISA 2015.

abroad, study
Representational image.

However, in India, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 provides data for rural youth, aged 14-18, with respect to their abilities to lead productive lives as adults. According to this survey, only about half of the 14-year-old children in the sample could read English sentences, and more than half of the students surveyed could not do basic arithmetic operations, like division. For basic financial calculations, such as managing a budget or making a purchase decision, less than two-thirds could do the correct calculations.

With regard to the higher education system, both India and China dominate the number of tertiary degree holders because of their large population size, but when it comes to the percentage of the population holding tertiary degrees, only about 10 per cent and 8 per cent of the population possess university degrees in China and India, respectively. By contrast, in Japan, almost 50 per cent of the population holds a tertiary degree, and in the United States, 31 per cent of the population hold a tertiary degree.

In terms of the international recognition of universities, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2019 places seven of the China’s universities in the top 200, compared to none for India. The global university rankings, which are based on various performance metrices, pertaining to teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industrial income, shows progress for several of China’s low-ranked universities, largely driven by improvements in its citations.

In fact, the Tsinghua University has overtaken the National University of Singapore (NUS) to become the best university in Asia due to improvements in its citations, institutional income and increased share of international staff, students and co-authored publications.

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While India has progressed in terms of massification of education, there is still a lot which needs to be done when it comes to catching up with the China’s educational outcomes. China’s early start in strengthening its primary and secondary education systems has given it an edge over India in terms of higher education. Moreover, Chinese government strategies are designed in line with the criterion used in major world university rankings, especially emphasis is on the two factors which weigh heavily in the rankings — publications and international students.

The relentless publications drive, which is very evident in China, is weak in India and has led to a growing gap in the number of publications contributed by the two countries. Further, China enrolled about 292,611 foreign students in 2011 from 194 countries, while India currently only has 46,144 foreign students enrolled in its higher education institutions, coming from 166 countries. The large number of international enrollments in China is a reflection of its state policies granting high scholarships to foreign students.

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes. Massification drive for education has helped India raise its student enrollments, but a lot needs to be done when it comes to global recognition for its universities. Further, it needs to focus on building the foundation skills which are acquired by students at the school age, poor fundamental skills flow through the student life, affecting adversely the quality of education system. (IANS)