Sunday January 20, 2019

Resurrect Government schools to revive our education system

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By Harshmeet Singh

Government educational institutes in the country are a study in contrast. While the Government controlled institutes of higher education such as the IITs and IIMs rank among the best in the world, the government run primary schools are in shambles since time immemorial. From avoiding government schools as a kid to aspiring for government colleges for higher education, the students witness contrasting aspects of education system in the country.

With the Right to Education coming into force in 2010, Education was made a fundamental right in the country. While it drastically improved the enrollment ratio in schools, it remained silent on the quality of education that the child deserves.

The result? According to the 10th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), about 1/4th of the class eight students in India can’t read the text meant for class 2nd. Reports like these underline the fact that national literacy rate of 74% is just eyewash.

Nowhere is the division between India and Bharat more evident than in our education system. A multitude of problems have been plaguing our education system for quite a while. The first and foremost is the lack of funds when it comes to government-run schools. While the private schools get a shot in the arm by raising enough finances through sky-high fees, the government schools are at the mercy of the budgets allocated by the government. Not only can the government slash the budgets anytime (like Jaitely did this year), only a fraction of the total allotted sum reaches the ground. Nothing else can justify classrooms where kids sit on the floor due to lack of chairs and no lectures taking place in the rainy season since the classroom has no roof. For long, government schools have been regarded as the dumping ground for the kids who couldn’t afford anything better.

Another factor that has further aggravated the problem is our affinity towards the English medium private schools. Realizing the financial potential of the idea of opening a private English medium school in small areas, a number of such schools have mushroomed in our villages over the past decade or so. The parents, who are usually poor farmers in such cases, willing to give their child the best possible education, admit them to these schools. And thus begins the erosion of their savings. Most of these private schools pay a meager salary to their teachers (Rs 500-1500 per month) since their solitary aim is to fill their own purses. It is impossible to imagine any learned teacher working for such a sum. With the parents themselves being too uneducated to check their kids’ progress, they continue paying the fee from their hard earned money, under the delusion that their kid is learning.

But if teacher’s salary determines his dedication towards his students, why is the standard of teaching so dismal in government school? While the government schools pay their teachers a healthy salary, they do not impose any accountability on the teachers. Unlike the teachers in the private schools, the teachers at government schools have a permanent job with almost no chance of being ousted (unless they create a major blunder). There are hardly any checks on whether the teachers are actually teaching in the classroom or whether the syllabus is covered in the allotted time period or not. And for those who give their best inside the classroom, the rewards are few, in any. The promotions are arbitrary and majorly based on your tenure and your connections. Their performance inside their classroom is seldom appreciated by anyone. All these things are no secret, but that hasn’t forced anyone out of their slumber.

While we take utmost pride in making education a fundamental right in our country, we must accept that much more needs to be done. Imagine what if the solution to some of the world’s biggest problems lies in the mind of a kid who goes to a school where teacher never turns up! Let’s do ourselves a favor by taking care of our school system.

 

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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.

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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)