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Un-educational education: Not just Madrassas, whole education system of India is ‘non-educational’

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Students-recite-lines-at-a-Madrassa-in-PakistanBy Ishan Kukreti

The timing of the Madrassa controversy courted by Maharashtra government is eyebrow raising (during the holy month of Ramzan/d and especially the ongoing reports of scams from the state).

However, the question itself, away from any political ramification, that whether or not students of religious institutions can be considered ‘educated’ is a relevant one. Education, in India, needs a broader debate than a bickering over its lack or presence of religiosity.

Let’s start with basics

Although there are various definitions and meanings of “Education” but a subtle similarity running parallel in all of them is the functionality of education to draw out the best in a human, to make her be her best self.

Education, whether religious or secular, would mean nothing if it fails to give a student the key to unlock her potential. If the kind of education given to someone with an artistic bent of mind does not nurture her creativity, it is a waste. Similarly if an education system smothers a student with a spiritual bent of mind, it is doing her more harm than good.

Viewing education thus, makes it ‘un-educational’ in most of its present forms in India today. The Xerox photocopy machine that works in the name of education today assembling and exporting armies of doctors, engineers and MBA graduates is good at just one thing, creating copy, after copy, after copy.

Non-religious education in India

With all due fairness, if the point of contention is shifted from religion to actual learning in this debate, then most government schools with pathetic infrastructure and unqualified/absent teaching staff are more non-educational than any madrassa.

A UNESCO’s International Institute of Educational Planning study said that 25 per cent teacher absenteeism in India is among the highest in the world. Add to this the fact that only 5 per cent of teachers in government schools hold only Bachelor or Master’s degrees, while 13 per cent have only secondary or higher secondary certification, without any teacher qualification, and you know the educational level of the unfortunate students ‘studying’ in these schools.

Even the education in private schools, where 40 per cent of young India studies are systems which do not promote a free thinking, critically inquisitive environment. At best they act as laboratories where rats of the future are trained on the hamster wheels of today.

The medium of instruction is mostly English and the knowledge imparted creates an absurdity of an individual, too Western to understand and survive in 80 per cent of India and too backward to be taken seriously in the west.

Both these forms of educational institutes are in no way unlocking anyone’s potential. They are just creating a barely skilled workforce.

Religious institutes in India

Declaring religious institutions ‘un-educational’ by the Maharashtra government is a classic example of pot calling the kettle black. However, this doesn’t mean that religious educational institutions in India have not paved their own way to hell with good intentions.

Madrassas and Maths have had their names drawn into controversies over fundamental violence. Their cringing repulsion at the name of change has made them stick to courses best suited for someone from medieval times.

Although questions on their relevance have been raised a lot of times, as it is being done now, these do not take into account a very important factor that distinguishes religious from non-religious educational institutes. If the later deals with or ought to deal with improving potential in worldly matters, the former is geared towards or ought to be gathered towards increasing potential in knowing oneself, of matters more metaphysical.

Postlude

Among all the horrors modernity has made humans suffer, it has its positive aspects too. And one of its blessings is increasing possibilities.

While a debate depending on the stance taken by a contender, can be stretched, pulled and twisted in any way, one thing that remains true to all issues is that not all contentions are like apples and oranges. The grey area is where the answers usually lie.

Ignoring religious education as un-educational is nothing less than throwing the baby out with the bath water and claiming that the other kind is a model of perfection, is again, barking up the wrong tree. The present focus should be on increasing the possibilities for the students, despite what kind of education they choose.  A boy studying in a madrassa should be qualitatively as ‘educated’ as a girl studying in a government school.

Major reforms are needed for both religious and state-run educational institutes in the country and politics should be the last factor to base them on.

 

Next Story

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)