While there is a spurt of institutions to cater to the “fast-food” approach of preparing students for job-oriented qualifications, there is a real dearth of efforts to support research and development of teaching skills in base subjects under science and humanities
Last year legislative measures were initiated for providing free and compulsory education for children in the 6-14 age groups. Union minister Kapil Sibal exhorted agencies and organizations, both in public and private sector concerned with education, to make joint efforts to realize the objective of the legislation that would make a difference in the lives of millions of children. After all, the noble intentions were clearly spelt out in our Constitution by its able authors.
Ensuring universal education, which alone can bring about a change in the quality of governance also, must at this stage graduate into a massive movement supported by political will, whole-hearted participation from all households, legislatures, local bodies and educational institutions, failing which, the present effort also will remain a restatement of noble intentions with no specific ground level results.
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, making free and compulsory education a fundamental right was notified on 27 August 2009 for general information and the relevant notification for enforcing the provisions of the Act with effect from 1 April 2010 was issued on 16 February 2010. It mandates that every child has a right to elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. Considering the current pattern of school enrolment, it may be necessary to slightly modify the definition of the “target group” under the RTE Act to cover the age group of 3-18 from the present bracket of 6-14.
Literacy rate varied across states. There were 11 states with literacy rate below the national average of 74% in 2011 (see Table). These states together accounted for 55.76% of the population (121 crore-provisional). Kerala, Lakshadweep and Mizoram had literacy rate above 90%. Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Delhi, Sikkim, Nagaland, Tripura, Daman & Diu, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Andaman & Nicobar Islands had literacy rate between 80% and 90%. Literacy rate in the remaining nine states/UTs was above national average, but below 80%.
Mention need to be made also about the gender bias in promoting literacy. The Economic Survey 2011-12 dwelling on Saakshar Bharat (SB)/Adult Education had this to say:
“The literacy rate according to the 2001 Census was 64.83%, improving to 74.04% in 2011… While the literacy rate of males rose by 6.9% from 75.26% to 82.14%, it increased by 11.8% for females from 53.67% to 65.46%.”
Experience shows that higher literacy rate has a direct relationship with improvement in other human development indicators like poverty level, healthcare and even in governance. Considering this, the Government of India (GOI), mustering support from state governments and up to the level of gram panchayats, endeavour to ensure near 100% literacy across geographical regions, communities and income-stratas. In fact, Kerala has made headway in this direction long back and while the “Kerala model” may not be acceptable to the present dispensation in other fields, the methodology adopted by that state to move to near 100% literacy is worth emulating by other states. One simple method to ensure participation by all in adult literacy efforts was insisting on parents to write their names and sign leave requests of students in primary classes. It worked.
While there is a spurt of institutions to cater to the “fast-food” approach of preparing students for job-oriented qualifications, there is a real dearth of efforts to support research and development of teaching skills in base subjects coming under science and humanities. The emergence of technology and science as preferred subjects for entering the job market with confidence has resulted in mostly ‘unskilled’ candidates pursuing subjects coming under the broad head of humanities.
One is tempted to fear that there are some vested interests like an interest in keeping unskilled labour cheap and still worse, showing higher percentage of children passing out of schools and joining colleges (such statistics would better the country’s position in international assessments!) which keep the drop-out level before Standard X alarmingly high. The targets for Gross Enrolment Rates at secondary level can be achieved with ease if pass out percentage at primary level is low!
As regards higher education, there is a felt need to have a comprehensive “Educational Plan” integrating the needs of various sectors and segments of economy and society. Lopsided priorities of the government and other stakeholders in the “business of education” and the field of higher education being left to the market forces without the necessary policy guidelines and absence of systems in place for self-regulation consistent with national priorities has resulted in non-availability of talent in various crucial technical and academic areas. No wonder, we are running short of experienced teachers in institutes of higher education, where talent combined with dedication and competence to deliver is most needed. The flow of people who can perform better to for-profit organizations has adversely impacted the capacity of educational institutions in India to deliver results. We have to start thinking beyond budgetary provisions and integrate public and private sector efforts in education to achieve the national priorities.
Last June, a World Bank study found out that newly hired engineering graduates were lacking skill sets. Though the World Bank report was telling the obvious, such studies become relevant, as, beyond occasional announcements about doling out some money out of budgetary provisions for different disintegrated schemes to promote compartmentalized projects, we do not hear much about an “Educational Plan” integrating the needs of various sectors and segments of economy and society. This World Bank report reinforces the need for a comprehensive review of priorities of government in the field of education. The result of leaving the field to market forces is evident in the form of non-availability of talent even in the faculty positions, where talent combined with dedication and competence to deliver is most needed. The adverse impact of the imbalance at the top percolates down to the stage of deciding curricula and selection of candidates for various specializations/branches.
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Irrespective of their educational background till graduation, aspiring youth with some analytical ability and ambition today try and transform themselves as managers, IT specialists or any such professionals leaving areas like civil service, teaching and government/public organizations to remain satisfied with the rejected seconds in the employment market. The position can be reversed only by having a National Education Plan which factors in, among other things, the following aspects
For any effort in this direction to be effective, one will have to accept that market forces will not accept self-regulation and in the national interest, policy guidance should come from the government, to the extent necessary.
Other related issues
Market-related living wages will have to be paid to teachers and those in government and government-owned organizations. Public policy should protect public interest and measures to ensure this should not be interpreted as control.
Workers and service providers have earned a negative reputation for their attitude to customers and clientele. Here, workers’ education can play a significant role. State governments, through the departments concerned, local self-government authorities and willing non-governmental organisations, should take up workers’ education as a priority and bring about attitudinal changes in workers and service providers. The possible steps could be:
Creating awareness about right behaviour and conveying the message that following the right rules will be beneficial to one and all will go a long way in ensuring discipline at public places.
We have to start thinking beyond budgetary provisions and integrate public and private sector efforts in education to achieve the national priorities.
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(MG Warrier is a freelancer based in Mumbai. He can be contacted at email@example.com.)
Gokarn, who is in-charge of the monetary policy at the RBI, said it is important for the monetary policy to focus on inflation control
Mumbai: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deputy governor Subir Gokarn has said that monetary policy should be focused on containing inflation as lower prices can support sustained growth in the long term, reports PTI.
"It is important to keep inflation under control to support a sustained process of growth," Gokarn told a banking summit.
Citing historical anecdotes of central banks focusing on growth and the negative consequences thereof, Gokarn, who is in-charge of the monetary policy at the central bank, said it is important for the monetary policy to focus on inflation control.
The comments from the deputy governor come a day after government data said inflation rose up to a 10-month high of 7.81% in September and a fortnight ahead of the second quarter monetary policy announcement on 30th October.
Incidentally, Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Anand Sinha had said the scope of monetary policy has expanded beyond inflation targeting to factors like checking financial imbalances.
"The monetary policy has an expanded objective...It has a larger role than simple inflation targeting," Sinha had said.
Responding to a query, Gokarn, who was addressing a banking meet organised by the Financial Times and Yes Bank, conceded that the monetary policy should not alone be responsible for taming inflation and it needs to be complemented by the fiscal policy and supply side factors.
"It would be great if fiscal and supply side policies also help to keep the inflation pressure down," he said.
On the impact of the third round of stimulus by the US, Gokarn said it has not led to a surge in commodity prices as yet unlike earlier rounds and welcomed it as a "relief" for the country.
Headline inflation is expected to rise above 8% by the year-end. So, all those hoping for a rate cut at the RBI’s 30th October meeting would be disappointed. A 25 bps cut in the cash reserve ratio (CRR) remains possible, according to Nomura
Headline inflation is expected to inch above 8% in the coming months. The diesel price hike has not yet been fully reflected in the WPI (Wholesale Price Index) reading, and that will add another 20 basis points (bps) to the headline inflation in October 2012. According to Nomura Economics Research, higher transportation costs will push food inflation, particularly fruit and vegetable prices, in the coming months. The recent rupee appreciation should ease cost pressures, but with growth bottoming, the risk of recent input cost pressures being passed through to consumer prices cannot be ruled out.
According to Nomura, the implications for the monetary policy are that today’s inflation print does not make a convincing case for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to cut the repo rate at its 30th October meeting. A 25bps cut in the cash reserve ratio (CRR) remains possible.
WPI inflation has bounced back to 7.81% in September from 7.55% in August, led by higher fuel inflation. Although food inflation eased, core inflation remained steady at 5.6% y-o-y (year-on-year) in September 2012 due to an across-the-board increase in prices. The rise was largely due to the hike in diesel prices in mid-September, which contributed about 44bps to headline inflation. Food inflation eased to 8.5% y-o-y last month from 9.1% in August as lower fruits and vegetable prices more than offset increased prices for manufactured (processed) food items. Core inflation remained unchanged at 5.6% y-o-y in September. However, prices of all the sub components increased, with basic metals, chemicals and textile categories rising most. Elsewhere, July WPI inflation was also revised up to 7.52% from 6.87% following an upward revision to manufactured food and electricity prices.
One might attribute the uptick in inflation to the diesel price hike. However, there has been an across-the-board increase in prices of manufactured items, and we believe price pressures are unlikely to wane anytime soon, as suggested by the quarter over quarter seasonally adjusted annualized rate (a measure of sequential momentum) of core inflation. With the risks of inflation clearly tilted to the upside, the trade deficit worsening and CPI (consumer price index) inflation near double digits, it is not appropriate for the RBI to let its guard down on inflation. It is expected that the central bank will cut the repo rate only in the first half of 2013, premised on a moderation in inflation starting in December 2012 (data released in January).
Finally, there is the possibility of the RBI cutting the CRR by 25bps as a positive response to the government initiating the reform process.