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The Gauhati High Court had appointed Chauhan, the missing IPS officer, as the special investigating officer of the multi-crore PDS scam in Arunachal Pradesh
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)