Home » Languages » English (Sr. Secondary) » Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Educating India” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Educating India” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Educating India

“Education in India stands at the crossroads today. Neither normal linear expression nor the existing pace and nature of improvement can meet the needs of the situation.” This is a section of 1.9 of the National Policy on Education, 1986. What are the chances that we will also find more or less the same statements in another document in 2026? Your answer will decide whether you are a cynic or an optimist. In any case, the above sentence fits today’s situation once you ignore the cliched “Cross roads” bit. Primarily, what took place over two decades is linear expansion and the pace and nature of improvement, if any, has not been dramatic.

The story of education is India’s one of huge gaps between words and deeds, intentions and actions, inputs and outcomes.

At a time when education is not only a matter of greater social justice but also crucial to the economic growth and wealth creation, we can ill afford to continue this saga of delaying, deferring, and dithering clear direction and resolute actions are essential.

One major change in the situation over the decades is that the need for education, which always existed, has now distinctly turned into a demand for education. In this progress, education has become commoditized. However, the system that is responsible for providing education is limited by structures, forms and content, which were created in the supply dominated era which had poor resources to begin with. As we go into the demand era with increased availability of resources the normal expectations of easy access and quality are getting transformed into expectations of choices, variety and flexibility, especially at the higher levels of education. Even in the supply dominated era, most policy documents mentioned the need for flexibility that encouraged creativity necessary for improvement of quality of education. Yet all we created were rigid and lifeless structures, which have arisen out of the very linear expansion that was considered not desirable.

One of the sections of the 1986 policy spoke about “overhauling” the teacher education system in the domain of school education. It recommended setting up District Institutes of Educational Training (DIET) and also talked about phasing out substandard institutions and creating linkages between departments of education and such other good things. In another segment, the result, predictably, was setting up of the DIETs across the country but instead of phasing out substandard institutions we ended up creating more substandard institutions that either did not have a role or just could not function. The system has gone further over the next years and created a network of Block Resource Centres (one per block) and Cluster Resource Centres (one per about 10-15 schools). Above these district and sub-district structures are state level bodies—the State Council for Educational Research and Training—that are expected to provide academic leadership and the National Council for Educational Research and Training. All these structures have been “functional” to use government language, for about a decade or more in some cases. What is the outcome? The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2005 and ASER 2006) measured quality of education at the very basic levels of learning- reading, writing, and arithmetic at children’s homes. The broad conclusions were:

Nearly half the children in Std I cannot recognize alphabets or numbers after five months in school-most of the other half can only recognize alphabets but cannot read words., Half of children in Std III can read a Std I level text and can solve a subtraction problem with borrowing, Half of children in Std V can read a Std II level text fluently and those who can read fluently can comprehend what they read unless of course the text includes concepts that cannot be understood by mere reading. Also, only half of the children in Std V can solve a division sum of three digits by one digit.

Of course, it is also true that the system has set up schools within one km of every habitation and barring the exceptions of Rajasthan, UP, and Bihar, in most states enrollment of children in the 6-10 age group today was above 95% and in the age group 11-14 it was higher than 90%. Even attendance figures were quite high except in states where school-going was yet to become a habit.

The important point is that the system that was so far largely driven by “physical targets” and spending aimed at creating access has been able to perform tasks of building schools, and recruiting teachers. However, where human element is critical, where issues of quality, effectiveness and efficiency are concerned, the system has failed rather badly. It must be said that on the higher education side, where upper classes have a greater stake, changes have come faster while the elementary education side for the masses has remained far behind in reforms.

The problem of educating and developing India is truly a matter of a gigantic effort of human and technical resource development to the last village. Skills for planning, managing, teaching are all in short supply. Our literacy today is on par with that of Western Europe of 1850’s and we are also on the brink of an industrial revolution. Although the top of the pyramid of India compares well with the best educated people in the world, the middle and the bottom are lagging far behind in their capacities function in the rapidly modernizing world. The important task is to accelerate the process of overall building of capacities in the society which can be undertaken as a part of the process of improving education. Unless we create capacities we cannot educate our people and unless we have enough educated and trained people we cannot build our capacities. That is the apparent paradox of human resource development.

The point about non-linear expansion and improvement becomes important in this context.

The tendency, thanks to linear responses, is to do more of the same, put more men on the job, and spend more in the hope that things will become better. It is true that the current situation is so bad that a little extra focus on improvement of learning too can help in the short term. However, much more is needed if we want to take a quantum jump in quality. Increased spending without reorienting and reforming the system is predictable waste of funds in the long run.

The Finance Minister in his budget speech has proposed an increase in the expenditure on teacher training institutions from Rs. 162 cr to 450 cr in 2007-08. This, in all probability, will go into staffing the poorly staffed teacher training institutions, paying for equipment, and in sprucing them up. But are we going to follow the linear path of having the institutions under government control in a centralized system to expand an ineffective system? What are the models of teacher training mechanisms we are going to follow? What sort of a system are the teachers going to operate under? Will the fully staffed and funded government institutions perform if the rest of the system remains the same?

The first task is to make the system outcome-oriented. At different levels of education, this can mean different things and can be done in different ways. At the elementary level, skills have to be stressed rather than stage knowledge and when the child completes the “free and compulsory” or education or secondary stage of education, aptitude tests should be used for basic certification rather than the textbook knowledge-based tests. Achievements expected at different standards should be clearly spelled out in measurable parameters that are transparent. This will shift focus WTI, rote learning to skills learning and also make testing considerably free of stress. Students should be allowed to take standardized state exams at any time they feel they are ready rather than making it an all at once stressful examination. This is not to say knowledge should be ignored. Knowledge-based tests can be administered separately and candidates can be certified subject-wise, at different levels by professional bodies in respective areas. In fact, the knowledge courses that a student takes need not be limited by the traditional school curriculum. It should not be necessary for a student to be enrolled in a school to appear for these examinations and age should be no bar.

The second task is to decentralize the system. At the heart is the issue of funding. The role of the government should change from that of an agency that runs and manages schools to one of funder, facilitator, and regulator much the same way that it manages aided schools. In principle, we need to move to a system where all schools are government funded and locally or privately managed. The Right to Education Bill of 2005 has proposed two major reforms. One is to employ teachers for specific schools rather than in a state pool and to make the job non-transferable. The second is to create School Management Committees (SMC) for schools and transfer all assets to the SMC. The two reforms beg a clear third reform, that of funding the schools directly. Without this, the SMC is really not in control. Naturally, the basis of funding has to be the number of children enrolled. Hence, all layers of governments should fix annually a per child contribution they will make and directly transfer funds to school accounts. Thanks to the revolution in IT and banking sector, banks are now able to do electronic transfers to remote locations and the SSA is benefiting from it. This situation will only improve.

If the Government of India were to decide on a Rs. 500 per child contribution, it would have to spend Rs. 10,000 crore over 20 crore children of India in the age group of 6-14. This is nearly the exact budgetary provision for SSA in 07-08 not counting the provision for mid-day meals. Of course, in the current situation, the SSA funds largely go to the backward states. Hence, for a bridging period the backward states may be given extra help for infrastructure creation until they come up on par with the rest of the states. This may be unfair to the more advanced states who have invested in their school construction for years but the point is to be fair to children and not to this state or that. The one way the Union government can make an equity statement is by giving uniform per-child expenditure to schools and setting up minimum necessary learning goals to be achieved in be the nodal organization to commission such evaluation so that the evaluators are at an arm’s length from the implementing Ministry. In fact, this can be done for all social sector schemes.

These are four key reforms for the school system. They could form the core of non-linear changes in the school system. In the absence of such reform its response to the needs of the future will remain inadequate.

For the first time in human history we are approaching a situation where knowledge could be accessed by anyone who has the required skills and knowledge base regardless of his geographical location and position in social hierarchy. The only major limitations are costs and structured controls. A very non-linear world is emerging which goes against all bottlenecks and unnecessary controls. In other words, the access to knowledge is, as always, subject to economic factors but the new technology is challenging the old set of socio-economic structures and thinking so that access to knowledge becomes more facile than ever before. But unless systems are designed to respond to this non-linearity, time, effort, and money will be wasted.

The Maharashtra State Certification in Information Technology is a very interesting and successful non-linear response on a massive scale to the need for imparting computer literacy that can be used in office work or even as a springboard for higher skills. Its website states that eligibility requirement is “a keen desire to learn Information technology” and 10th std passed is “desirable”. The student can register online for self study, which costs Rs. 720 and examination fees which costs Rs. 230 per attempt. If the student joins a listed center, the examination fees are the same but course fees are higher at Rs. 1980. The fees can be paid in installments with a slightly higher cost. In both cases, the student gets study material. The centre operators are paid back about 50% of the student fees once she/ he appears for the examination, which they can keep as their income. In reality, many centre operators even share a part of this refund with the students because competition is intense. Examination is online and the certificate is an important criterion for government jobs. Many other employers consider this a basic certification of skills. At least two banks are listed which are willing to offer loans for entrepreneurs who want to set up centres.

Is it not possible to replicate such a system for other certification for say writing, communication, accounting, automobile repairs, plumbing, carpentry, or any skill or knowledge for that matter? This will hold the key in the massive vocational training programme about to be launched. But it can also be applied in the traditional education sector. Imagine a situation where a student can choose regardless of what school she went to whether to return for governmental investment. Different states, district and sub-district governments can add to this contribution. The School Management Committee/ Panchayat should be free to raise funds from other sources such as donations and local taxes too.

Today, the per-child annual expenditure on education in states and cities is hard to compute and it varies from Rs. 2,000 per child in some backward states to a reported Rs. 17,000 in municipal schools in one of the metros. On a national scale, the per child expenditure today stands at an average of about Rs. 4,000 per child per annum- that is a monthly fees of Rs.330 per child being paid. Once per child costs are clear, measuring performance against spending will be simpler and might help improve efficiency and accountability of the system.

Third, the network of academic support institutions has to be restructured. Largely, these are government owned and run institutions staffed by people in government service who are promoted and the jobs are transferable. Most of these institutions suffer from a lack of ownership, leadership, and clear funding support. These institutions should be made autonomous and three five-year funding should be tied to work done and performance. Considering that infrastructure exists, there may be some problems in changing from a government owned system to a system of autonomous institutions but they have to be dealt with. It may be possible to invite bids from various educational institutions and NGOs to run these institutions. The institutions should be encouraged to access funding from other sources if they so wish and also run courses that might bring revenue to the institution.

There is a huge human and technical resource outside the education system that is not connected with the task of education. Creative ways should be developed to access this resource. The system works in isolation at the village and also in the capitals. This isolation can be ended to benefit education in a big way.

Fourth, credible independent testing, monitoring, and evaluation mechanisms to check the performance of various institutions is a crying need. These systems just do not exist. The Annual Status of Education Report by Pratham is perhaps the only completely independent evaluation of the status of education being conducted annually on a national scale state wise and district wise. Such evaluation can be improved and expanded at a cost of less than 0.5 % of the expenditure on education. In fact, setting aside a small fraction of the education to independently and rigorously evaluate the education status would be important. The Planning commission or an independent education commission but not the Ministry of HRD could appear for a CBSE examination or a state secondary school board examination or any other examination. The same can be true for degrees being offered. Why is the choice of certification of a student limited by what school or college she/ he attends?

Delinking degrees from jobs was much talked about for years. But the education system cannot delink degrees and jobs no matter what. The market has to play that role as it is doing now. The BPO’s, especially of the customer care kind, hardly look at educational qualifications as long as the person can communicate in English. In the low level, IT-related jobs, skills and certification are more important than a degree. In manufacturing, a trainable person is more desirable than a person with a meaningless educational certification. As jobs outnumber people with good degrees, as specific skills become more important than all round knowledge of a subject, degrees and jobs will not be linked so closely.

India’s problems of education fall into a 2 X 2 matrix. There are problems that have accumulated, thanks to our socio-political past, and there are problems that we need to address to prepare for the future. On the other side, there are problems of quantity and problems of quality. Problems of the past are largely quantitative related to creating access and basic literacy. Problems of the future are largely of quality. The education establishment is used to dealing with quantity. Existing thinking on improvement in quality, however progressive it may sound, is very input-oriented and linear. We are at “crossroads” and have to choose between continuing linearity vs unleashing non-linearity so that India becomes not only a literate country but also an educated country over the next decade.

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