Paralysed primary education in India, its effect on majority of rural children, how it would impact future development goals

primaryBy Devershi Mishra*

If we rely on the sensual claims generated by the mouthpieces of state and central government, then Indian education system will soon be procuring an all-literate state pageant in expected years. Unfortunately, the reality is oppugnant. It’s extremely petrifying that this formidable caucus has little concern about education sector and has no knowledge of its significance.

Primary schooling is the base of an academic career; it must receive tremendous nourishment at initial stages. It demands an overhauling attention. The Government cannot be careless about it as broods of about 70% Indian rural population still resides in villages and their initial edification takes place in these government primary schools only.

Intermittent attendances, poor teaching quality, no study material, unavailability of teachers are some common features of millions of government primary schools in India. As per District Information System for Education (DISE) 2014-15 report Government primary schools are short of basic amenities like electricity, as only 44.8% of schools are there with electricity supply, which is less than half. Open schooling is interpreted literally as millions of schools are without buildings, especially in tribal and hilly zones. Poverty and lack of motivation turn out to be biggest snags for the rural masses to avail these educational facilities.

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 published by Pratham NGO, the overall picture of basic reading is sick. In 2014, only a quarter in standard III, only a half in standard V and around 75% in standard VIII, of all children respectively can read a standard II text accurately.

Rural India figures for arithmetic have remained almost same over the last few years. In 2012, only 26.3% of standard III children were able to do two-digit subtraction and went to miserable low at 25.3% in 2014. Another grisly situation evaporating from findings shows that children in standard II who still cannot recognize numbers up to 9 has increased from 11.3% in 2009 to 19.5% in 2014.

Statistics of English reading aptness flaunts another risible situation. In 2014 only 25% of standard V children could read simple English sentence, this figure is maintained since 2009. In 2014, only 60% of those capable of reading words (irrespective of grade) could explain its meaning, and only 62.2% of standard V could narrate a sentence’s meaning.

Attendance remains a pervasive concern. ASER statistics shows that in 2014 only 71.4% of primary children enrolled were present on the day of the visit which is almost same as 70.7% of 2013 visit. Reports show that there is a decline in children attendance from 2009 to 2014, as in 2009 attendance recorded were 74.3%. There is a paltry drop in the Teacher’s attendance rates from 89.1% in 2009 to 85% in 2014 on the day of the visit. Due to the piteous condition of these primary schools in India, rural masses are more willing to send their wards to the private schools in villages. It is evident from the fact that, in 2014, there are 30.8% of all 6-14-year-old children in rural India are enrolled in private schools witnessing a slight increase from 29% in 2013. As a result, of the pathetic functioning of primary schooling, prominent states like U.P. and Bihar are suffering from acute dropout rate. According to DISE 2014-15 statistics 20.94% primary school children in U.P. and 16.75% in Bihar drop after standard V.

These figures present a harrowing picture of Indian elementary schooling, and one might ask for either garden-fresh machinery to operate it or a downright makeover of the present system. There is a very big question as why the condition of Government Colleges for higher education is outstanding and highly commendable while there are hardly any stars on the uniform of government schools for primary education? Since the post-independence Central regime, governments only motive is to produce ‘technically literate’ force for the Nation via big institutions like IIT’s, and IIM’s. The government believes that by making free education as fundamental right through RTE Act, 2010 they empowered the rural crowd.

Governments at the state levels are interested only in enrollment rate shoot up, and little is done about quality. As per UNESCO Institute for Statistics, value of government expenditure on primary education constantly declined from 30.05 in 1999 to 26.76 in 2012. Quality is always reserved for government colleges. To get rid of the encumbrance of the present system its root problems must be fixed. Poverty is the specter which pulls the leg of young minds aspiring to climb the ladder of education, so an earnest attention is required for the elementary education sector, as education is the only cure for poverty. The government instead of enticing children through mid-day meal scheme should provide some rural employment to their parents to make them self-reliant so that they stop dragging their children into work.

There should also be an effective check on government primary school functioning. Instead of different state boards one All India Government School Board should be constituted like CBSE and ICSE/ISC. To circumvent the factor of nepotism in the teacher’s selection process, an All India Online Exam should be conducted with standard eligibility criteria. After the recruitment, their performance should be assessed in a training period of two years by education ministry official assigned specifically for this purpose, and the performance report should be the basis for a full-fledged job.

Teacher’s dedication to their job is pivotal for making the barren government primary schooling system fecund for the young minds, as C.S. Lewis said: “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” To ensure flawless operation through quality teaching and standard facilities, random look-over by senior government officials every month must be ensured through statutory laws. All government employees, politicians, judges and everyone who draws a salary from the government funds should be mandated to send compulsorily their ward to primary schools only. Allahabad High Court in a case ordered the same proposal in August 2015. This proposal seems too extreme and absurd but is mightily efficacious. Problems like quality education, teacher’s attendance, and infrastructure will automatically get straighten out as every government official will personally pour attention because it will then be their own blood’s interest.

India aiming to be the superpower must bring in potential measures to revamp government primary education system. The gravity of Indian primary Education system cannot be undermined as it is through schools only young brains of this country thrive. Remember what Benjamin Disraeli said, “Upon the education of the people of country the fate of this country depends.”—

*Second year student of BA LLB (Hons), Nalsar University of Law, Hyderabad

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