Just the other day I was trawling through some World Bank data that mentioned that we spend less, by a factor of 100, than what the US does on Education. The amount of money that the government spends on education is hotly debated- with most people contesting (supported by data) that we spend about half of what countries like Korea, China and Japan do on educating their citizens.
I was interested then when the Eco Times carried some data on government spend. This is an exceprt from the Report Card that you can read here.
The total governmental expenditure (both central and state) on elementary education (classes 1 through 8) is about Rs 21,850 crore per annum. Over 95% of this money is used for teachers’ salaries.
The estimated cost of additional financial resources needed for universalisation of elementary education is Rs 140,000 crore over the next 10 years.
Each year of extra schooling enhances men’s productivity by 8% and women’s productivity by 10%
The direct economic returns to society from investment in primary education in India are estimated to be above 20%
The same article carries many articles on Education, edited by Azim Pemji who runs a Foundation that is doing good work that and that also carries his name. Read Premji’s, rather disappointing editorial here, and read ahead for the other articles.
There are two major revolutions underway in education. First, the demand for education is not simply a policy objective; it is precipitously asserting itself at all levels of society. It is manifest in the actions of the poorest who are sending their children, even to private schools at inordinate costs, and in the demands of the privileged who are seeking the best education they can find.
Second, there is, in principle no longer a resource crunch.
We can write essays analysing the innumerable difficulties, problems and failures and come with a long list of suggestions. The purpose of this note is not to do so and to point out only those few changes that would definitely bring out a sea change in the higher education scenario.
Universities should only cater to higher education, in particular, post-graduate programmes and research, and should not have innumerable affiliated colleges.
Distinguished writer and scholar U.R. Ananthamurthy writes of his India of the Rich & Bharat of the poor:
I grew up in a village in the Sahyadri mountain region and went to a government school. My father, a self-taught man, knew Sanskrit and English and read Gandhiji’s Harijan, translating it to Kannada for his village friends. I knew my Mahabharata and Ramayana — not by reading — but seeing Yakshagana performances and Harikatha narration.
These days, in expensive private schools, rich children don’t have the opportunity to enrich their experience by studying the life and culture of the poor. This divide will create two countries — the India of the rich and Bharat of the poor. I want common schools for the rich and poor so that all children have the opportunity to share their joy of learning together.
Krishna Kumar (Director, NCERT) writes on The Twain shall meet (this is a piece everyone should read simply because of the vantage point Dr. KK enjoys)
People who say that government schools don’t function are perhaps aware that they are making a sweeping judgement on a vast and varied system. Also, schools run by the government cannot be judged as an isolated example of state-run institutions.
The correct thing to do would be to compare schools with dispensaries and hospitals, police stations, income-tax offices, and bus stands. Inefficiency, lack of accountability and professionalism, and an ethos of relentless cynicism are common to all government services. Those who argue that we should encourage privatisation — and withdrawal of the state from its educational responsibility — should perhaps plead for abolishing the government itself.
Shyam Benegal, filmmaker writes an interesting piece on Not forgetting the oral test.
Non-literate forms of learning are either rejected or neglected as soon as literacy begins. There are several reasons for this. Non-literate learning tends to be limited by the environment it inhabits and is most useful in traditional agrarian and stable societies. It is considered unsuited to the urban landscape, where literacy is the key to capability.
When literacy begins, however, the oral means of learning shuts almost like a one-way valve allowing only one form of learning. Yet oral forms of learning are enriching in ways that literacy learning cannot always ensure. Children coming from a non-literate background and are the first generation to take up literacy have a hugely uphill task. They have no reference points when it comes to reading.
Rahul Dravid, Indian cricket Captain, writes in with Provide avenues for different opportunities:
I was lucky to go study in institutions that gave equal emphasis to studies, co-curricular activities and sports. I think good schools and colleges must focus on the all round development of an individual.
Today we have a very competitive environment and hence what really matters is the marks one scores. It puts lot of pressure on students to score a high percentage and makes them give up every other activity they would otherwise like to pursue. This leads to one-dimensional growth which is not an ideal situation. Schools must provide avenues for students to explore different opportunities.
The most interesting article is a 3-person commentary that explores an old idea that is gaining currency again: Neighbourhood Schools.
Virtually no country in the world has common schooling as an absolute system with no alternative schools. That said, should India have a predominantly common schooling system based on attendance at neighbourhood schools? Is this a recipe for equality or a recipe for disaster?
The above quote is by Kanti Bajpai, who heads my Alma Mater, The Doon School, and has contributed to this piece. The other contributors are Sam Pitroda and Anil Sadgopal (Former Dean, Delhi University)