“Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding line, and no way of knowing how near the harbour was. “Light! Give me light!” was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.”
– Helen Keller
Nothing describes education and its need better than the above quote. Without education, you don’t know how near or far away your destination/your goal is. You are just moving without a compass waiting for light to shine upon you so that you are able to see where your life’s harbor is. Education is that bright white light. Education is the compass.
The policy effect
Countries around the globe have laid emphasis on the need and importance of education through various ways. Completing secondary school is required by law in some countries like Portugal, Germany etc. In our country dropping out of high school is perfectly legal. Yes, this fact can’t be denied that we face different conditions than the citizens of the above mentioned countries and thus for majority of rural India education takes a backseat because of lack of money, resources , social thought processes etc. Although we have to agree to this also that a country’s choices about education policies shape their children’s future. In India we do have a law about the same but there is a big question mark on it’s implementation and the ground reality. Ground work needs to be done before the paper work and only then will the paper work reap better benefits. I strongly support the point that we need to make dropping out illegal but for this to work, we as a country need to deal first with other issues like poverty, child labour, population, teacher-student ratio etc. When talking about India’s take on education, you cannot keep RTE aside.
Right to Education Act
The Right to Education Act was enacted on 4th August 2009. We became one among the 135 countries to make education every child’s fundamental right when the act came into force on 1st April 2010. ‘Free Education’ in the act means that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school which is not supported by the appropriate Government, shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. ‘Compulsory education’ casts an obligation on the appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group. The RTE Act is the first legislation in the world that puts the responsibility of ensuring enrolment, attendance and completion on the Government. It is the parents’ responsibility to send the children to schools in the US and other countries. According to me, in India you cannot put it on the parents to send their children to school until and unless the problems being faced by the parents are solved be it that of poverty, family size, social stigma etc. Once this is sorted out, only then in a country like ours can strict laws be made. Presently, we do have provisions like mid day meal, scholarships for girls etc but just these schemes cannot pull a majority towards education. If they are living in a society that still supports early marriage for girls, scholarships will not help pull those girls to school. The thinking needs to be tackled first. Mid day meal is not enough of an incentive to pull children towards schools if they belong to families which give birth to more and more children so that more the hands, more the money they earn to make the ends meet. Also, is our education sector as white as milk?
The education sector – white as milk?
RTE mandated all private unaided schools to reserve a minimum of 25% of their seats at entry level classes for children belonging to economically weaker section (EWS). Recently cases were reported where it was seen that some highly reputed private schools like Bal Bharti School, Pitampura were selling the EWS seats. It shows that this provision of allocating EWS seats in private schools has failed mainly because there is no regular check on it and thus some private schools have turned it into a way of earning more money. Regarding the selling of nursery seats in private schools, a statement came from Delhi’s Education Minister Mr. Manish Sisodia saying “Don’t sell nursery seats. Sell jalebis instead.” The system for applying for applying for nursery seat under EWS category is not foolproof. Talking about mid day meal schemes, over the years there have been reports of lizards, rats, worms etc in the meals and of children suffering food poisoning.
I am sure you have not forgotten the 150 crore teacher recruitment scam unearthed back in 2013. Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala were sentenced to 10 years in jail for illegally recruiting 3,206 junior basic teachers. Officer in charge of teacher recruitment was transferred. Original list of teachers selected in 1999 was scrapped. New list was published in 2000 with names of those who paid upto 4 lakhs for selection.
A reality check
According to a report released by UNESCO named “Education for People and Planet” India is expected to achieve universal primary education in 2050. India is 50 years late in achieving its global education commitments. If we as a nation want fundamental changes in the education system, we need to meet the 2030 sustainable development goals.
A report published in Times Of India on 9th August 2016 stated that a solitary teacher is running the show in as many as 1,05,630 government elementary and secondary schools in the country with MP emerging as the worst state 17,874 institutions have just one teacher each. Delhi has 13 such schools. No state can boast of having no single teacher schools. Interestingly, according to RTE guidelines there has to be one teacher for every 30 to 35 students in government and private schools.
Can you hear the sector constituting the most noble profession crying for help? This sector is thought to be one of the major factors behind the rise of any country. Yet, can you see that this very sector is turning out to be a black spot on our country’s name? Millions of children with a beating heart are waiting for something to happen. They want to know where there harbour is. They are searching for the compass. They are searching for light. They are searching for education.
“Light, give us light.” Can you hear the cry? I can.
– By Paranjaya Mehra