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Significance:  India ranked second last among the 73 countries that participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment , conducted annually to evaluate education systems worldwide by the OECD Secretariat. The survey was conducted in 2012. Based on the dismal performance, India decided to boycott the participation in survey. However, now India decided to participate back in PISA ending  India’s decade-long boycott.

Current state of school education in India: UNESCO’s Education for All 2000-2015 report  state that India has reduced its “out of school” children by over 90 per cent and has achieved universal primary education. However as per the report, India is yet to achieve the universal pre-primary enrolment. The Indian governments initiative are aimed to making education a pillar in nation’s character building.Enhanced focus is being laid on science and mathematics which are central to school education. The UNESCO report also noted the achievement of gender parity in India.

Main initiatives by Government to achieve universal elementary education: The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is being implemented as India’s main programme for universalizing elementary education. Its overall goals include universal access and retention, bridging of gender and social category gaps in education and enhancement of learning levels of children. SSA provides for a variety of interventions including opening and construction of new schools, additional teachers, regular teacher in-service training, academic resource support to ensure free textbooks, uniforms and free support for improving learning outcomes.

The Right to Free & Compulsory Education Act 2009 provides a justiciable legal framework that entitles all children between the ages of 6-14 years free and compulsory admission,attendance and completion of elementary education.It provides for children’s right to an education of equitable quality, based on principles of equity and non-discrimination.Most importantly,it provides for children’s right to an education that is free from fear,stress and anxiety.

Draft National Education Policy,2016  is formulated under the T.S.R. Subramaniam Committee with the objectives of  create a credible education system capable of ensuring inclusive quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.Other main objectives include Ensuring equitable, inclusive and quality education for all; foster quality education with strong focus on education reforms; promote acquisition by all learners of relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for work and entrepreneurship.

Other initiatives of the government include e-Patshala for disseminating educational e-resources, School GIS for seamless visualisation of school locations across the country,Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan for nurturing spirit of inquiry and creativity among students and National Teacher Platform for capacity building and improving teaching capability.

 Problems faced in the school education : 

  • Poor learning outcome among students: Infact the ASER report by NGO-Pratham shows that only 47.8% of class V students can read a class II-level text and only 43% of class VIII students can do class V-level arithmetic.
  • Issues in legal mechanism: The provisions of No detention in RTE Act has a detrimental effect on learning outcomes, since it takes away the pressure to learn and to compete.Although no detention was introduced to reduce the drop out rates, it created a bigger issue of reduced quality of education.
  • Issues surrounding teachers: Non-permanence of teachers, teacher absenteeism, exemption fromTeachers’ Eligibility Test, inadequate quality teacher training and poor pedagogy hinders the growth of quality school education.
  • Budgetary allocation: Compared to 2013-14, when education got 4.57% of the total expenditure, there has been a steady decline — 3.65% in 2016-17, according to this Budget’s revised estimate. The share of 3.65% is for the combined expenditure of higher education and school education.
  • Out of date curriculum and inadequate human resources: The lack of significant financial and human resource investments lead to a decreased capacity utilization and the obsolete syllabus followed by the school authorities are out of date with today’s demand. Stident teacher ratio is as high as 22 in India where as it is 11.4 in developed countries. The technological innovations like MOOC are not universalised in the country due to financial and technological constraints.

Other than this, there are issues of inadequate infrastructure facilities, inadequate focus on innovation among students, regional variations among different states ,poverty among household leading to children becoming part of child labour etc. These issues have to be comprehensively addressed with the upcoming New Education Policy.

Conclusion: The previous recommendations on New Education Policy by T.S.R. Subramaniam committee were not accepted by the government. The newly appointed Kasturirangan committee has  mandated to make Indian education contemporary, improve its quality, and internationalize it.It will submit the first draft of the NEP by end of December.The idea of the committee is to have an ideal policy effecting positive changes in education from 2020 to 2040.It has to address the present concerns in the school education sector. Also, it has to offer a new vision of modern thought and growth in science, technology and human values and ensure that good human beings and good citizens are nurtured to realize the dream of New India