Friday, June 24, 2005

The State of Educational System in India

Before I even begin to write about this topic, I am left to wonder what is meant by education. Is it mere obtaining of degree certificates or getting actually enlightened, that which helps to become morally upright and a good citizen, that which imparts with the ability to think logically about any given situation and last but not the least, can provide with some base to pursue a career based on what one has studied ?

The rural India, constitutes about more than three quarters of the Indian population. The urban India, that is visible, makes opinions and which creates an image in front of others constitutes the minority. This dichotomy between the urban and the rural India is so prominent now that there seems to exist a country within a country. One side is making rapid progress in all fields and the standard of living is much higher and the other is not even trying to catch up. This is all due to the flawed policies of our government, which refuses to concentrate on the heart of India but more bothered about the face. The state of education in India is also facing the same problem. It’s the apathy towards the rural education that is the root cause of all the problems in India. Its apparent that most of the problem in India is caused due to illiteracy. The rural population forms the chunk of votes and it’s precisely this illiterate population that almost always decides who is going to govern this country in every election. Sure, it’s a vicious circle but the center of this circle is illiteracy. Everything revolves around it. Now having said this let me analyse what is the present state of education in India. For once, lets stay away from statistics and try to look at the real picture as seen by a layman like me.

The first and foremost aspect which hits you is the sad state of infrastructure for education in rural India. There are no proper buildings for schools in many places, no laboratories and no permanent teachers. The people attending these rural schools have a very clear mindset that they are not going to benefit from this education as far as providing a decent livelihood for them. There is no hope, for, the system of getting admission to higher education is our country is weird and these rural schools simply do not cater for the system of entrance examinations for technical courses and institutes like the IITs, IIMs and other professional colleges. It would worthwhile to carry out a study as to number of people who secure admissions in these universities, who have really gone through the primary and secondary schools in rural area.

Next issue is the medium of instruction. Most of the rural schools impart education in local language upto high school level but when it comes to higher education almost all colleges have English as the medium of instruction. Is it possible for a student who has studied throughout in his mother tongue to suddenly switch to a new language ie English, not only pass the entrance tests which may include group discussions also, where he is competing for a limited number of seats with the so called urban educated student and in the unlikely event of getting a seat in the college, will he be able to complete the course effectively?

The greatest farce in India is the general belief that a person who can speak English is supposed to be educated. If English is that important, why not make it compulsory from nursery for all students across the board even in rural India? Why create this dichotomy at the apex level? Agreed that the logic behind education in mother tongue is that, most parents were illiterate to start with and hence it was believed that it wouldn’t be any easier for the child to learn, that which cannot be taught by parents at home. But, there are a number of parents who don’t speak English but their children study and come out with flying colours from English medium schools in urban and semi urban areas. Most of the non English speaking countries are having university level education also in mother tongue. But in India, with 500 odd languages, it is not possible to have so. Agreed. But why not start with primary education in all rural schools in English, with the mother tongue as just one of the subjects as in most urban schools? In essence, make English medium schools everywhere. That will enable a rural Indian to stand a chance in the highly competitive higher education.

The state of urban education is also in a very precarious state. Shrewd business men rather noble people are running the “education industry” in urban India. Its a pain to watch that schools are slowly being turned into money spinners and insecure parents, anxious to see their wards in some professional college, are giving in to every demands of the schools, who are demanding with more impunity. Scoring good marks seems to be more important than assimilation. In fact there seems to be no time for any assimilation at all for the students. Coupled with this is the system of Indian examinations. Barring a few, most of these exams test the memorizing capability of a student, rather than one’s analytical capability. Interestingly, as if the schools weren’t enough, the number of coaching centers that have sprung up like mushrooms create such a fear in the mind of students and parents as well, that everyone feels insecure if he/she doesn’t enroll himself for at least some of these centers so as to “ensure” a better performance. This makes the schools complacent as such. The schools which claim the best results are the ones that always deny admission to any one with less than as high as 95% marks in the previous board exams. Obviously, if you don’t admit “dumber” students, then whats the great deal in producing toppers?? A school is really worth its salt, if it produces a topper, who had a poor track record in academics prior to getting admitted with them. The schools have neither the time nor the inclination to motivate, and produce such a topper.

If the state of schools is like this, then the state of colleges is no better. A number of professional colleges have come every nook and corner, that has absolutely no infrastructure in terms of buildings and equipments, that have critical shortage lectures and professors and that are churning out engineers and doctors who are substandard, leaving much to be desired as far their professional competence is concerned. Again it is simply because of the mad rush towards procuring a professional degree somehow. That printed sheet of paper saying that one has graduated in engineering, signed by a chancellor of an obscure university or a principal of autonomous college seems more important than education itself in the true sense.

The reservation of seats for socially backward classes is being used as a powerful tool to garner and secure votes from various communities. This defeats the very purpose of its introduction wherein it was supposed to dilute these social divisions and remove prejudices. The amount of reservation cannot exceed 50% as per Supreme Court directive, but in states like TN, we have 69% seats reserved for various communities. The lobby to get separate allocations among this 50% seats is so powerful that elections are won and lost on this issue. Reservations are making people more aware of their caste by this system rather than forget them.

The education sector is also rampant with corruption from the political level. The amount of money which actually reaches the beneficiaries from the amount of money allocated in each and every budget is miniscule. Once when Lalu Prasad was asked about the various scams he was charged with and the way the local newspapers are tearing his image off daily and how is he expecting to win the next election, he coolly replied that, let the newspapers write what they want, because the people who vote for him do not know how to read and there is no electricity in most villages for them to watch TV. So his vote bank wouldn’t be affected. And Lo Behold, he was elected with absolute majority!! There can be no better example to portray, how an illiterate population actually is beneficial to the nefarious designs of the politicians to be elected for power time and again.

Off late, education has become a vote spinning factor also. TN Govt has cancelled the TNPCEE results because, it was supposedly very tough and most students were losing out on many ways. So a politically motivated decision was taken, to consider admission purely on results of board exams. And there were 100 first rankers, 300 second rankers and 700 third rankers and so on. So to break the deadlock, amongst other things, their seniority in date of birth is to be considered. Its anybody’s guess to see the reason behind this decision to consider seniority in date of birth to break the deadlock. It is simply because, the state assembly elections are due next year and most of the students would attain 18 years of age by then and would be eligible to vote. So to keep the vote bank intact and to win over these new voters, the hard work of thousands of students have gone down the drain due to a factor over which they never had any control in the first place. Its disheartening.

Having discussed the various ills of our educational system, I have the following suggestions to make to reform the system:-

1. Make English compulsory at all levels in all schools. Synchronize medium of instruction for education from base to top. It will be difficult initially but in the long run, it will prove beneficial.

2. Create real infrastructure in rural schools and make it mandatory to attend high school. Make it a punishable offence to drop out from school and if one has not completed high school until 18. He could even lose the right to vote. This may prevent illiterate population from voting and falling prey to politicians. Instead of stocking food in FCI storehouses, only to be eaten by rats, use them to provide free lunch and even a second meal. This will go a long way in preventing child labour as well.

3. Regulate the exorbitant school fees and other fees collected by many urban schools and make all schools become a non profit making organizations with public audit mandatory.

4. Make it mandatory to admit poor students and support them through various aids, nominated by the local authorities, in all urban schools, to give them equal exposure.

5. The student workload in schools must reduce. Is there any actual need for any student to cram up so much knowledge, most of them factual, which he may just wouldn’t need after securing the admission in a college?

5. Make a common entrance exam for all students across the board like CAT for all admissions in any particular stream. This would prevent students from studying different syllabus for different institutes.

6. Revive examination system at all levels. Is knowledge bound by only what one can rattle out in the paper in just three hours, which is mostly objective and factual rather than being analytical and applicative? This question needs to be answered immediately.

7. Any student, who wants to pursue higher education abroad, shall perforce must comeback within 5 yrs of after completion of his education. As a corollary, anyone going to work abroad, must come back within 5 yrs as well. Once they have come back, there must be a ban for 10 more yrs before they can proceed again. Else, they will lose Indian citizenship. This will not only ensure that talent trained in foreign shores is available for our development also, but this 10 yr ban will also ensure other aspirants to go and get back our country. This is the only way to mitigate effects of brain drain.

8. Lat but not the least and most importantly, a common man in a village, whose parents are illiterate themselves, who has no resources for himself, must be able to get atleast high school education. If our policies cannot achieve this basic aim, then majority of India is bound to be illiterate and no problem can ever be solved.

To implement these radical changes, we need strong government. At the outset, we need a rethinking, whether democracy in our present form is suitable to us at all. Because, if each and every policy is going to be dictated by populist measures and the ones that will ensure victory in the next elections, then there is no way we can implement strong policies like this. Its true that there is no flaw in the Indian constitution, but then the politicians implementing these policies are corrupt themselves, and the people who elect these corrupt politicians are illiterate. Beyond all these tall claims that India is a vibrant democracy and the feel good factors, there exists another India within India, where there is illiteracy, poverty, and above all there is no hope. And it is this India which is the heart, that is deciding who is to govern us. There is no use injecting botox in the face to look younger and smarter when your heart is about to collapse. You will die anyways.


Lone Crusader said...

what you have said is 1005 right...but with politicians in India would never ever make a step in the right direction.all they want is their vote bank. and for giving a ban for people who have been working abroad,...edhuku indha anavasiya velai? yaarachum nalla irundha pidikaadha unakku?:p

The Soul Doctor said...

Vishnu,......unakaga vena, inime poravaluku intha rule nu mathidalam...enna solre vishnu??Ok va?

The Ignoramus said...

I believe we need a lot of individuals who are genuinely concerned about this state who can invest to build schools, and employ people in teaching, creating infrastructure. We need not wait for the government to do all these. Of course, in rural places the Government has to do it. Even Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations says that it is the role of the State to build and operate schools. But in the urban areas, to provide quality education to those who can afford a little bit of more expensive education, we need more private participation.

One of the biggest problems is that teachers are very lowly paid. If their salaries are good enough, then I am sure you will have a lot more people taking up teaching as a preofession. Take my own case...I would like to be a teacher in a high school straight out of graduation (of course IIT is not necessary for that)...but the low salary is a concern for me, and so this is my post-retirement option.

A topic like this deserves to be dealt in a book, with chapters dedicated to different levels of education.

The Soul Doctor said...

Well said Rama, And thanks for the detailed comments....

Firstly, in a society running at breakneck speed towards globalisation and capitalism, Do you think it is possible to expect any private participation without ulterior motive of making money by constructing schools?

Secondly, you have hit the bullseye by touching on the teachers pay issue. You will be surprised to know how many teachers have paid bribes to get this Govt Job and the moment they get the job, they dont even bother to come to schools. What do you say for this?

Like you said, even while writing this, I felt the same thing. This is a vast issue and i felt i could write a book on this issue with chapters for each issue i have tried to put it in a line or a paragraph!!!

I appreciate your post retirement plans, but before that, i wish you could opt to join the IAS and may be reach a position where you can do something at the highest level!! I know you and I feel you can do it...

The Ignoramus said...

true kartik...when private individuals come in, usually ulterior motives also come fact that is the case now....thoe who have money don't have a pure heart, and those who have a pure heart have difficulty in finding money...if i had a lot of money, i would start a model school...but i don't have it...

it is such individuals who must start schools...that impart value based education, that make real citizens out of people, apart from making them literate...and i guess, this is very necessary in the future world...

The Soul Doctor said...

Rama...Great Ideas and noble thoughts. It would be a great service to nation even if we produce one such good citizen, by starting a model school with noble intensions.

wish u all the best....may be something happens and u r able to do it, as u percieve..:)

Muthukumar Puranam said...

There are many people to give ideas. Very few to implement them.
"Seiya mudindhavan saadhikiran, mudiyadhavan podhikiran". The best anti dote for our country is education. We all know that. We (Youth) shud help our kids in getti8ng good education. We shud support institution like RK Math in their educational services. A real india can become reality only when our education system is based on vedic indian values.

prash said...

Any student, who wants to pursue higher education abroad, shall perforce must comeback within 5 yrs of after completion of his education. As a corollary, anyone going to work abroad, must come back within 5 yrs as well. Once they have come back, there must be a ban for 10 more yrs before they can proceed again. Else, they will lose Indian citizenship. This will not only ensure that talent trained in foreign shores is available for our development also, but this 10 yr ban will also ensure other aspirants to go and get back our country. This is the only way to mitigate effects of brain drain

I do not agree with point of view. If you need the students/professionals to come back the state must be ready to pay for their tuition fee and living experience. Other countries who have this policy of the students / professionals coming back the government pays for their education and living.