Besides all the melodrama of business and engineering education and the quota for minority and backward classes, the current situation of primary education still doesn’t seem to be improved. The government and the HRD ministry just shrug off by giving excuses that they are spending a heck lot of money in primary education. But when it comes to the resultant, everybody starts playing blame game. I wonder why these politicians are worried about quota in elite institutes more than the primary education and educating the mass, especially those living in rural areas. The union government spends an overwhelming amount of Rs. 24, 115 crore every year for education. This is not a small amount of money and the goal can easily be achieved if it could be spent with a serious goal to increase literacy rate. But again, if we see other way round, this is not also adequate money and this sector should be allotted more money through different schemes and programs. It needs intensive care because education is the most important factor that can stop India becoming super-power by 2020 or so, considering the fact that by 2020-30, almost 75% of Indian population will be youth and this young India needs education now. And while the funds are inadequate for primary and higher education, what is the need of spending more than Rs. 40,000 crore to implement OBC quota in IITs and IIMs? It should surely be considered that which part of human resource is being developed by the HRD ministry and how should the overall goal of HRD be conceived by us. The government advocates the implementation of reservation in elite institutes by referring it as the empowerment of the impoverished and oppressed class of the nation. This gets strengthened by the plan of spending more than Rs 40,000 crore which is considerably much greater amount than the money being spent on primary education. I doubt if anybody can justify this policy of the government when the money spent on some 5000 people is more than the money spent on 48 crore children who needs or going through primary education and a approximately 65% of total population who are studying or needs the education. It is crystal clear, even to a layman, that who needs empowerment and special or just honest considerations from the leaders their parents have chosen with a hope to get justice and genuine benefits from the government. One can imagine that how much improvement could have been brought if the money going to be spent in implementing OBC quota would have been spent in improving primary education and revitalizing age-old education policy. If the reason behind this situation had been the failure of the government system, we would have been satisfied with it. But the most depressing point is the motive and intentions of the policies and our leaders.
As I perceive, there are primarily two main reasons behind the digressing rate of literacy and education in India. First, the policies and second, the way available resources get utilized. In my business life, I follow one simple formula – The difference between getting at least 2% profit and losing your shirt lies in the optimizing the efficiency of available resources. Ditto with the machinery of government and Indian education system. For a moment, we forget the policies of central government in quota system, reservation policies, education policies, least effective research to improve education, education framework, etc. Let the leaders work on their vote-bank policies instead of the education policies. But if they work on rectifying the system which spends the funds and implements the resources provided by the government to run educational programs, India will achieve much greater success in primary and higher education.
Kaushal,a friend of mine reminded me of a quote by Rajiv Gandhi today. Rajiv Gandhi has famously said “If we send a elephant from here, it will become a rat before it reaches to a ground level person“. Almost the same has happened with the case of primary education. The central tells the system to teach the kids “education” and the kids finally don’t even learn the “e” of education. If the government runs the machinery in a way that it could utilize all the available and already existing resources, it will receive at least 70% improvement in situations. The problem is not only the inefficient funds or resources to be spent. Actually, the most severe problem is “not utilization of the available resources” and the policy. For example, take any case of government scheme, for instance, JRY. The center releases Rs. 1 lakh and when it reaches at the bottom level (where it had to be spent) it gets reduced to Rs. 20000. Even in the cases where hierarchy is smallest, for example PMRY, the beneficiary receives no more than 60% of actual amount. You have enough resources but the machinery consumes most of this and there is absolutely nobody to take care of this. The common man has been kept in dark and distant and few are taking benefits of this. Besides the dirty politics and vote-bank agenda, still the government doesn’t spend less money. The main issue is that it doesn’t get spent, whatever the problem is and whoever is responsible behind this.
I agree with the fact that a larger chunk of illiterate, poor, and unaware parents don’t want to send their children to the schools and they rather opt to make them work for livelihood. Here, I second V Raghunathan (writer of Games Indian play) when he says that regulation comes from self-regulation. The government has made a roadmap for every common man who later becomes part of that system. The system tells them how to become crook. And when we talk about the self-regulation, we also need to talk about the regulation policies. A simple example is that when all the reports/data/surveys/census tell that the situation of primary education is digressing, then what is the need to spend almost 40,000 crore rupees in implementing OBC quota in IIM/IITs? Shouldn’t this money be spent for improving primary education? Then, why doesn’t the government try to regulate properly. Obviously, it doesn’t like self-regulation because in same manner, the government will also require to regulate itself.
V Raghunathan says:
For example, consider the Companies Act, which governs disclosure of financial information by publicly listed firms. Today, if a public company does not disclose its financial statements on time, the penalty is Rs. 1,000 a day. This implies that if a company is willing to spend $9,125 on fines, it can go a whole year without making financial information available in the public domain. To me, that almost sounds like an incentive for companies not to file their annual financial statements. How can we have self-regulation when the regulations themselves are so weak? The reality is that back when these regulations were formulated, a thousand bucks a day was a lot of money. Today, you would need to charge corporations a penalty of Rs. 10 million a day for it to be a deterrent. The trouble in India is that the chances or being caught are low, and the consequences of being caught are weak. As a result, we have forgotten what self regulation means.
Well, let me take the topic away from the well-known agenda of government and failure of government policies and most of all, the facts of our leaders and political parties. I move to the education system and the process now.
Let me give you an example from Jharkhand. The teachers (from primary, middle, and high schools) get the highest salary than anybody else. Almost every panchaayat has 4-5 schools, even more. Besides all these arrangements of teachers and schools, the government started “sarva shiksha abhiyaan” for rural areas. Local public got selected for this purpose and a committee of 10 persons from the village got appointed in every village. The job of that committee was to vigil and to ensure the attendance of teachers & students and the availability of midday meals in primary schools. Along with it, some more people got hired by the state government at lesser salary to ensure that the schools are not lacking the teachers. These people have been working on partly-volunteer basis and partly-employed basis. Above this bottom level, there has been a well-formed system of bureaucracy which is responsible behind the implementation of education policies, expenditure of funds, and making sure the system works and works well. The machinery is not much adequate or greatly resourced but it can be assumed that the arrangement is good enough to start achieving sustainable growth in literacy rate and basic education.
Then what happened after all those arrangements?
- Teachers – They still demand for the increment in salary and they are no way inclined to educate the kids. The only good thing is that they at least appear in the schools more often now.
- Vigilance – There is not any arrangement to ensure that the money is being spent correctly and the system is running well.
- Attendance – Still the same. Forget the students, now there are the evidences of proxy attendance of teachers and SSA volunteers.
- Village Committee – They think that they are given an authority by the government, but they don’t still understand the responsibility that why this committee got existence and privileges.
What is the current situation?
- There is still unavailability of primary schools in every village.
- Teachers appear in schools but there is no significant development in terms of teaching style and education patterns.
- There are no private schools in village as well, so one has to go to the towns or compromise with the education.
- Though the committee is made from the local people, they don’t do anything to persuade teachers to teach students or to convince the villagers to send their children to the schools. To be precise, they dont do anything at all except dealing with the money that comes from government to be spent on midday meals et al.
- Villagers are either not aware or not convinced to educate their children and there is nobody available to make them aware about the education.
- There is no such thing in the government machinery to vigil the functioning of the education department, schools, funds, and related bodies and people. I wonder whether DO and school inspectors exist or not.
To start a NGO or volunteer service for primary education is not a viable and efficient option. If the country has to achieve 100% literacy, there is only one way left that is to make the government system run properly. We can’t only blame the top political leadership because they are at least spending money in education sector. There is flaw in the entire system and everything needs a renovation – policy, government, system, teachers, infrastructure, people, students, everything. This will be hypocrisy if we don’t raise our eyes at the primary education, but only make a hullabaloo about the quota issues, entrepreneurship, higher education, research, and stuffs. Primary education is indeed the primary issue and everybody should understand the fact. Sustainable growth and a developed nation will only be a dream if we fail to provide primary education to each and every citizen of India.
If the term government is about the central government (ministers and all) then they are doing the job fairly well (in terms of providing funds for education system). They have allocated the funds for everything, vis-a-vis, infrastructure, teachers, midday meals, etc. Well, we may say that this expenditure is not enough for 100% literacy and HRD ministry should take care of primary education more than the quote et al, but it could at least be sufficient for 70% growth. But the problem is that even 70% is not literate, that means, the available resources are not even fairly utilized. The worst thing the situation didn’t improve after all these extra arrangements and also there is no sign of improvement considering the process remains still. So, why the resultant is cipher instead of that much expenditure? Definitely some people are responsible for that. And who are those people? Obviously, the people who are involved in this education system – the ministry, the teachers, the committee of local villages, AND the parents. This probably forms the entire system that serves the purpose of union government to provide primary education to each and every child regardless of the socio-economical status and all. Ignore the ministers (union and state). Reason: – Their job is to provide funds only and they are doing that (lets assume for a moment). But still, why to ignore anyone? Why to ignore the mistakes of anybody – even us?
The people involved and the “possible” things they should do and don’t.
1. Minister (union and state) : [political leaders]
- Make policies(for the reason that the current education is not good enough because the results are depressing, so make new ones);
- Provide enough fund to implement the policies and infrastructure;
- Monitor the expenditure and results by taking reports in hierarchical manner (union ministers <- secretaries and state ministers <-the bureaucrats who are handling the education department in the particular state);
- Ensure the functioning of the department by asking for regular reports from officials and providing extra resources that the system requires;
- Spend some time on primary education improvement instead of wasting months for quota and related issues;
- Spend some time on improving course of syllabus, education patters, innovation in system, policies making, study materials/etc.
2. Bureaucrats (all level):
- Ensure working of the officials in hierarchical manner;
- Employ reporting system;
- Make proper channel of vigilance;
- Initiate programs for making common people(villagers primarily) aware and convince them for education (this can be done by using the same people who are employed for part-time teaching or SSA volunteers at lesser amount of salary);
- Each DO(of each district) should held a meeting at least once a month;
- Each DO should manage the district vigilance officials and ensure that each school is being visited by them at least twice a month,
- Take proper action against the teachers who are not attending schools or involved in proxies or not providing midday meals properly or even not teaching properly.
- Should give reports to the district officials once a month,
- Organize meetings with villagers,
- Attend schools regularly,
- Provide good teaching,
- Create awareness,
- Monitor the working of village committees and complain to the officials to dissolve and reelect the committee if the committee is failed to perform as it was supposed to do,
- Coordinate with villagers;
- Involve with the children closely despite of their social status,
- Consult the parents if their children are not performing well or not attending the school.
- Consult all villagers and take an indirect/unofficial survey to choose the right people for the committee.
4. Village Committee:
They first need to understand that all these arrangements are made for the welfare of themselves, their own children. They should :-
- Coordinate with the teachers;
- Monitor the attendance, teaching patterns, and performance of teachers, along with the midday meals;
- Create awareness, convince, and persuade the villagers to ensure that all kids are attending the school (there are several ways to do it-by social pressures, personal pressure, threat to discard from society that they always do – and at least this can be done by the committee);
- Initiate to involve educated people in the education process whenever and wherever possible.
- Monitor the attendance, teaching patterns, and performance of teacher and midday meals whenever possible;
- Monitor the working effectiveness of committee and involve with them and persuade them if they are not working properly;
- Ensure the 100% attendance of their children, Provide them study materials (if cant afford, then ask to the elite and educated people from village or even the teachers and officials);
- Give them time to study at home;
- Ensure that they are performing well.
6. Other Villagers:
- Can do most of the things voluntarily that the committee and the parents are doing;
- Make parents aware and convince them;
- Educated people can also help the needy children with free tuition, books, and stuffs;
- More educated people (who don’t live in villages but visit the village) help children with study materials and resources, guide them, and help whoever deserves to undertake higher education.
- Attend school, study well, and don’t waste the midday meals. 😆
Now, these are the possible things that the involved(or not involved) people can/should do. I am not blaming just because I have the only thing to do is to blame. But, if we don’t point out the errors, we can’t possible get the solutions. The errors are, for sure, caused by some bugs and talking about them is not blaming them, rather identifying them. As I think, only WE, the people of India, can’t enable the country to achieve the goal of 100% literacy. But also, the goal of 100% literacy can’t be achieved without the involvement of the people of India. One thing is sure that the government system MUST work properly to let the goal be realized because the government has a very large machinery and system and the public/private bodies can’t replicate that. And without having such machinery, 100% literacy is indeed very difficult, if not impossible. That’s why, perhaps, education, healthcare, and infrastructure are called the basic sectors of government. For 100% literacy, we need government. In fact, rather than “we need support of government”, “government needs our support”. It requires involvement of everyone – we, every citizen of India, the government, and the entire system.
The bottom line is to find a way to collaborate the common citizens (including us) with the government machinery and take bottom-up approach to make it work effectively.
This article was all about the current scenario and the problems associated with it. The left points are:- Citizen’s solution to this issue, the education policy, renovation required in the existing education system, and a roadmap to the 100% educated India. I’ll try to write about other dimensions and next steps very soon. Suggestions are welcome.