Two related reports show why the scene is so pathetic
Trithesh Nandan | January 22, 2013
In terms of statistics, India has perhaps solved the puzzle of primary education. The enrolments are high, according to many reports. The government is also happy securing brownie points on this issue. But, dig deeper and you will find poor quality education now becoming a huge challenge for the country. Two recent reports released in the new year highlight the sad affairs of education, especially at the primary level. First, teachers’ own levels leave much to be desired: a CBSE report published early this month said that less than one percent applicants cleared the central teacher eligibility test (CTET), the rest failed. A more recent report by Pratham, an NGO in the field of education, last week said that despite the introduction of the right to education (RTE), the learning outcome had actually deteriorated in terms of quality.
The two reports are related. The Pratham report shows that school enrolment stands at over 96 percent for the fourth consecutive year. The mid-day meal and sarva shiksha abhiyan have certainly increased the numbers. But the learning deficits are huge at the primary level. Reason? Teachers' poor grasp of the subjects being taught.
This will have serious repercussions. We may be losing our competitive standing, in terms of leadership in innovation. India led the world’s software revolution due to the grasp of technology and math and science proficiency. US president Barack Obama in 2011 asked Americans to focus more on science, mathematics and technology to ensure that “jobs of future” stayed within the shores because the “hungry” Indian and Chinese students were grabbing those. Had Obama known these two reports, he would have certainly struck off ‘India’ from his list.
Last year was termed the year of mathematics in India. However, it mattered less for the country or even the policy-makers. What was the result? According to the Pratham report, during 2012, in standard 5, there was evidence of a more than 10 percentage point drop in the ability to do basic subtraction in almost all states. Both reports pinpoint only one thing: weak teachers are teaching dull and uninspiring lessons in the name of education to tiny tots. “Although compliance with norms and standards specified by RTE has improved since 2010, most children in school today are at least three grade levels behind where they should be,” warned the Pratham report.
Again the basic question is: are we just improving the numbers to show the world that as a nation we have arrived on literacy front? In the next level, the secondary education, many students will just drop out. This shows that you are not motivated enough to face the secondary level without having proper basics at primary levels.
It doesn’t end here too. Trace the culprits then. The weak teachers are produced in the laboratory of money–spinning education centres in Bathinda, Greater Noida and elsewhere. You get the certificate of one-year BEd by just paying Rs 1-2 lakh in these phoney institutes. And throngs of students get passed from these institutes that make you eligible to teach in any of the schools and put wrong grammar, mathematics and science in the minds of young children. To get a degree from the BEd institutes, it is also well known that you just have to go and face exams without attending regular classes; the rest is taken care of with the power of money. When money is the deciding factor in getting degrees, how can anybody expect improvement in the quality of education? Most such institutes are flourishing only because our quality controllers (AICTE and others) have turned a blind eye to them. Perhaps money and political connection matter most.
The high enrolments have to match the high quality, only then things would improve.