It is no secret that India’s primary education system --- the public version ---- is not in the pink of health. The key issue: While enrolment of children in schools has gone up, the quality of learning is abysmal. Going by the current trend, a Unesco report said recently, India will be half a century late in achieving its global education commitments and the country needs fundamental changes in the education system, if it wants to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
The report added that there is an urgent need for greater headway in education and the sector needs a major transformation to fulfil the needed potential and meet the current challenges facing humanity and the planet.
Successive governments have poured money into primary education but forgot to focus on the quality so much so that even the Right to Education (RTE) law has no provision to assess how much children are learning. So it was heartening to hear that finally the State is keen to address the problem.
In an interview to a national daily, HRD ministry, Prakash Javadekar, said “many states and people feel we have seen deterioration in education quality because in the RTE Act there was no mention of learning outcomes”, and so the government is keen to bring learning outcomes under the RTE rules.
A meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education held in Delhi on Tuesday had improvement of learning outcomes, rationlisation of posting of teachers in rural areas, joyful learning and co-location of anganwadis near primary schools on its discussion agenda.
The CABE meeting, which was attended by Mr Javdekar and other senior functionaries, is especially important as it comes at a time when the government is working on a New Education Policy.
The low learning levels and lack of teachers is pushing many State school students, especially in rural areas, to private English-medium schools. These schools are not better than the State-run ones but seem to earn the confidence of parents, even though they have to pay a tidy sum, for several reasons: Better infrastructure, availability of teachers and English education.
The crisis in the education system is real and well known; the State must act quickly so that our children don’t come out of schools barely literate.