Thursday, May 22, 2008

Primary school education in India

(An old post from my previous blog: posted on February 16th, 2006)

In this post, I would like to explain what I would like to do in near future based on my experience with Muskaan.

Keeping other things apart, the basic take away from Muskaan is that the basic primary school education is terribly poor. In some schools, there are no teachers for some subjects. In some schools, even if there are teachers, they do not teach at all. Its a government job and there is no one to monitor what the teachers teach. I also feel due to corruption many unqualified and untrained teachers get jobs.
The education standards of the kids in Muskaan is very bad and they all go to government schools. Kids who are in 4th class do not know how to read sentences while their textbooks are fairly complex with essays and poems. Last year we had a 7th standard student and if we give dictation from a 2nd class or 3rd class textbook he cannot write. What I am talking is about telugu which is their medium of teaching. The situation of english is horrible. Some students in 4th standard still dont know how to write small alphabets. These examples depict the plight of government school education.

I am not blaming the Government for the situation. I did some searching about this on the internet and I could collect some facts. The Government successfully increased the number of school and the number of kids attending school.

"From the first plan until the beginning of the sixth (1951-80), the percentage of the primary school-age population attending classes more than doubled. The number of schools and teachers increased dramatically. Middle schools and high schools registered the steepest rates of growth. The number of primary schools increased by more than 230 percent between 1951 and 1980. During the same period, however, the number of middle schools increased about tenfold. The numbers of teachers showed similar rates of increase. The proportion of trained teachers among those working in primary and middle schools, fewer than 60 percent in 1950, was more than 90 percent in 1987" (

The Government is successful in increasing the numbers. But this needs to be taken to the next step to increase the quality of the education in these school.

I have only the question but not the answer. In fact, even if I motivate a group of people say 25 to work on this problem and lets us say we give it a time-line of 25 years, at the end of 25 years we should increase the standard of education in these schools, I still dont know how to approach this problem. Its because the government education system is highly coupled with politics and government policies and changing it would mean a change on all these spheres. Also the number of government schools is huge and the change should be properly propagated. But since the numbers of so huge, any change would mean tremendous impact.

Although I dont have a concrete solution, I have some crazy, impractical ideas about this.

- Pointing fingers: We can report to the government about the plight of the schools in terms of unqualified teachers, insufficient number of teachers and the irresponsibility of teachers. Here comes the crazy part. This can be done in a very dramatic way (taking inspiration from various news channels) with hidden cameras. These teachers should be exposed to public and thrown out of jobs. There are so many qualified unemployed youth who can fill these posts. A survey can be conducted by visiting these schools and taking opinions from the students. I know its crazy!
- Collective Responsibility: Instead of blaming the teachers or the system for the poor condition of the education standard, everyone of us can act on it and contribute our part towards the cause. Take a city like Hyderabad where there are so many software professionals (IT hub) and innumerable students (many engineering colleges and universities). If even 10-20% of these people can be influenced and motivated, each school can be adopted by a group and by taking turns they can teach in these schools. I know this approach is not scalable, but at least we can change the situation in the schools in and around Hyderabad. I know, I know its not practical!!

The problems I explained here are just a tip of the iceberg. I am not a pessimist but still there are many other problems like: lack of facilities in the hostels run by government for students, child labor, lack of sanitation, corruption, lack of monitoring for exams etc.
Bottom line: I am still looking for a proper approach and solution for the questions I raised above. Hopefully in this life, I will be able to provide my contribution of two cents towards this.

saikrishna Says:
February 23rd, 2006 at 12:09 pm

“I will be able to provide my contribution of two cents towards this.”

You are doing a splendid job and the intiative is what that is required for this nation, sooner or later people will join.

I dont have a solution to the problem you have but i would like to add that the conditions are no better in private schools. The serious problem is that teacher which is the most respected job in the ancient indian society is now taken up by people who really don’t understand its significance. I have seen many teachers who hate teaching but still work as teachers. How good is learning if you can’t apply your knowlege?

We should aim at eliminating functional illiteracy and not just illiteracy from the nation for allround development. The main problem from my perspective is in our typical indian minds which are always insecure. When you are willing to work hard no profession is bad and money is not the only measure of success.

Finally, let me finish the comment with “I wish to contribute to the project”. I wish to replicate the same project in my village when i return.

1 comment:

shnu said...

I’v read your article, its very informative and its really thought provoking, but yes your ideas are a bit Crazy - especially the Camera part- and Impractical, Software professionals using their spare time- coz they hardly get time to spend they are busy in making money(I am not talking about all the software professionals but the major percentage/or may be those of the few I knew)

If we want to change the nation, its better if we stop wasting our time in finding the loop holes, rather we should come forward voluntarily ( feel its our own responsibility) and help the poor students [remember "No country is perfect, we have to work to make it" (Rang de Basanti)]. As far as I am concern i gave summer tuitions for the poor students without any fee, though its a small contribution i feel very happy (and I would definitely help students in future as well). And yes, I am happy to know about people like you who are spending their valuable time (in spite of busy schedule) in helping the needy and poor students.