Qualitative Expansion of Indian Education System – Need for a Strong and Better India

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

M. K. Gandhi

Even after 60 years of independence “Education for all and 100% literacy” is still a dream in India; though the present country wide average literacy rate is around 60%, it is actually less than 50% in many parts of India. The youth literacy rate is around 71% in India, whereas it is around 99% in neighbouring China. We will have to accept the truth that we still lack in terms of basic education and literacy as compared to many other countries. Not only is quantity affecting, with this percentage of literacy bringing development to the door step of every Indian is difficult. When the illiterate common [hu]man does not understand and does not know the schemes drafted for him/her, then how do we expect (re)action from her/him?

Our first and foremost goal should be to start with providing basic education to all. This needs proper planning at the apex level. But, by drafting the schemes at parliament or at the planning commission level, our responsibilities do not get over. In fact responsibility means — to complete the process and implement the scheme at the ground level; by involving the mass in the process of education and development and by expanding the base of education.

Expanding the reach of the present educational system is crucial. Basic education should reach every single child of our country. Making all children go to school, not just enrolling them (we have 96% of enrolment of children at present), and teach through innovative means is the key in this direction. These measures can not only help us increase the percentage of literacy, but also can increase the quality of our life in general. This will also create a position for the economically weaker strata of our society to understand the schemes designed for them. Various studies show that there are people in India who are still untouched by the modern society; modern education system has not reached them, forget about sanitary condition and health care. But, what have we done in this direction? How serious we are in our endeavour?

We spend just 3.5% of our GDP on education, way below China’s 8%. Is that enough to increase the reach of the education to all?

On a finer level of introspection – the numbers of schools we have in India are not enough. The quality of education is not there. English medium education is still considered as a status symbol confined to the cities only. In the name of free primary education, wasting of taxpayers’ money is enormous. Education for girl child is still a far-fetched dream and is not encouraged even in the civilized sections of our society. Facility for the students at the school level is also not that encouraging. Many schools do not have even the basic infrastructure; no chair, no table, no toilets and even no roof.

The mid-day meal programme, which is the main attraction for kids to come to school in many parts of India, is not properly implemented. In some places, the program gets disrupted by corrupt practices of hoarding and stealing. We need to overcome these problems through various corrective actions in terms of opening more quality schools for all not just for a set of people and making the authorities accountable. Moreover, the call for awareness should not be confined to vision books or newspaper articles or to statements in the parliament only. It needs implementation through whatever means possible.

To attract more children to school, not only we need to motivate the kids and their parents, but also need to create social awareness. For that we need quality people around in the form of teachers. But, unfortunately we face serious shortage of quality teachers. Not that we do not have quality people, but the attitude of many of us towards teaching is extremely negative. Teaching is not considered as a career at the first hand.

The salary structure for the teachers is not at all encouraging. In the name of Sarvasikshya Abhijan (“Education for All”), new teachers are getting appointed with a monthly remuneration of Rs 600/- (i.e., Rs 20/- per day) at the primary school level, which is even less than the monthly remuneration of unskilled labourers. Even then, many people apply for a single teaching post, not because they all are interested, but because of the rampant unemployment in the society.

Even if we succeed in bringing more students to school, we are not in a position to motivate them for higher education. Percentages of drop-outs at and after school are very high. For instance, the percentage of drop-out students is about 40% at the primary level. Only over 33% high school students complete graduation. This has to be looked into seriously. Unfortunately, we do not have planned guidance system/schemes to tackle the drop-out problem. For the growth of the country, we need trained man power, be it trained labour or trained farmers or trained educators or the intellectual class with a research base.

Unless, we stop the drop-outs at or after school, and provide education to all through corrective and affirmative actions, where do we get the required manpower?

College education is also necessary for growth. But, in India, college education is not that accessible to all. Even if it is accessible, the quality of education is not as good as compared to that of other developed countries. Technical education is still a far cry for the common man. The present form of college education does not ensure any form of employment opportunity in most of the cases.

In the recent past, in the name of software boom, we have opened many engineering colleges. But, by opening engineering colleges only a country does not succeed. We need infrastructure, laboratory facilities and quality instructors to teach. Couple of years back in the name of expanding education we had allowed mushrooming of universities and colleges in many parts of India and have compromised on the quality of education.

Honourable Supreme Court’s ruling in recognizing the institutes and maintaining the basic quality should be taken seriously. We have also to remember that unless proper mechanism and quality is maintained in both the teaching and the taught, the system will crumble. Educating the educators is more important at this point than educating the student. Even though there are schemes in research places, such as Quality Improvement Programme (QIP) or study leave, the output is not visible. Caution and quality measures are definitely required in this direction.

The other important challenge of Indian education system is conversion of undergraduates into graduate studies or research. Even though the number of graduates which India produces per year is six to eight times higher than that of countries like USA produce in a year, the retention of graduates for higher studies leading to doctoral studies is very less in India. This needs to be looked upon with urgency. High conversion rate of graduate to doctoral is important. More number of doctoral students should be enrolled into the system and people will opt for doctoral studies, if the programme is encouraged with higher fellowship, better facilities for research and other infrastructures. This requires emphasis on research by the society and by government.

However, the doctoral research programme should not be misunderstood with time bound degree. It has a different requirement and philosophy. Continuous research can be done, only if one’s basic requirements are fulfilled. One has to remember that at the age of 30s (average age of doctoral students in India); the equation is different, very hard to ask for a financial help from parents. Hence, financial help is a must, if we are really serious for research as an imperative for development of the nation and our researchers as national assets.

With the opening of new IITs, IIITs, IIMs and many colleges in the country, care needs to be taken to attract quality researchers in the form of students and faculties. The faculty crunch needs to be tackled with highest priority and research needs to be emphasized with seriousness. However, encouraging the youth to opt for teaching and/or research is not exhibitive. We have to remember that the well-being of researchers will definitely have direct impact on the growth of the nation.

If we need 10% GDP growth, we have to give importance to value based education and encourage youth for opting a career in research and teaching.

The other major problem which we are facing is caste based reservation policy. Yes, we introduced caste based reservation as a corrective measure, but there are people from various unreserved-castes who are underprivileged and are backward too. They have still not come at-par with their other fellow Indians. It is our responsibility too to bring them to the main stream, to bring them to the mass, to include them in the nation building. But, why to politicize that? Why to make caste as the only factor for reservation? In fact, with caste based reservation we too support casteism and further divide the society adding fuel to the age old caste based divisions. Many have already availed the reservation and have joined the mainstream. Should we give further reservations to them?

Let the people who are really underprivileged and need reservation avail this opportunity, irrespective of the caste and religion. This will expand our reach and include the mass. A serious discussion and brainstorming is required on this issue.

Many of us still do not understand the rationality of reservation at higher education level and that too after 60 years of independence based on some old data-base. Simply political! When we do not give as much opportunity as required to the unprivileged at the school level and bring them even to secondary school level, what is the rationality of reservation at higher education? Instead of giving reservation at the higher education, let us give opportunity to them and prepare them at the primary school level, at higher secondary level and at the under-graduation level.

By stopping the drop-outs at the school level and bringing them to higher education level, we can reach the mass in a more effective way, which will have definitely have better impact than having reservation or quota system in higher education. We have to understand the need of quality in higher education along with the quantity.

On a slightly different note, there were concerns and differences in the recent past due to reservation at the private sectors. Most of the private sectors are opposing the caste based reservation at their places. To survive in a competitive market, should they be not given a fair chance to decide their own action and whom should they hire? Instead, the private sector be encouraged and directed to provide resources for better school and other facilities at least till the higher secondary level. Let them also participate in the nation building process by supporting the education system. There can be a similar project like the Governments directing the major telecom operators to provide basic services in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharastra and Rajasthan, which is definitely a success in India. Similar schemes can be duplicated in the education sector too.

With all my arguments, I however do not discount the level of planning or vision at the highest levels. Yes, we need planning, but that is not a big problem in India. With planning commissions, ministries, development boards, knowledge commissions, we can at the least hope for better plans.

But, what about implementation? Many will not deny that we lack in implementation skills. For better and quick implementation, let there be an independent survey by a group comprising representatives from NGOs, Governments and Private sectors. Let there be collaboration between these agencies for the implementation part along with the Government machinery. But most significantly, the common man should be a part of the implementation.

To conclude, let us pledge to bring more children to school, control the drop-outs and encourage teaching and research with quality and quantity for a better and strong India.

Jai Hind.

(Article earlier submitted as an essay to a competition hosted by National Knowledge Commission)

20 Responses

  1. I was looking for some info when came to your blog- I do agree that you have worked very hard to put up your point of view and I found myself agreeing to it.
    Very well done and very well expressed views- wish it could have gone more wide.
    Although I am pessimistic that caste vote will ever free us from RESERVATION demon…but still we can dream that someday people will get fed up from men in khadi and we will be able to construct a young India.

  2. Thanks Tanuja for sharing your thoughts with the aamjunta. The (wo)men in khadi are not only to be blamed for all the debacles we have now. We too are equally blamed for this.

    Instead of waiting for some one to come and rescue us, we should do our own job; taking the mass into the street, bringing the corrupt politicians to court and building a human shield for a new India.

    For that we need to educate our own people first. Without that nothing cant be done.

  3. This is quite good. I think I’ll share with others.


  5. This is an informative case regarding ou reservation system where the quality hampers first.

    To maintain the quality of a system, the way of reservation to be changed. If u want to grow someone, the reservation is not the only way. Rather it can lead to a great gap of our system. That is why still certain govt. organisations now too don’t adopt reservation system in their jobs and it is seen that they excel well only because of that.

    For example ISRO is the only govt organisation in india where no reservation for anything for their recruitment rather they prefer talent. and the result is known to all.

    secondly the result of private firms and govt firms is open to all.

    So its time to think how we can grow..!!!!

  6. […] 1. Qualitative Expansion of Indian Education System – Need for a Strong and Better India […]

  7. What we learn in schools and colleges is not really helping students, an actual revamp of the educational system as what you say is the need of the hour. If someone wants to drop out it shouldn’t be from school or college, there should be other avenues open to the. Dropping out should only be from illiteracy, poverty, drugs, abuse etc.

  8. I wonder if I will see any real improvement in my own lifetime.

  9. Very infomative…Nice read

  10. Very valid and well-informed views. Much stands in need of reform in the education sector. As you’ve pointed out there’s a serious dearth of quality teachers. There’s also a dearth of genuine students: those who really want to learn. Most students only want to score marks.

    Reservation is another serious issue. Competition and fairness should replace reservation. Your suggestion to provide good education at school so that reservation can be ruled out at higher levels is very valid.

  11. Very well analyzed. Agree with you.

  12. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find most of your
    post’s to be exactly I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content available for you?

    I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write with regards to here. Again, awesome blog!

  13. Nice Post, a Like for ur post. .

  14. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!

  15. Hey There. This is a really well written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your helpful info. Thank you for the post. I will certainly return.

  16. I’ve been exploring for a little bit for any high-quality articles on Indian Education. Nice one. Good.

  17. It’s an remarkable piece of writing for all the internet people; they will get benefit
    from it I am sure.

  18. This is the most important area where one should focus. But unfortunately no govt bothers. In the name of free education and education tax the common man only gets harrassed. Revolution is required here.

  19. Qualitative expansion in India a tough job. It requires a change in the mindset and policy implementation. The policy paralysis is not going to help at any cost.

  20. Thanks for your valuable article. This article will helps a lot to our present generation kids.
    B.Arch Colleges in Chennai

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