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Education for all

April 2, 2010

A bill has been passed in the parliament that will make education free and compulsory for all Indian children between the age of 6 and 14. This bill is called the right to education and has been granted as a fundamental right for all Indians. The intentions are good. For a population of more than a billion people that is young, this is a huge step forward. I may add here that this is ambitious and a tad bit impractical. This may be a difficult aim to achieve on the ground. But that the government aims to educate all children between the ages of 6 and 14 is in itself a great beginning.

There is a thirst for education in our country. Common Indians realize that the passport to a better life is education. In that education has become a big electoral issue. This is not something that people might go in for – it is something that they demand. Elementary schools are the need of the hour. The government is going for education in a big way. They are planning new schools and new infrastructure. The government has concluded that the nation will require 500,000 new teachers to fill the gap between the numbers available and those required. New school buildings will need to be built, school books published, blackboards purchased and other paraphernalia gathered to make this happen. They are talking about a library also in each school, but for starters if we can have the basic iinfrastructure in place that will be enough. The new found relative prosperity that India enjoys is now being channeled into two-three critical area. A trillion dollars will be spent on infrastructure, including roads and bridges and highways as also on such basic needs like education and healthcare! This is sound investment and a necessity for a growing India. The future of India lies in better human resources and better infrastructure. Because these are the nuts and bolts on which the future of the nation hinges.

There is one another thing that goes without saying. This emphasis on education is something that will remain and one that cannot be changed with a change in government at the center. This is one area that is a focus area for all mainstream political parties whether they belong to a centrist Congress or to the rightist BJP or to the conglomerate of socialist/communist pantheon that abound. In that this commitment to education for all is a national commitment.

Kapil Sibal, the minister for human resource needs to be congratulated on this initiative. Prof. Yashpal, an eminent scientist and an educationist has called this initiative – second ‘independence’ – such was his sense of euphoria. This initiative has seen all parties agreeing on this fundamental issue that education must be made compulsory. The socialists believe that private parties should be kept out of this huge pan-India effort. Congress and the BJP believe that without a public-private partnership, such efforts cannot be realized at the ground level. It is true that any such initiative that has pan – India import cannot be done by the government alone. There has to be private participation for a smooth ride to the goal of universal literacy. The socialists are insecure as they have been dominating the educational landscape and most of the NCERT books are written and vetted by experts who are left oriented. When they find an active private participation in basic education, they fear that their influence on the education system of the country will be minimized and limited to run-down government schools. Indoctrination is a fundamental weapon of the leftist political ambitions. They revel in rhetoric and want to inculcate the ‘values’ that are dear to them among the new generation. In that they have a political agenda and belief that by indoctrination they can reap the harvest of future support to their ‘progressive’ thought process. At the end, this is about ideology and political space in the Indian political arena. Kapil Sibal has politely but firmly rejected the idea that private players must be excluded from this initiative of universal education. The left oriented intellectuals are seething at the prospect.

The proposal put forward by the government for private participation has seen a heated debate. The government proposes that 25% of the seats in private schools be reserved for the economically and socially backward children. In effect these private schools, including some of the elite schools will have to accommodate these kids from marginal strata of society. School authorities are flummoxed as to how they will integrate kids from deprived backgrounds into their schools and how they will foot the expenses including that of textbooks and uniforms et al. This has surely raised the temper of the debate a few notches. There is a bit of chaos all around.

Education is seen as a weapon by most political outfits. The BJP and the Sangh parivar have their own education pattern. The Left has dominated the scene though. The Congress has gone with the Left on this and they believe that what is good for the Left with a smattering of Congress rhetoric is good for them too. This tug of war between the rightist view of history and ideology and the Left view is at constant loggerheads. The aim of the nation is to ensure that every Indian must be able to read and write enough that he can go about his daily life in an independent manner. But education is such a ‘vice’ that once a person learns to read and write many fall into the ocean of learning and get hooked on gathering more knowledge and wisdom. That is why basic education is so important. It introduces the young minds to the possibilities of the wider world. Many get carried and cannot help but continue this journey to more knowledge which leads to a wiser and better society. This initiative of universal education for all Indians between the ages of 6 and 14 is so important and one that should be welcomed by all and sundry. The debate can be about the implementation of this huge project and experts need to put their minds and energies together and see to it that it reaches the poorest of the poor.

The challenge will be to ensure that grants are used properly; that schools are constructed and books purchased and teachers appointed; that kids go to schools and that teachers take classes. It will be critical to ensure that the mid-day meal scheme is implemented and that kids get their lunch as per the norms. It will not be easy. Already there are reports of rampant corruption in the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme. The kids are not getting what is meant for them, they still go hungry and that is a shame. The role of the state governments in the success of this education for all initiative will be critical. One way to check whether the schools are running properly is to have video conferencing with such facilities in all Gram and Zila Panchayat schools. Or at least in those schools that have electricity. This may be an added expenditure, but one that will be worth the money. Already some chief ministers are regularly having video conferences with the district magistrates of various districts to get immediate feedback from them on various developmental and administrative issues. Such facilities could be extended to schools that will be built with so much time, effort and taxpayers money. With 3G technology this could become even easier.

If the implementation of this initiative is effective, India will transform forever, because the quality of population is as important as numerical strength. A billion strong educated Indians can be a force to reckon with. That is where the future of the nation lies. That is what we must strive for. This is a step in the right direction.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. arun permalink
    April 6, 2010 12:17 pm

    I do not believe that RTE is being politicised, as suggested by you. No political pary can afford to oppose this bill, or create obstacles in its implimentation. The public sentiment is so much in favour of education. As for private partnership- every private school should be forced to take part in this initiative, or else their licence be revoked. these schools are not only given various funds but also subsidised land etc. They should be forced to take up their social responcibility.

    • sharma24 permalink*
      April 6, 2010 12:33 pm

      Education has been politicized since Independence. Even the RTE has its critics. For example some very vocal critics from the Left were demanding to know as to why the RTE is not applicable for kids from 0-16 years of age. There were others who thought that private schools will come down a few notches were they forced to take in 25% of students from deprived background. There is no unanimous decision in our country and that RTE has its critics should surprise no one.

  2. April 3, 2014 11:08 am

    Hi to every one, the contents present at this site are genuinely
    remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the good work fellows.

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