A conundrum too hot for the government to handle – ‘Education’

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. Our education now has a sole objective. Study for a sheet of paper that has your name and a degree alongside a grade. There is little concern regarding the practical use of the education that we attain.

The education system in India is broken. Physically, yes, because there are institutions that run out of broken chairs, benches and without any proper structure for itself. A simple but important thing like having a girl’s toilet can make a difference in the enrollment of children in schools.

There is an intellectual breakdown because of a theoretical education system. Students study, to be precise rote learn, for marks and not to gain knowledge. The examination system that we have checks the ability to reproduce certain facts within certain time limit. In many universities in India the syllabus and curricula are not updated from time to time. The irrelevant curricula are not able to cater to the industry standards.

Survey after survey shows that not even half the children in Class V can read a Class II text. The government seems to be bereft of ideas for remedial measures. The only concern of the state government’s are whether they have an NIT/IIT in their state. Of course, we need more such institutes, but it must be done on a bottom up approach where there is a proper schooling system and continues up to higher education. Though funds for higher education and research is crucial it would be more purposeful if we can spend some money on schooling as well.

Now let’s see what happens when the government steps in to reform our education. They come up with reforms like the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP), the choice based credit system, making Kannada compulsory in primary schools in Karnataka, introducing Sanskrit in schools in a mid session and so on. If the intention of the political class is to introduce such reforms then it is better to say ‘no’ to education reforms as such reforms will only do harm than any good.

The FYUP in Delhi University was introduced without any discussion and debate with the stake holders. So its roll back was inevitable.

The Karnataka government wants to make Kannada as the language of instruction till class 5. This means a student will study in Kannada medium till class 5 and then he can change to English medium if he wants to. Why did the government come up with such a reform? The State Government say that the Bill was brought in the wake of the State’s language policy being turned down by the Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court. The policy was turned down as it had been brought through a government notification instead of legislation. But why play such politics with education.

The choice based credit system envisions a common syllabus, a common entrance test, common semesterisation, grade-based marking, standardisation of examinations, centralized recruitment, and provision for faculty transfers across Central universities. Sounds good in paper. But the hurry shown by the government in implementing this will have its effects. It should be done step by step, by making sure that the required faculties and infrastructure is in place. We cannot expect the lower standard institutes to become on par with higher standard institutes overnight. So the higher standard institutes have to come down to be on par with others. This will only result in diluting the educational system. Later we complain that Indian universities do not figure in the top institutions across the world.

Then we have the Right to education (RTE) act, which makes education a fundamental right. But again this is an act with more wrongs than right. The schools should provide free elementary education to children of weaker sections of the society. The students are to be promoted to the next class till class 8 whatever be their academic performance. Later if the student fail the school is being blamed. Many schools are overburdened without adequate teachers. To have efficiency proper student teacher ratio and infrastructure has to be maintained, which the RTE act is silent on. Without proper system what will the schools offer to the new comers who join under the RTE act.

Lack of money is another issue in the education sector. The private sector did invest in education. Some of the best schools in the country are run by private sector. But their profit oriented business model may not work in all sectors of education. The donation money pours in from students for a seat in college and donations from aspiring faculties for job in colleges has only resulted in dilution of standards. The disproportionate number of engineering colleges that we have manages to produce engineers out of which 97 pc are unemployable, according to an NSSO survey. So its time for the academicians to be given a chance to reform our education.

Education is the first thing a child seeks after its birth. We need more reforms in education as we have to move along with changing times. But reforms done in haste without giving any proper thought is not the solution for it. Education is such a delicate matter that touches so many people. So handle it with care or it might just break down.


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