Education is more than just about qualifications or test scores; it embodies our hope for the future. Therefore, it requires a deep commitment to the fourth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, which aims, by 2030, to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
This goal is still a distant prospect for far too many children in India. With so many development issues demanding our attention, policymakers should bear in mind that education is not just a good in itself; it is also a catalyst for many other development gains.
Key Challenges in India’s education system
Access and Participation
- Research highlights the importance of early childhood education. Participation in pre-school education remains low in the country.
- Expanding access to early childhood education and provide equal opportunity to all children to prepare them for formal education is a priority task.
- While nationally the % of out of school children aged 6-13 years has declined since 2000, still the absolute number remains high.
- Currently there is a situation of relatively lower enrolment rates in upper primary and secondary education. Ensuring mobility of students from elementary to primary to secondary to tertiary education is a key challenge. Currently Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education is 23.6%. The target is to increase it to 25.2% in 2017-18 and to 30% in 2020-21.
- Relatively slower progress in reducing the number of illiterates is also a huge challenge. India currently has the highest number of non-literates in the world.
- Poor quality of education leading to unsatisfactory learning outcomes is a huge challenge. At the pre-school level the following challenges are there
- Inappropriate curriculum
- Lack of trained educators
- Ineffective pedagogy
Resultantly students coming out of pre-schools do not have school readiness in terms of cognitive and language domains
- Biggest challenge remains the unsatisfactory level of student learning. ASER reports, PISA reports all point towards the same. Finding of National Achievement Surveys covering Grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 suggest that learning levels of a significant proportion of students do not measure up to expected learning levels which has a cascading effect on the next stage.
- Factors affecting unsatisfactory quality of school education are
- Large proportion of schools not compliant with prescribed norms and standards.
- Students and teachers’ absenteeism.
- Gaps in teacher motivation and training which affects teacher quality and performance.
- Slow progress with regards to usage of ICT.
- Sub optimal personnel management.
- Inadequate attention to monitoring and supervision of performance
Perceived failure of government schools has triggered entry of a large number of private schools, many of whom also fall prey to the same vices
- Quality at higher education level – Issues are
- Very few universities and colleges accredited by NAAC are in A grade.
- Mushrooming of private players of indifferent quality.
- Shortage of well qualified faculty.
- Vacancy in faculty positions.
- Poor infrastructure in both private as well as public institutions.
- Slow renewal of curriculum to align it more closely with skills demanded in a diversified economy.
- Inadequate funding for research and development
- Whereas substantial improvement is seen in enhancing enrolment rate in pre-school, still, children from disadvantaged population still lack access to pre school education.
- Percentage of Out of school children (OOSC) has declined since 2000, but the absolute number is still high. Moreover, OOSC still very high among SC, ST and Muslims.
- Children from certain sections like children with disabilities, children in remote location, children belonging to nomadic families, migrant children and other vulnerable disadvantaged group are yet to take full benefit of educational opportunities.
- National Learning Achievement Surveys highlight the following –
- Urban students do better than rural.
- Students of private schools do better than those in government schools.
- General and OBC students do better than SC and ST students
- Relatively higher gender gap in youth (8.2 % points) and adult (19.5 percentage points) literacy rates
Skills and employability
- India is a young nation with 54% of population below 25 years of age. Thus skilling is necessary to take care of livelihood needs.
- However institutional arrangements to support technical and vocational educational programme quite inadequate
Curriculum and Assessment
- Growing disconnect between existing school and higher education curricula.
- Curriculum thrust needed for promoting acquisition of relevant skills by students is missing.
- Assessment criteria in schools focus primarily on rote learning and ability of students to reproduce content knowledge.
In the next and concluding part of this series we will discuss the solutions to various issues which we have talked about in this post……