Why Doesn’t India Learn to Face Challenge?

Education now is a fundamental right for the children of 6-14 years of age in India. April 1, 2010 came with the landmark notification and became certainly historic. Should not every feel proud for it?

I was surprised to see the pictures of the schools on TV channels. In all the frames, the children were sitting on floor. Years ago I found the similar way of sitting in the government of the Agahpur School in Sector 41 where we live. It is the same Noida where almost every sector has one big private school with the world class facilities and many with air-conditioned classes. Why the TV channels didn’t show even one shot of these modern schools?

Unfortunately, everyone talks of the challenges for the effective implementation of the Act. The Act must end up with quality education for all.

The challenges are many:

India needs 5 lakh or more teachers across government schools, mostly in rural India. It is when teacher- students’ ratio is agreed at 1:30. For better teaching the ratio should be lower.

The teachers require to be properly trained, as only 40% of the present teachers are trained. The government till dates has hardly strategy and clear budgetary provisions for training teachers.

There are shortage of schools and classrooms.

Where are those neighbourhood schools and who will establish them?

The schools badly lack even the basic facilities related to infrastructure. According to the 2008-09 District Information System for Education report on elementary education in India, ‘of the 1.29 million government and private schools covered, over 60 per cent did not have electricity; 46.4 per cent did not have toilets for girls and almost 50 per cent did not have boundary walls to ensure the safety of students. For example, Uttar Pradesh needs to construct 100,000 rooms to satisfy the norms laid down by the RTE Act.’

The big private schools are to agree to admit 25% of the students from deprived class.

Small private schools need recognition as well as financial assistance.

And finally it is not easy to arrange the huge fund to the tune of Rs 171,000 crore required to make the Act work. As per earlier estimate by the then National Institute of Education Planning and Administration, the requirement was at a minimum of Rs 3,21,196 crore to a maximum Rs 4,36,458.5 crore over six years.

The human resource development ministry has estimated a requirement of about Rs 34,000 crore every year for a period of five years but has set aside Rs 15,000 crore for 2010-11. How will the gap be bridged?

I wish all those who matter in implementing the Act would have come out with solutions rather than the questions and doubts about its getting effectively implemented. I feel for every challenge there can be new innovative ways to overcome it to make the Act work.

Here are some:

The rural schools can informally use retired teachers and others interested on line of ‘Teach India’ Project of Times of India for complimenting the existing teaching staffs-regular and/ or Shikshamitra.

Trained teachers may use affordable and effective audio and video gadgets to supplement and ease their tasks.

The School Management Committees may be allowed to collect donations in cash and kind such as NREGA for building and improvement of infrastructure facilities in schools from all the legal sources including alumni.

The schools and teachers may go for the second shift wherever possible and practical. Media can also help. In Japan, the workforce got educated through radio about quality.

Why should the education ministers of MP or West Bengal or even the reputed educationists only complain about lack of infrastructure instead of suggesting and innovative ways and means to make the Act succeed?

Will media, particularly digital media participate in educating India instead of propagating damaging values through silly imagery?

Let all the stakeholders contribute to get the Act implemented. Let the members of School Management Committee in which parents will be in majority play positive role and don’t shirk with their responsibility.

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