Basic Education in India – A Quick Summary of Thoughts

The challenges in the Indian education system are enormous, and there are no simple answers! Educational issues are very complicated here – lots of reasons for that – some social, some cultural, some political and some economic. And frankly i think India itself is a very complicated place.  I just wanted to jot down a short/quick summary of my initial thoughts on the Indian education system based on what I’ve learnt here the past 5-6 weeks:
  • Quality of basic education is very poor in India. It’s a massive problem – compounded by the fact that India has a young demography, and a huge population. The Indian government knows about the issue, but has no clear-cut strategy for tackling it.
  • The new Right To Education (RTE) Act passed last year, is the new buzzword, and i feel in many ways it is ridiculous. Its main focus is on inputs to the education (enrollment rates, infrastructure) and NOT quality of education. The RTE Act just lays down rules, but does not provide a solution, or strategy, for solving the problems on the ground.
  • There is no focus on pre-school (although research has clearly proven its long-term positive impact) in any of the governmental educational strategy.
  • There is a massive shortage of teachers here in India (unofficial figure is 3 million). The RTE requirements (of minimum teacher qualifications, and student-teacher ratios) for employing teachers, are totally impractical and are not helping things. I found fantastic/enthusiastic teachers in rural Rajasthan, with no professional degree, and teaching on very low salaries. And saw teachers in urban New Delhi, meeting all the teaching qualification requirements, just hogging the high government teacher salary, with no motivation, high absenteeism, and lack of teaching activity.
  • ICT for Education projects/focus here in India are just mainly providing band aids, and will/is NOT addressing the real issues.
  • I think the issues in the Indian education system are – teaching is not a valued profession (hence seen as last resort for the young generation if all other options are closed), teachers/unions are not held accountable, and corruption level is high. Lack of accountability is a major issue.
  • What India needs is – to decentralize its education system, and empower local community for better monitoring. ICTs can play a major role here. But there needs to be a political will (and a clear strategy), and a cultural shift, for the technology to make a positive impact.
Just my two cents….
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About pritamkabe

Originally from Bombay, India. Relocated to the United States in 1997 for attending graduate school at The University of Texas. Completed my Masters in Electrical Engineering in 1999 and then worked in the Hi-Tech industry for the next 11 years in Austin, Texas. I have a passion for travelling, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures...and i've been very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to travel quite a bit. Sports and food are my other big passions in life. Some life-changing experiences in my life a years ago changed my perspective of life, after which, just have an engineering job was not meaningful to me anymore. Hence i quit my engineering career, and I'm now motivated to give back to society and make a positive impact in some way. To get started on that journey, i went back in graduate school, and recently graduated as a "Mid-Career Fellow in Foreign Service", from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, at Georgetown University, Washington DC. Currently in New Delhi, India, on a research fellowship, to learn about the educational issues in India, and brainstorm my ideas about technological interventions for resolving those issues.
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