Right Education . . .

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By Ananya S Guha

I wonder what is happening to that burgeoning myth – Right To Education. The bill has been passed we are told, but has the inveterate Right that we have been talking about for so long, been passed and enacted, but is it like so many things in India, a rigmarole and effete lip service?

The SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) was launched with so much fanfare, but they are only talking about midday meals. Is that the prime concern of education, but prima facie, what is happening? Are 6 – 14 years old getting the education which is elusive for them, and that which they deserve?

Unless each state government, under the supervision of the Central Government implements the RTE nothing tangible will emerge.

Allied to this is the sad phenomenon of street children which should be closely linked to this problematic of Education in our country. There can be no equity without access, and no access without equity. The two terms ‘Equity’ and ‘Access’ seem to figure only in conferences, for us to write erudite discourses and also to fatten our ever growing CV.

That school education is the foundation and fount of All education is a truism. But such truism has only become platitudinous and not the palpable reality. Much has been discussed about Common and Neighbourhood Schools. This precept is wonderfully realistic, but will remain only in the realms of wishful thinking unless Private Institutions are given a disciplinarian reprimand in this regard – that they have to admit poor students free of cost, in which strict guidelines should be enunciated. More and more, the schools should come under government control with monitoring quality and appointment of quality, trained teachers. I know of a former Professor of  Delhi University fighting valiantly for the rights of education and the common school concept. He works among the most distressed communities in states like Madhya Pradesh. He has been advocating the cause of all schools coming under some government surveillance, but who listens to him?

So many documents on education have been prepared, why not a one on the implementation of the RTE with guidelines, inextricably linked to Below Poverty Line families, street children, teacher training at the Pre Primary and Primary Levels and Vocational Education. All these are talked about and discussed in meetings, plush rooms and conferences, but have they been holistically connected, what is the vision?

Separate strands about education are being taken up, but they are not viewed with perspectives of oneness. For example guidelines for a Vocational Education Framework have been finalized, but the implementation, the careers chosen are vague. We have to accept the reality that some children are more practically aligned to reality than through cognition, which is rote learning and answering five to six questions in three hours. And then, some state governments are mooting the idea of not ‘failing’ students. Then why call it an examination, develop a constructive paradigm by which assessment is done on a continual basis with 80% evaluation on this aspect.

Nothing seems to go in the right direction for education. Once upon a time there was a lot of talk about delinking degrees from jobs. That sounded fine but is still a grand myth, because if you do not have a basic graduation degree you cannot apply for many jobs, though there is a tendency now to recruit at the basic level. However, a graduation or a post-graduation degree can make the difference. The point is that the system of education even today remains largely by rote and in that manner we are losing our talent, creative expressions or originality. This continues right from school to post-graduation studies. The fact of the matter is that many children and young adults are not suited for a curriculum or examination systems which is prescribed by the policy makers. They have an aptitude for something else and this unlike the western system cannot decipher or discover. The elementary and primary levels of education are woefully pathetic with not only untrained teachers but no scope or fillip towards innovation.

So, no matter how much we talk about skills and vocational training we are not able to grapple with certitude about the question of predilection and aptitude of a particular child. The NCVT has now come up with vocational training at different levels right from school onwards. We are yet to know of its implementation and whether the Central Government has written to the schools and colleges. Children can pick up things very fast, but what was the mechanism for discovering such latent talent? Isolated experiments are being conducted all over the country but the sad part is that ideas and experiments are not coming together. The government is working in one way and the NGOs in another!

The sooner we realize that our education system is in a mess and in a morass, the better. It is no use talking about higher education when the basic education issues are not addressed. Also, the compartmentalization of education into school education, college education and university education is simply creating class divisions and a hierarchy. Let’s not bring the caste system into education?

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