The Indian state of affairs in the realm of education

As a developing nation, dynamic changes in various facets, ranging from economic to educational reforms, plays a key role in substantiating our progress. Education, particularly, is a significant facet of our growth, as it is the backbone of our country and shapes the future generations. In recent years, many educational interventions have been inculcated to improve and reform the status quo.

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Government has devised many policies under the realm of Education. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme has been operational since 2000-2001, aiming to provide every child with access to education, ensure the retention of students in classrooms, bridging gender and social gaps in elementary education, as well as improving the overall quality of education. The National Education Policy (NEP), 2019, is based on the foundational pillars of accessibility, affordability, equity, quality and accountability. The aim of this policy is to universalize pre-primary education and provide foundational literacy for all by 2025. We have come a long way but still have a long way to go in order to reach the utopian dream of universal access to education.

Current Framework

Holistic development of any society is preceded by the foundations of cognitive and socio-emotional learning. Unfortunately, for a country like India, with limited resources and a large population, education is free but quality education is a luxury, accessible only to a few. Despite the ongoing Government programmes in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, the literacy rate of our country has come to a standstill at 81.3%. This can be attributed to the lousy execution of plans and policies in those regions. According to the Census, the last literacy rate survey, done in 2011, showed that Kerala was an epitome of educational success, with 93.91%. Meanwhile, Bihar, with the literacy rate of 63.82%, was the least educated state of our country. We still have to configure the ways to eliminate such disparity but one thing is clear, the ‘one shoe fits all’ approach is only successful so far.

What is important to note is that the wave of feminist discourse in the policy regime stays strong. Schemes like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao work on the prevention of female infanticide and tries to ensure that the benefits of free elementary education reach girls across the socio-economic spectrum. Our past and present are rife with gender inequality issues, and the government is trying to elucidate the need for education to all by churning out policies and programmes that motivate the citizens to send their children to school.

The technology-based K-12 education system is a self-sustaining model, wherein student-teacher harmony is focused upon. The kids are encouraged to come out of their shell and become self-reliant and independent individuals.

Innovation is the answer

According to an ASER survey, only 42.5% of children in rural India, studying in the third standard, can read a text from the first standard. Access to education among the lower sections of our society, in particular, needs our special attention. Hence, more innovative dissemination of education is a must. The flagship objectives should hold a core competency on the following:

  • Build awareness on the importance of education for the unprivileged.
  • Overcome the urban-rural education gap with equally gratifying opportunities for all.
  • Increase access to basic education for people from rural areas.
  • Norms addressing ‘Quality of education’ should be improved.
  • The government needs to Initiate a systematic technological intervention in schools despite the class divide

The technological intervention has helped to garner a greater outreach, particularly in tier-2 and tier 3 cities. Simple educational reforms coupled with access to apps such as Whatsapp and Youtube have played a pivotal role in increasing the reach of information and books, among other materials, at an affordable cost. Technology has made one-on-one communication easy. This, alongside demographic-based models, allows us to customize education in accordance with the child’s needs and requirements, thereby bringing about a new school system that exists beyond geographical boundaries. Leveraging existing technology also makes it easier to increase reach at an affordable price with minimal issues of adoption.

According to an ASER survey, only 42.5% of children in rural India, studying in the third standard, can read a text from the first standard. Access to education among the lower sections of our society, in particular, needs our special attention.

Current scenario of K-12 education

According to ASER report, there are approximately 1.46 million K-12 schools in India, of which 54% are owned by the state or central government, 21% by municipal corporations and the remaining 25%, are privately owned. These K-12 schools are generally affiliated with either the State Board, CBSE or CISCE. The statistics for affiliation are as follows, 96% are affiliated to the state board schools, 1% to CBSE, 0.1% to CISCE and 2% are unrecognized.

The Indian education system has widely accepted the K-12 model, making it compulsory in public and private schools. The K-12 model primarily works on the teacher-student dynamic interaction, encouraging question-answer sessions and regular assignments that imbibe advanced learning habits in students. Individual attention on each student is prioritised. Lifeskills and thought leadership are the core building blocks of this model and the student is encouraged to add value to their assignments in the form of personal views and ideas. This makes the system beneficial when compared to conventional education systems.

The technology-based K-12 education system is a self-sustaining model, wherein student-teacher harmony is focused upon. The kids are encouraged to come out of their shell and become self-reliant and independent individuals.

The K-12 model primarily works on the teacher-student dynamic interaction, encouraging question-answer sessions and regular assignments that imbibe advanced learning habits in students. Individual attention on each student is prioritised.

Integrating educational technology into teaching

According to a 2016 digital educational survey done by Deloitte, approximately 42% of teachers claim that at least one digital device is used in everyday classrooms. About 75% of them also believe that digital learning content will replace printed textbooks within the next 10 years.

Many small yet effective measures have already been adopted, leading to immediate success. Official letters from schools have been replaced with emails and WhatsApp messages. Parents are incorporated into the teaching-learning process by the teachers. They are provided with detailed knowledge of what is taught to the child and the homework assigned to them. These steps have been successful in bridging the gap between parents and teachers in a manner which, earlier, was only possible through parent-teacher meetings. Schools have also generated their own websites and apps that provide information, ranging from general information, such as fee submission, to personalised information, such as each student’s attendance, marks, extra-curricular participation, etc. The fusion of technology and education is breaking barriers, making access to information easier.

Initiatives to Reform Education

Experts from all walks of life are now paying attention to the primary and rural segment. Reforms are being made in the education sector and it is our responsibility to steer it in a positive direction. 2020 has already witnessed major changes in reformation so far. The public response on the National Education Policy 2019 was successful in bringing about an immediate focus on our education system, providing the lawmakers with much needed constructive criticism. A 400-page policy was drafted by K Kasturirangan, a space scientist, along with a team of nine members. The public response resonated well with policy, marking itself as 80% with the draft. This proves that the Indian citizens are on the same page as the experts and educational pioneers when it comes to their concerns regarding the education system as well as the belief that the education sector is the backbone of our country’s future.

Ankit Arora is Founding Director at Saarthi Education. He has worked in the non-profit education sector for almost a decade. Prior to Saarthi, Ankit was working with Central Square Foundation. He has also completed the esteemed Teach For India Fellowship – a 2-year teaching-leading fellowship run in India along the lines of Teach For America and Teach First, UK.

He has also represented the Indian delegation in early childhood education and EdTech at various international conferences including the Lego Ideas Conference – Denmark, 2019 and Think Future Conference – South Africa, 2017. Ankit completed his B.Tech in Electronics and Communications from Apeejay College of Engineering and was the president of the Entrepreneurship Club and also founded a non-profit start-up working with children from migrant backgrounds.