The life cycle of an individual’s education, starting from elementary, primary, secondary, and upto the higher levels helps to create a mindset of different degrees of learning accompanied by experiences. In the present era, the need for quality education is given importance after realising that it is a tool for overhauling poverty and achieving greater development, measured in terms of employability and skills.
When the talk is about the level of education, the first thing that pops up is to blame the system in schools, especially in government-funded schools in rural India. As the talk snowballs further, the tendency is to criticise the teachers and ways of teaching in these schools. Again, comparisons between the private schools, be it missionary-aided or the elite ‘international’ schools, does have its share of the talk. The tendency to criticise is apt with reference to the context of the prevailing scenario of teaching and learning levels in rural government schools.
As per the much sought-after ASER research on the status of education in India, especially rural areas, the picture is grim. According to their research findings over a comprehensive nine-year period (2006–2014), with reference to the state of Bihar, in government schools, children in Std III who can read at least a Std I level text was 51.7 percent as against the all-India score of 45.8 percent in 2006 which declined to 25.3 percent as against the all-India score of 31.8 percent in 2014. Similarly, children in Std V who can read a Std II level text stood at 64.3 percent in 2006 against 51.4 percent which steeply declined to 44.6 percent in 2006 against the all-India score of 42.2 percent in 2014. This is quite an alarming call and hinders the overall progress of the state and the nation as a whole. Besides these, lack of trained teachers, poverty, lack of educated role models, and sceptical attitudes of communities amongst other factors add up to this case.
Due to the above mentioned realities, underprivileged parents rely on private tuitions in their localities for better education of their wards, even though the majority of them can hardly afford to pay the fees. Again, the majority of tutors lack proper training and rely on self-learned knowledge to impart tuitions to their students. The ground reality is that almost all of them do not even follow the state board syllabus or class curriculum which further degrades the teaching as well as learning levels of students. The outcome is that the knowledge gained is incomplete and dangerous as the students excel in one or two subjects while performing very poorly in others, as for instance, the English subject.
To help students and tutors, especially in rural areas of Bihar, there have been many cumulative efforts and many organisations are working tirelessly to change the picture.
- The Quality Education and Skills Training (QUEST) Alliance — It is working towards improving the reading comprehension and interpretation levels of students in schools of Samastipur, Bihar.
- The Bihar Education Project Council (BEPC) — Their National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGEL) is aimed at education of underprivileged or disadvantaged girls from class I to VIII.
- I-Saksham Education and Learning Foundation — Co-founded by ex-PMRDFs Shravan Kumar Jha, Aditya Tyagi and Ravi Dhanuka, I-Saksham concentrates on developing tutorship as an employability skill and livelihood alternative for the Community Tutors in remote Left-Wing extremism-affected areas of Bihar by training them on teaching pedagogy and digital awareness, through the usage of Android-powered tablets for improving the learning levels of underprivileged/disadvantaged students and for self-learning by Community Tutors. Recently, I-Saksham has signed an MOU with Teach for India for its teachers’ training initiative ‘Firki’ to impart both online and offline quality training sessions on teaching methodology.
- Pratham — Pratham, through its various programmes such as Digital Classrooms/Learn, Out of the Box, Lakhon Mein Ek and Urban Programme tries to bridge the gap between technology and education. Their Annual Status of Education Report, popularly known as ASER, deals with the learning levels measured on different ability scales which reflect the teaching and learning scenario for that particular area where the research is being conducted. This analysis aids the government and other educational organisations in framing policies and implementing the same in their respective areas.
- Happy Horizons Trust — Through its various projects, HHT focuses on participatory learning and alternative learning programmes. Special emphasis is laid on making learning fun for the students through various means of storytelling, interactive games and leadership training to high school students.
- Empathy. Empowerment. Knowledge. Hope. Ownership. (SEEKHO) — A not-for-profit organisation started by University of Pennsylvania graduate Zubin Sharma, the idea was to provide age-appropriate educational programmes for students and to explore the uncharted sea of talented rural youth, train them on the best utilisation of available resources for the local community, thus empowering them.
- Bihar Language Initiative for Secondary Schools (BLISS) — To address the needs of teachers, educators and other audiences for high quality of teaching and valuing of English as an employability
- Gramin Vikas Trust (GVT) — GVT works towards providing access to better digital education, skill development and promotes social entrepreneurship for rural youth and school dropouts from marginalised families.
Education in Bihar is marred by corruption, inequality, scams like the recent Bihar Toppers Scam and the mass level of open cheating in crucial state-level examinations. The Central Government’s ‘No detention policy till class 8’ has further deteriorated the picture of the state which is quite notorious for various loopholes in its education system. The political nexus further deteriorates the performance of the education system and the state which boasts of the maximum number of IAS and IITians in the country. The burning question here lies in answering whether the state could improve the elementary and primary education for readiness to the higher levels and at the same time maintain constant monitoring as well as evaluation of the performance of various units/stakeholders associated with uplifting the education quality of the state, in certain parameters to lay foundation for further strategies. The government should concentrate not on the high enrolment rate but the actual education by brainstorming on the burning questions which are being left unanswered. To improve the education system, all the stakeholders such as the parents, community leaders, administrators or the local governing bodies need to pull up their socks and take the plunge and adapt to modern techniques which focus on making learning fun and comprehensive. Only then will the objective of the ‘Mission Manav Vikas’ and ‘Mission Gunvatta’ will be fulfilled. The future is yet to be seen!
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)