Universalizing Opportunities through Investing in Education in India

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The World Bank released a report this week on the current state of the educational system in India and concluded that while investments and performance have improved at the primary and higher education levels, there remains a rather considerable gap in access, distribution, and achievement at the secondary level.

As India continuously develops and entrenches itself as a major player in the global knowledge economy, the majority of growth have been in the skilled services and manufacturing sectors. This requires that the 12 million young people who join the labor force every year have the necessary skills to access these more lucrative jobs and compete successfully in the global economy, especially as the IT sector has become an essential driver of the economy.

“Evidence from around the world suggests secondary education is critical to breaking the inter-generational transmission of poverty -— it enables youth to break out of the poverty trap.” Lead Education Specialist Sam Carlson said.

However, India's gross enrolment rate (GER) at the secondary level of 52% is lower than the GERs of countries like Sri Lanka (83%) and China (91%). However, I was quite surprised that the rate was also lower than countries with lesser GDP per capita such as Vietnam (72%) and Bangladesh (57%).

There’s also a substantial gap between different regions and provinces. For instance, the enrollment rate is a commendable 92% in Kerala while it is strikingly low at 4% in Jarkhand. The report also states that that access to secondary education is today highly inequitable across income groups, gender, social groups, and geography. These challenges may be amplified due to the constant increase in demand for secondary education with enrollment expected to increase from 40 million to 60 million within the next ten years.

According to the DNA daily paper, “The situation on the ground is appalling, especially in government schools and rural schools. In a metropolis like Mumbai, civic-run schools are in a state of disrepair, barely hanging on with poorly paid teachers and crumbling infrastructure.”

The Deccan Herald also wrote an article scrutinizing the teacher recruitment process and cited from the report that, “teacher candidates are frequently required to pay between Rs 1,00,000-2,00,000 in order to be selected, usually to the school headmaster. In such a situation, the school headmaster is in a poor position to insist on greater teacher accountability, which reveals the weaknesses of unsupervised local hiring.” Emphasis should be placed on improving monitoring and evaluating teachers to curb issues like absenteeism, as well as putting incentives in place to rewards good performers.

The challenge for the Government of India is to simultaneously improve access, enrollment and quality of secondary education. The recently announced secondary education program, called Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) offers a tremendous opportunity to respond to these challenges.

Among the number of recommendations made in the report, the four approaches that resonated the most with me were; improving access, investing in information communications technologies, setting high standards for teacher performance and curriculum, as well as combating location and gender disparities.

What other strategies do you believe will be effective in solving these challenges?

Authors

Joe Qian

Communications Officer

Join the Conversation

Gabriela
October 12, 2009

In response to the question posed at the end of the blog, concerning strategies for effective problem solving. Well, in addition to the already mentioned solutions in the blog and other approaches suggested by some of the other responses, I would add the possibility of replicating some of the strategies used in the schooling system in provinces like Kerala with 97% literacy and apply them to other provinces like Jarkhand, with 4% literacy rate. In addition, I would suggest developing a program that allows students themselves to problem-solve or make suggestions to improve the schooling system in India. For instance, a program could be developed for a student exchange program between Indian provinces for students to identify an issue, strategize, develop and carry out their solutions in the location of their choosing and/or a location with extremely low literacy. I am not familiar with Indian society so, I cannot attest to the level of seriousness these ideas will be taken or, if they are remotely possible. But, I think it is nonetheless worth considering ways to empower those most affected by the lack/low education levels by acknowledging students and their ideas. After all, they are positioned to know how problems impact them.

Vivi
October 12, 2009

Good insight. Great article!

However, although they are all good approaches, the education resources are still availed by the upper class. their interest is keeping the untouchables their labour by not letting them have the access to good education. No matter what kind of approaches, investing in education in india will get strong resistance from the upper class. it's sad :(

Anonymous
October 09, 2009

I admit I haven't read the report however, if the four approaches mentioned in this blog are representative of the main report findings then I am unsettled at the level of this discussion. We can probably go in ad infinitum about what are the most important recommendations, but what they are not is information technology (when teacher absenteeism ranges from 25-50%), where electricity is sporadic etc. Building more schools? Again there are "schools", but not teachers and budget (mostly pilfered) to run them up to a minimum of adequate standard. Just building more "schools" is not going to solve them if they are underfunded and mismanaged. Shouldn't the efficiency of currently run system be improved before building more schools in a mismanaged system? Curriculum? but if the quality of teachers is poor and their incentives are not aligned how would changes in curriculum help. Ah, again assuming that teachers turn up to teach the improved curriculum that they would first need time to assimilate in colleges that do not seem to impart quality pre-training. So big assumption there. So I find these conclusions uninformed about the underlying causes of failure in the Indian education. Is the report putting the cart before the horse?

Vishakha
October 31, 2009

Education is truly indispensible in today's economy centric world, and the new vistas that modern education is opening up are quite enthralling. With a scope to forge a promising career in fields like Sound Engineering, Gemmology or Radio Jockeying, a number of institutes are popping up all around the country to guide aspirants of these vocations. One of the premiere institutes that has come up in pune is SeamEdu, India's first and only creativersity, with eminent founders like educationist Dr. Arun Nigavekar.

raghu
September 15, 2010

I think it is nonetheless worth considering ways to empower those most affected by the lack/low education levels by acknowledging students and their ideas.However, although they are all good approaches, the education resources are still availed by the upper class.

bashir
November 03, 2011

I meanit is nonetheless worth considering ways to empower those most affected by the lack/low education levels by acknowledging students and their ideas.However, although they are all good approaches, the education resources are still availed by the upper class.

Anonymous12
March 12, 2013

Best site for education. http://edumate.edu.in/