by Puja Mondal
The concept and phenomenon of education based on school-going is of modern origin in India. Education in the past was restricted to upper castes and the content taught was also ascriptive. However, today, to lead a comfortable life in this fast-changing world, education is seen as the most influential agent of modernization.
The educational attainments in terms of enrolment and retention in rural India generally correspond to the hierarchical order. While the upper castes have traditionally enjoyed and are enjoying these advantages, the Scheduled Caste and other backward castes children have lagged behind in primary schooling. Studies have revealed that children of backward castes are withdrawn from school at an early age, by about 8 or 9 years.
An important reason for withdrawal of children from school is the cost and work needs of poor households. Income and caste are typically correlated with lower castes having lower incomes and higher castes having better endowments in terms of land, income and other resources. Thus, one fact is certain that there is a clear divide in the villages, along caste lines, regarding access to schools.
The very poor children are enrolled in the municipal school because it provides a number of incentives such as lower expenditure on books, uniforms, fees, etc. The well-off children go to the private school, where English and computers are given more importance.
The tendency in favour of private schools in rural areas is influenced by people’s perception of private schools, as a means of imparting quality education in English medium. The poor rural girls, if not all, constitute a major junk of disadvantaged groups that are excluded from the schooling process, especially because they enter late into school and drop out earlier.
Parental illiteracy is another cause for lack of interest to become literates. Many rural children enrolled are thus first generation learners, who come from illiterate families thus, they have to single handedly grapple with school life, mastering language and cognitive skills without parental help and guidance. Most of these illiterate parents do whatever is possible to educate their children because education for them acts as a vehicle of social mobility. Moreover, education and the subsequent attainment of town jobs is often looked upon by many of these rural families, especially families belonging to lower castes, as a means to break out of their position in caste hierarchy.The religious beliefs and practices of a community can also largely impact the overall attitudinal and behavioural profile of an individual or group. In the Indian context, religion has a sway over people’s minds and exerts a great influence over their behaviour. The motivation and attitudes of the people towards education are also moulded, to a large extent, by their religious beliefs. The literacy rate for Muslims is notably lower compared to Hindus but not better than Christians and Sikhs. Poverty among Muslims, who also happen to be one of the most economically backward groups, is the actual reason for their preference for madrasas (Islamic schools), because they are absolutely free and more flexible as compared to formal government schools. This seems to be the only option for poor Muslims, who often cannot afford to pay for the education.
1. Defects of Present System:
According to Amartya Sen, ‘Primary education in India suffers not only from inadequate allocation of resource, but often enough also from terrible management and organization. To him, management and organization of schools is still in a terrible State in India.
That means, there are three major defects in the present educational system. The first is the physical environment in which the student is taught, the second is the curriculum or the content, which he/she is taught, and the third is the teaching method or the teacher, who is teaching.
2. Physical Environment:
Today’s society clings to schools to such an extent that a co-dependent relationship is created between the broader and friendly notion of education and the manipulative reality of school. Education should not be limited to the sphere of the school.
It should have to encompass nearly every aspect of life. Schools should act as locations where the ideas of education are planted in the students and education has to become the foundation for how the students look at the world around them and how they interpret these things. Instead the present situation is that, the seeds of education are planted into the children in the schools but it does not go much further than the school system.
The public in general and rural people in particular, often think of schools as a place for teachers to instruct children on the ‘three Rs’—reading, writing and arithmetic. Schools are not considered as places, where the students are taught many life skills that will help them succeed in their future endeavors.
Access to school is no more a problem in most parts of India. Ninety eight percent of population has access to school within a walking distance of 1 km. The core problem is the unpreparedness of the school system for mass education. Classrooms in most primary schools in rural areas are typically uninviting, with leaking roofs, uneven floors and scraggly mats to sit on.Added to that, most of the schools do not have electricity, drinking water or toilets. In some schools, students of different ages are made to sit in one room. These students squat in passive postures, even regimented columns, with often the ‘brightest’ and the socially advantaged sitting in front. At a given time, a typical school could have at most two teachers trying to ‘police’ children of all five primary classes.The best teaching that these teachers may undertake is to make the students copy or recite from the textbook. Sounds emanating from the school are normally distinguishable from afar in the form of a ritual cacophonous chorus of children chanting their lesson, often shouting their guts out in a cathartic release.
by Puja Mondal