Sunday, August 16, 2020

National Education Policy 2020: 3 - Key Problems In Indian Educational Sector Part II

5. Ignoring phenomenal works in Indian languages

A lot of world-class literature in Indian languages are ignored in preference to English. It is an irony that in social media age we are even ignoring the best of English as well.

Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Elliot, Blake, Kipling, Yeats, Coleridge, Rossetti, Lawrence, Dickens, Woolf, Orwell, Forester etc. are great no doubt. At the same time, there are a lot of wonderful writers who produced seminal works in other languages.

English is one of the greatest languages of all time; and in India, it is probably the only pan-Indian language that equalizes all. But, do we really care about some of the greatest works of Indian languages, other than the names which we learned to crack some quiz questions?

How many of us read Cilappatikaram, Manimekalai, Randamoozham, Pathummayude Aadu,  Oru Desathinte Katha, Durgesh Nandini, Kapalkundala, Devdas, Chokher Bali, Anandamath, Kulliyat-i-Sauda, Umrao Jan Ada, Nadaar Log, Jangloos, Godaan, Laal Passena, Gunahon Ka Devata, Karmabhoomi, Nirmala, Madhushala, Kamayani, Svapna Vasavadattam, Vikramorvasiyam, Mudrarakshasa, Kadambari, Makam, Mayabritta, Bheda… list is endless.

I am not saying we should stop reading English works and start with these ones. Of course not. Being said that, we should also give some attention to these works. If one cannot read it in the original language, then at least read its translation.  

Life is much more than just engineering and medicine.

6. Refusal to accept failure

Society fails to accept failure as a reality. We consider failure as the end of the world. Though we read about thousands who failed first and then went on with a blockbuster life, we do not change our opinion about failures in schools and colleges. Society considers those people are good for nothing.

To fix this issue and for political mileage, we started making everyone pass. Better pass percentage was good for optics. This only made matters worse. When half of the people were failing it was ok, but when 99% people are passing the stigma on failed people became even higher. We gave extraordinary importance to marks; at the same time ignored whether there is any value addition.

Studies showed that a lot of kids in 6th and 7h were not able to do 3rd class’s math. Companies are complaining that they need to retrain graduates to make them employable.

Society must accept the fact that failure is the other side of the coin.

7. The flawed Teacher Recruitment process

I did not study the teacher recruitment process in other states. However, in my home state - Kerala, there is a flawed policy exiting for a very long time.

The current educational system in Kerala represents the socio-political condition of the state. Here, the private school management is very much organized and protected by the power of communities’ politics. Most educational institutions – aka aided schools – are at least partially or fully supported by the state government. Government pays the salaries of both teaching and non-teaching staff on the same scale as that of teachers in government-run schools. The catch is the government does not have a say in the recruitment of teachers in these schools. Management collects money from individuals and appoints them as teachers; the amount they swallow is quite high. Once appointed, are eligible for government salary and pension – in one buying a government job.

Huge networks of these schools are run by caste and religious organizations. This often led to giving preference for those people who belongs to the same caste/religion of management. Since a good percentage of these schools are minority-run, governments do not dare to intervene. This is mainly due to two reasons. One, these actions will be considered a breach of freedom for minorities to run their own institutions. Second, upsetting them costs a lot of votes in the election. Hence, this process of buying government jobs is going on for decades. For those entering government, schools must pass PSC exams, be in rank list and wait. Vacancies in government-supported private schools are not open for them.

Now in unaided schools, where government does not pay salaries, are run by taking money from students as tuition fees. The problem here is, teachers are paid very less compared to that of government. Teachers are not organized. They cannot raise any voice, as there are people out there who are ready to work for lesser salaries.

Nowadays government and private schools are engaged in a bitter competition to get kids. For the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, kids switched to private unaided schools in mass, where English was the medium of education. Numerous schools popped up and fees became affordable even for the lower middle class. This created problems in government schools (especially in government-supported private schools - aided) and threatened the security of teacher’s jobs. If the teacher to student ratio come below a certain level in a school, then the teacher will lose their jobs. There is catch with those who bought their way to school, they cannot get a transfer to a fully government-owned school or to a school which is government-supported but under different management. Stiff competition from unaided eventually forced government and aided schools to get their act together.

In many other states, especially in tribal belts, there are too many ghost teachers. A report came out during, All India Survey on Higher Education stated that there are around 80,000 or more ghost teachers in the Indian higher education system. This is just in the higher educational system, think about the school level.

Poverty runs so high that; parents send their kids to school just to get the mid-day meal. Many schools have just one teacher for multiple classes. If they got transferred or retired, then there may not be any replacements immediately.

State and central governments spend very less percentage of GDP on education. To make matters worse, primary and secondary education is neither glamorous nor a vote-catching scheme. Unlike many takes pride, Indian origin students passing spelling bee test in the US does not represent the quality of education in India.


8. Outdated Syllabi

Indian school syllabus is outdated; may not be that much in ICSE or CBSE, but definitely at state level.

A lot of things happened after the discovery of Newton's law and Kirchoff's theorem. Science, history, and geography are especially bad. History books are often written as novels. Indian history is often started with Harappan civilization, Aryan invasion then jumps to Alexander, Mauryans and Ashoka, Guptas and other empires here and there, then Sultanates and Mughals. After Aurangzeb, it directly jumps to East India Company, British Rule, the Indian independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi and then independence.

Decorating this will be, a couple of social movements, INA, WWI, WWII, a couple of revolutions like – American, Italian, French etc. Over a period, there were changes but history is not yet taught at a scientific level. History is not only about Emperors, kings, and princes it is a lot more about common people and their life. When I was in school, China’s cultural revolution was written as a success story; it was only years later I found out that it was one of the worst human tragedies.

The world war was not fought in Europe alone, there was a lot of fight that happened in the East Asian theatre. Millions not only died in Europe but in Asia as well.

East of West Bengal comes as one-liner when we discuss INA. Otherwise, history textbooks across India hardly refer to any seven sister states of North Eastern India. Currently, it is heavily loaded with colorful stuff rather than culture, art, and least of all - common people.

Geography is also not different. I think literature is far better compared to other subjects.

As I mentioned several times in this article, education is not as glamorous for governments from an election point of view. However, it is the foundation of India and a passport to the future. If we miss once, then an entire generation must end up paying the prince.

In coming articles, we will start exploring new National Education Policy 2020.


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