Her one-room school is just close to her house but still she has decided to drop out of the school. Not because Jamuna’s parents are against her attending school but because there is only one teacher and he is also missing most of the times. This is not the story of one Jamuna in Rajasthan but of most of the children studying in the government schools all over India. This is just tip of the iceberg, the plight of government schools is much worse than this.

The quality of education at many government-run or aided schools across the country is abysmal, where typically half of the students who pass the sixth grade can’t calculate, read fluently, let alone write properly in any language. And if you forget primary education for a moment, only 2 per cent of people above 15 years of age have technical degrees or diplomas.

India has had a long legacy of weak schooling for its young, even as it has promoted high-quality government-financed universities. The condition of government schools in India is pathetic. Except for two or three states, all the Indian states have poor educational statistics.

Although the plan allocation on education has increased over the years (16 % increase in this year), still the state of government schools has not changed. The much-hyped Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is also granted a handsome Rs. 15,000 crore. Yet, according to the UNESCO, India has the lowest public expenditure on education per student in the world. Even the Right to education has failed to provide substantial improvement in access, quality and other dimensions of elementary education as in a country like India, the implementation of this act not only needs an enormous amount of resources but also effective monitoring of deployment of those resources.

There have, unfortunately come into existence numerous problems with government-run schools. Some of which are:

  • There is lack of infrastructure.
  • Dilapidated classrooms, poorly maintained buildings, ill-equipped libraries and laboratories, lack of sanitation facilities, electricity and even drinking water are issues that the students grapple with everyday.
  • Availability of qualified teachers and the student-teacher ratio is another tale to tell. Some states don’t even have teacher training facilities.
  • These government schools are unable to attract good quality teachers due to inadequate teaching facilities and low salaries.
  • The curriculum and teaching methodologies are absolutely obsolete and outdated, with the emphasis being on rote-learning and merely developing reading and writing skills instead of holistic education.
  • The lack of vocational training and non-availability of such courses renders students with barely any employable skills at the end of their schooling.
  • Adding to all this, most schools are miles away and largely inaccessible to the students.

All these factors combined with other social circumstances have lead to alarmingly high dropout rates in the country.

The attitude of the concerned authorities towards all this is callous, indifferent and inhumane and the authorities seem to have lost all sense of responsibility and duty towards the lakhs of children. What the government is not realizing right now is the fact that education which is a source of human capital can create wide income inequalities and many other problems.

If we look at the statistics, then In India 91 percent to 93 percent of school-going children actually go to government schools. Even if 60 percent to 70 percent of these schools improve, there will be a sea change. The poor quality of education in school is basically because of both unwilling students and teachers, so the whole system has to be energized. Certain policy measures need to be taken by the government to raise the quality of education in the government schools and increase access to these schools.

One of the ways in which the problem of poor quality of education can be tackled is through common schooling. This essentially means sharing of resources between private and public schools. Shift system is one of the ways through which common schooling can be achieved. The private school can use the resources during the first half of the day and the government school can use it during the second half. It is important to remember that the quality of education is directly linked to the resources available and it is important for the government to improve resource allocation to bring about qualitative changes in the field of education. Common schooling is one of the ways in which government can use limited resources in an efficient way and thus improve resource allocation.

Even the private sector could be motivated to invest in infrastructure for Primary and secondary schools in rural as well as urban parts as the government cannot invest so much in building up of schools all over the world. This can be done by giving tax breaks.

Intensive training programs for teachers, frequent audits of schools to make teachers accountable should be conducted, vocational courses as part of school curriculum should be added in order to motivate children to come to school. This will de-motivate the tendency to drop out from schools in order to earn livelihood.

Part time teaching in evening schools can be promoted. These teachers can be hired at lesser salary. In this way the children who are not able to attend school in the morning can do so in the evening. Lastly, instead of students coming to schools (which needs infrastructure) teachers can go to localities and take classes there.

Thus, if the government can come out with an ambitious plan for constructing 20 kilometers of roads per day than why can’t we see such ambition in establishing the government schools with adequate and well trained teaching staff ? Why can’t we have such plans to promote more teachers and professionals so there are fewer cases of absenteeism and irregularities? Why can’t there be rigorous steps taken to improve the quality of education and infrastructure in the government schools?

I hope that government takes certain appropriate policy measures to improve the education system otherwise the problem will grow intense day by day and India’s basic capabilities will remain stunted.

Avani Jain

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brianglanz/3303155124/]