Although India is amongst the ten fastest growing economies in the world, it still has a third of the world’s illiterates. According to global education report of 2004, India’s ranking was 106 out of 127 countries in the education sphere. With 34 per cent of the illiterate population in the world, India has the largest number of illiterates by far – with second placed China at 11 per cent. Sixty years after independence, with 40 per cent of its population under 18 – India is now confronting the perils of its failure to educate its citizens, notably the poor.
India, being a mixed economy, needs government intervention in the area of education because education driven by profit motive cannot benefit the masses. But the condition of government schools in India is pathetic. Except for two or three states, all the Indian states have poor educational statistics. More Indian children are in school than ever before, but the quality of government schools has sunk to spectacularly low levels. The children in these schools come from the poorest of families — those who cannot afford to send away their young to private schools elsewhere, as do most Indian families who have the means.
India has long had a legacy of weak schooling for its young, even as it has promoted high-quality government-financed universities. If in the past, a largely poor and agrarian nation could afford to leave millions of its people illiterate, that is no longer the case. Not only has the high growth ensured that we have a shortage of skilled labor, the nation’s many new roads, phones and television sets have also fueled new ambitions for economic advancement among its people — and new expectations for schools to help them achieve it.
Even though many children attend schools, they remain ill-equipped. A survey in 2007which was conducted across 16,000 villages, found that while many more children were sitting in class, vast numbers of them could not read, write or perform basic arithmetic, to say nothing of those who were not in school at all.
The attitude of the concerned authorities towards the plight of children is callous, indifferent and inhumane and the authorities seem to have lost all sense of responsibility and duty towards the lakhs of children.
There are many reasons for the failure. First of all, there is an acute shortage of teachers. Children often don’t get a support from their parents. Parents seem to be indifferent to their child’s learning and only see them as additional hands for work. There is also longstanding neglect, insufficient public financing and accountability, and a lack of motivation among some teachers to pay special attention to poor children from lower castes. Even basic amenities like water and electricity are not being provided.
There is a need for urgency. Education levels need to be improved. India with the second largest population in the world cannot develop with such a bad indicator. Furthermore, illiteracy leads to other problems such as poverty and unemployment. To start with, we need to learn from Indian states like Himachal Pradesh and Kerela who have almost universal literacy rate. Attitude of people there is very different from those in other regions. People are aware of the massive benefits and the government invests huge amounts to educate people. We personally should contribute by taking a task of teaching atleast one child either through an NGO or at home. Awareness needs to be generated and the state of government schools needs to be improved. Proper incentives should be given to teachers and public expenditure should be increased for education.