Education in India has improved dramatically over the last three decades. Schools have become accessible to most children; both student enrollment and attendance are at the highest level.
The RTE Act guarantees a quality education to a wider range of students than ever before. However, challenges in teaching and learning outcomes across all regional, cultural and socioeconomic subsets prevent us from harnessing the true potential of vast human resource and keep the country educationally backward.
One of the biggest concerns is to make the present generation learners future-ready. India is relatively young as a nation with around 28 million youth population being added every year. In 2020, the average age of an Indian is expected to be 29 years, while it will be 37 for China and 48 for Japan.
However, India’s high youth population won’t be of help to the economy if universal education is not achieved all over India.
Improving education is a critical area of investment and can be a game changer to achieve sustained economic growth by tap into its young workforce. The weak foundation in primary education derails the lives, careers, and productivity of millions of our citizens. With 65 per cent of the population residing in rural India, education in rural belt truly deserves much more attention.
Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) shows that even though the number of rural students attending schools is rising, but more than half of the students in fifth grade are unable to read a second grade text book and are not able to solve simple mathematical problems. Not only this, the level of math and reading is further declining.
Some of the major problems that plague the rural education system in India are related to both quality and access of teaching learning facilities and basic infrastructure. While dearth of teachers, teacher absenteeism and poor quality of teaching are directly affecting the learning outcomes, poor and inadequate infrastructural facilities in terms of classrooms and benches, blackboards, playgrounds, toilets, water, etc, also hamper the delivery of quality education and make the school unattractive to a child.
The foundation to turn India into a strong nation has to be laid down at primary and rural levels and so the quality of education right from the beginning should be excellent. A complete reform in education system is required which should start from policies which promote talent in teaching system. Teachers are the backbone of education.
All efforts should be made to hire the best teachers, keep them engaged and motivated, reduce their absenteeism by making them more accountable and provide regular in-service training and capacity building to upgrade their skills.
To improve the student’s attendance in the schools, especially in villages, the school curriculum should involve extracurricular activities and fun-learning exercises. Education and text books should be made interesting. Textbooks related to their culture, their traditions and values should also be there so as to create their interest in studies.
The reasons behind so many drop-outs in spite of free education should be found out as this is a hurdle on the road to progress.
Sensitizing parents to make them understand the importance of education would certainly be helpful. This can be done through skits, street plays and holding meetings with the parents on a quarterly basis to make a student excel in his life. Emphasis should be given to educating a girl.
Though girl education has improved in our country a lot has to be done in this sector.
In this digital era when technology is touching every aspect of society and changing it dramatically, rural education can also greatly benefit from appropriate use of technology. Smart Classrooms which facilitate online teaching create extended classrooms for interactions and discussions. An expanded option is to record classroom courses in a real time and use it for teaching the students who cannot attend the classes. Rural education needs e-learning technologies. Apart from this, audio and video conferencing should be made part of the education system in rural India.
Teachers at the schools are not well equipped with the gadgets. So teachers should be given printers, laptops, for giving notes and notices to the students. By using technology the problem of unqualified teachers can also be solved. Dropout rates have reduced to a great extent wherever digital and computer-aided education has been introduced in rural schools.
Several initiatives in public private partnerships are playing significant role in making rural India tech savvy and in providing better education. These efforts have given positive results. We have to take proper remedial measures with a sense of urgency and create better learning environments for rural children so that they are able to participate in nation building process and reap the full potential of our demographic divided.