Is Secondary Education on Track in India

The Confederation of Indian Industry on 26th February, 2013 organised their annual conference on education, an event at the Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi titled ‘School Education: Is Secondary Education in India on track?’. The keynote address was delivered by Shri Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for Human Resources Development, who made a quick exit rushing to the parliament soon thereafter. He defended the government saying that good work has been done but acknowledged the need for huge improvements that are still required at a large scale.  At the same time he reminded finger pointing members of the private sector that their record is not much different, as the larger number of private schools with profit motives and huge sums charged as fees end up cheating poor people who sacrifice a great deal to save money only to get worse education than in the government sector, thereby making the government the lesser of the two evils.

While private sector members shared some examples of good efforts being made the general despondency and the inability of educators in attendance to be able to find effective answers to large scale problems was quite evident.

The event of course comprised four sessions during the course of the day focusing on a) Need for NGOs in the education sector, b) Towards preparation of Teacher Educators, c) Embedding ethics and values and d) Relevance of vocational education in schools.

Each of the sessions gave an impression of an unending wish list that has almost been unchanged over the past half century if not more. The narrative only changes slightly as we use more recent anecdotes and examples to draw home the ghastly impact of the lack of  quality education is having in our society and on our children. We still seem to never have close to the number of teachers we need, the quality of teachers and teaching in the larger part of the country  is even more dismal, infrastructure remains fractured and hopelessly inadequate, all this while we hide behind euphemisms, erroneous and facile statistics, and the small section of urban schools that represent the view of education the elite seem to hold, which is justified more by the ambiance and facilities they offer than what is reflected in the behaviour of the mass of students who attend these. Yes there are examples of good practice, thoughtfulness, innovation and achievement but it remains obscured by the vastness of vacuousness that fills our daily view.

Between the profiteers and the egotists, there are a few honest faces who seem to be realising the magnitude of the problem and the need to address this in earnest. But their efforts and experiences make them aware of the challenges, the nature of a principled long term commitments this requires and the amount of learning and perspective this demands from even the reform seekers.

We hope to bring you new thoughts and detailed insights into issues related to education going forward and hope that somewhere these views would help people who want to bring about genuine change for the better and not be hijacked into the slogan activism used by those with vested interests.


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