“What is really needed for the democracy to function is not knowledge of facts, but the right education” – Mahatma Gandhi
The education for all movement was started by UNESCO (Dakar, 2000). It is a global movement to address and provide for educational needs of children, youth and adults.
It started after the Dakar conference which was held between 9th and 12th July 1987. It was first launched in 1990 with an aim to bring “benefits of education to every citizen in every society” with the help of national governments, civil societies and development agencies like World Bank and UNESCO. They had six specific education goals to be achieved by 2005 and 2015.
In India, this started as a means to provide free and compulsory education to all belonging to the age group 6-14 years old by 2010. Education for all is guaranteed and protected constitutionally and by law through the Right to Education Act of 2009 under Article 21 of the constitution, thus making right to education a fundamental right as per the Supreme Court decision in 1993.
The government of India recognises the need for primary education to help people acquire quality education and therefore has set up various government schools that are looked after by the local authorities; other than these there were five different schools set up namely Kendriya Vidyalaya, Navodaya Vidyalaya, Sainik schools, Tibetan schools and Railway schools each of them serving different purposes.
Government also launched various schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan whose overall goals included – children in school, reducing gender and social gap in terms of access to education, quality elementary education and universal retention. Other initiatives by the government include schemes like Operation Blackboard, Non formal education schemes, Teacher education, Mahila Samakhya etc.
It also came up with District primary education program, launched in 1994, that aimed at bridging the gaps and improving education in the most inaccessible areas or in areas with lowest female literacy rate and to improve the quality of primary education.
Operation Blackboard scheme was launched by the central government to provide basic institutional and structural aid to government schools that were necessary for teaching.
The National Literacy Movement was launched in 1988 to help educational benefits reach adults too. During the period 1988 to 2008, 127.45 million persons were made literate through NLM interventions. The NLM was recast in 2009 and its new variant the Saakshar Bharat (Literate India) Mission was launched in September 2009 with a renewed focus on female literacy.
The Mission seeks to impart functional literacy to 70 million adults (60 million females) in the age group of 15 years and above.
The government, as a part of food and nutritional security as well as to reduce absenteeism from primary schools, launched the mid-day meal program.
This program served children of primary government schools basic meal (as per the nutritional quantity needed) for the day so that their basic nutritional requirements are fulfilled and would lead to reduction in absenteeism, full stomachs which would increase retention and fall in dropout rates along with achieving food and nutritional security for these students. Despite these strong initiatives by the government education is still inaccessible by many.
Accessibility and Affordability of education
Education is still a far fetched dream for many, especially for the ones living in poverty, in tribal areas or those who are unaware. Accessibility and affordability of education is a rising issue in a democratic country like India. The government only contributes 2.7 percent of the GDP towards education.
The plight of tribal education is unheard by the state, thanks to some NGO’s working towards to this greater social cause. The tribal literacy rate stands only 59 percent as opposed to the country wide literacy rate of 74 percent. Tribal have been deprived economically, socially and as humans throughout history.
They haven’t had access to good roads, basic amenities, electricity, basic food, land and other necessities required for adequate growth and social upliftment. Government in order to help them has provided 1470 hostels only for ST students.
It has rolled out various educational schemes like establishment of ashrams for girls and boys separately; Post matric scholarships for financial assistance, Eklavya model residence schools to provide medium and high quality education to ST students.
But all of these have certain institutional problems, like they aren’t handled well by the state government authorities, at times the state institutions do not want to bear the financial responsibility of the students or some have poor infrastructure, low quality teaching staff or low maintenance.
Other problems for tribal education include – language barriers, affordability (because of corruption at many places), poor student and teacher relations, distance from home to schools, and basic structural amenities required for schooling are absent which include books, notebooks.
Another issue that makes education a myth for many people is the poor quality of infrastructure. There are still about 16.3 percent (primary) and 4.8 percent (upper primary) schools that still do not have basic drinking facility as per 2004-05 and 2005-06. There are 51 percent of primary schools (2004-05) that lack basic toilet facilities.
Schools in village areas are still prone to caste, class and gender discrimination. Students of fifth or sixth grade have to clean latrines or dry latrines because they belong to a particular lower caste or community, they are made to sit in different lines, and they are not allowed to drink water from the same glass and so on.
This discrimination makes it difficult for them to get quality education, to concentrate and thus increases rates of drop outs and absenteeism from schools.
Another reason why education is restricted is the availability of medicines to treat illness like ring worm, cholera etc that are quite frequent in rural or urban poor areas. They have no definite and quality medicinal access and try to quit education to avoid the “additional expenses”.
Education to females has been affected by a number of reasons numero uno being orthodox myths and beliefs. In some areas small girls often help their mothers when they are out for work on field or to collect water. They are often restricted by family rituals and beliefs that pull them back or drop out of schools after a certain standard.
Some are married off early, while some families fear that if girls go out they will come under bad influence or will be not be treated well by the society so they are restricted to their own houses. Some areas where girls are allowed schooling do not have basic toilet or drinking facilities.
Unavailability of basic latrines makes it difficult for girls to attend schools during those days of the month due to unhygienic conditions. It also paves way for other diseases and infections.
While accessibility and myths are an issue, affordability of education is a huge problem for many. Many families can’t afford quality education in private schools because they demand huge donations, large fees or some high level aptitude tests for which rural or students from poor background aren’t ready.
These families cannot afford private education and have to choose government schools that lack infrastructure, sanitation, quality of teachers and quality of study material. Some government schools don’t even have adequate facilities like good benches, blackboards or even buildings.
About 51 percent of the primary schools (2005-06) lack boundary walls and around 3 percent of the primary schools lack adequate school buildings.
Apart from these factors, distance from school also increases dropouts or absenteeism. Children who have to travel a lot without proper food or medicines fall sick often which leads them to discontinue. It tends to increase their overall cost of schooling. For girls, travelling this long is neither an option nor a choice of their family members.
At times, vernacular language holds children back in most of the English medium schools. They are humiliated, considered of low rank which deteriorates their self esteem and confidence and eventually diverts them from learning.
Education for all is still a dream in India that dwells in poverty, in the rural parts, in the tribal areas and the ones belonging to a particular community. It has to do more with goals like zero hunger, accessibility to all and affordable by all, not alone literacy levels but quality education that is given equally to all.
Another aspect to education is the difference of schooling between private and government schools and the difference through boards i.e. the state, central and international boards. It is not enjoyed equally by all; the textbook matter differs board wise which produces difference in skill sets and knowledge of an individual.
Though online training’s and apps like SWAYAM (an government initiative) along with initiatives by foundations like Teach for India bridge this gap and are trying to provide quality education free of cost or with a minimal charge. Yet the basic schooling like poems, difficulty level in subjects like mathematics and science create a problem when it all comes down to results of 10th and 12th boards.
As far as hostel facilities are concerned to be a solution of travelling cost and distance, they are not looked after well by the government. Some lack basic amenities, infrastructure while some do not have good quality food essential for an individuals’ growth.
Education for all still remains a dream in these areas. It isn’t a myth completely as government has, at each time, taken adequate steps to ensure every child is educated and is provided with the bare minimum necessities for schooling. It has through various programs tried to reduce the number of dropouts and increased the Net enrolment rate to almost 73 percent in 2011.
It has reached to the most inaccessible areas to provide education. Through schemes and training programs for teachers there has been a decrease in cases of discrimination. Along with Swachh Bharat Abhiyan clean latrines and availability of the same isn’t a dream anymore.
Yet, there are institutional and delivery failures that need to be addressed immediately so that it doesn’t remain a myth anymore. Government should develop measures to bring about equality in quality of the knowledge provided by each board yet try to keep the diversity it gives students.
Public schools should be externally funded too so that they are maintained and families do not hesitate to send their children to government schools. There should be awareness of policies and schemes in the tribal and rural areas of India, to be undertaken by the educational officer of each district and other fellow volunteers.
The goal of quality education has to be realised with the goal of zero hunger, by ameliorating the system of mid-day meal schemes and nutritional security.
Education is a myth for the unaware, it is the delivery of quality education that has to be turned into reality along with good infrastructure and institutional facilities made available to each and every child – male or female; only then can India achieve its goal of quality education.