Most Indian children of school-going age can’t really read. If they do read, it is likely they don’t understand what they are reading. On paper, most of them are in school. In reality, it’s a little hard to tell. Only a third of the children who start school, actually finish school. Most people believe that learning English is a passport to a better life, but teachers aren’t equipped enough to teach the language.
A law guarantees children the right to a free education, but when families earn a little more than they need to get by, they spend the surplus on private school fees. Every year, newspapers are filled with stories of children who get 100% in their board exams, but the majority gets less than less 50%. The list can go on.
Since the 1970s governments – central and state – have acknowledged there is a problem. Every generation of administrators and educationists since, has attempted to reform school education with new policies and new laws. Activists and NGOs, supported by governments, have driven experimentation in all aspects of school education. Yet, every year for the last 10 years nation-wide surveys have confirmed that most schoolchildren do not acquire the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, that are stepping stones to an education.
We are again in the midst of policy change, possible changes to laws, experimentation driven by NGOs and new technologies, and a shift from public to private, all in the expectation that children will have a better shot at an education.
Over the next six months Anjali Mody will report from different regions across the country to try and build a picture of what really goes on in our schools – public and private – to understand what is working and what is not and why.
The first state we report from is Haryana. Read the first article here.