[Loksabha Insights] Learning Beyond Textbooks

Primary education in India has seen remarkable strides since interventions like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Right to Education and Mid-day meal Scheme. However, it has been noticed that quality of education is ignored in all this cases and major emphasis is laid on numbers. This is perhaps because government is better placed to sell numbers at times of elections, rather than improvement in quality. It is claimed that literacy rate has come up to 74% in 2011, from 12% in 1947, but the fact that the term ‘literacy’ just refers to capability of signing or writing one’s own name. Similarly, while it is true that 98% of children have now access to primary education and there is significant drop in dropout rates, yet it should be remembered that due to overstretching of educational setup, quality has seen unprecedented dilution. Single factor of education will decide whether we will reap demographic dividend or we will suffer demographic disaster.


Indian public spending on education is 3% while target and demand is 6%. Most of this 3% is spent on salaries to teachers. Government school teachers get significantly higher, regular and full salary than their rural counterparts. Despite of this there is large scale corrupt practices going on in government schools because of weak oversight mechanisms. It is known that, to appoint proxy unqualified teachers by original government teachers, who are paid by latter small sum of salary given by government, is common practice in many parts of India.

Further, there are large scale vacancies of permanent teachers. State government tend to fill these vacancies by recruiting lesser qualified ‘Para teachers’ or ‘ teacher on contract’, to save cost to state exchequer. These teachers then exert political pressure to be admitted as regular/permanent teacher. This compromises with the quality of the education. These teachers should be employed only at times when there’s shortage of quality teachers.

Further, so far emphasis has been on centralized education, with little regard to regional and cultural differences. Till the primary level, focus should be on inculcation learning habit and curiosity in children. But when student is from very beginning thought is foreign language, which is more demanding, he develops aversion for school. To remedy this there should be certain degree of independence and autonomy with class teacher to decide what to teach and how to teach. We have to move away from textbook based teaching to innovative and creative learning. For this to happen, technologies such as DTH and Smart Classes will have to be adopted.

Supreme Court has said - Literacy has increased, but it has not led to improvement in human values.

Gandhi ji said that - Education is something which gets best out of body, mind and spirit.

Education must be treated by policy makers as public good. It was seen that after LPG reforms, government relied heavily on private sector and stopped expansion of government schools. This created a huge divide between two. Government schools today are marked with shoddy infrastructure. 20% of schools don’t have drinking water facility. 49% of government schools have common toilets. Government schools are accused of providing us students who can barely read and write. It should be noted that in private sector too, only handful of schools provide quality education. There are millions of small scale schools who pay paltry salaries to teachers and are operating just for profits sake. These schools fail to inculcate ability of reasoning and critical thinking.

Schemes and laws like RTE focuses more on quantity of enrolments. It do have provisions like Teacher to student ratio, which should not be more that 1: 30 or 35. It also have provision for a ‘ School management Committee’ in which parents should be members, but in rural India such committees, if any, will obviously be captured by parents of higher classes students. This again results into marginalization of oppressed classed.

Further, RTE depends upon Private schools to fulfill its commitments of universal regulation. But we cant rely on private institutes as they will find some or other way of evading their responsibility. Recently, SC ruled that provision of – 25% seats of ‘unaided private school’ – should go to disadvantaged section of society. (know more)

There should be decentralization in Management of schools. Currently there is red tapism in things like maintenance, repair etc., due to which takes a school takes years before it gets what it needs.

It was noted by ASER survey that some current class 7th students were not able to solve problems of much lower standard. For this to be rectified, we need to move away from, ‘common class based on age’ concept, to ‘individual learning level’ concept. Students should be taught not as per standards determined by majority of the class. Instead they should be taught what they don’t know. There is need to evolve appraisal methods in which children having common weakness and strengths are identified and taught.


2nd ARC had some recommendations relevant for education –

  1. Government provides a variety of services to citizens ranging from social services like
  2. education and health to infrastructural services like power,road, transport and water etc.
  3. The Commission in its Report on “Local Governance” has examined the issue of service

delivery, particularly health and education and has recommended as follows:

  • There is need for a shift in emphasis in the crucial service delivery sectors of education and health from centralized control to decentralized action, from accountability to the State department to accountability to the local communities and from employment guarantee to service guarantee.
  • It is necessary that all schools are made functionally self-sufficient, in as much as basic facilities and classroom requirements are provided in all urban schools within the next two years.
  • The municipalities, especially the larger ones, should seek the help of NGOs, the corporate sector and individual volunteers for assistance in running schools. Indeed, it would be useful to initiate a voluntary service element in our social sector to improve service delivery.
  • The trend in urban areas to shift towards private healthcare needs to be seen as an opportunity by the city authorities to concentrate on public health as distinct from clinical services, and on preventive and not only curative aspects of health care.
  • Institution specific standards should be prescribed for schools and hospitals and third party assessments carried out to monitor performance in service delivery. Performance based incentives should be prescribed at all levels by braking salary ceilings to guarantee service outcomes and linking permanence in service to performance.
  • Recruitment for hospitals and schools should be made to an institution/society, moving away from non-accountable State level recruitment.
  • Local bodies should ensure convergence among health systems, sanitation facilities and drinking water facilities. Primary level public health institutions in urban areas should be managed by the urban local bodies.
  • For all services provided by local governments there is need to develop a set of performance indicators. e concerned Ministry should lay down broad guidelines for this purpose. Therefore, the State Governments could lay down norms for this purpose.
  • The concerned Ministry should maintain a State-wise database about the performance of various service delivery systems. Similarly, the State should have a database for such services covering all municipal bodies.

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