By Vijay Darda | 15-02-2016
A fact sheet accompanying this article quantifies the challenge of educating the millions of our youth and preparing them to grab the opportunities that lie ahead of them. But the numbers tell us only one side of the story. There is the other missing qualitative dimension that is experienced only through different avenues. It is felt in everyday lives by parents, grandparents, teachers and employers. Their children and wards are chasing their own goals almost blissfully unaware that the essence of education is simply vanishing from their lives.
However, the problem is not that the cultural vitality for which I am nostalgic is missing from this gigantic structure. But the larger tragedy is that the present system of education aimed at creating a work force of young people is not even fulfilling that objective. For instance, engineering education is perhaps one of the most sought after courses as it is supposed to offer a passport to a bright professional career. However, what is the reality?
Let us not be guided by the high profile Indian Institutes of Technology, the depressing fact is that the third edition of the National Employability Report, Engineering Graduates – 2014, released by a private employability solutions company, reveals that only 18.33% of the engineers are employable.. The other details are equally shocking- 97% of engineering graduates in the country cannot speak English required for jobs in corporate sales or business consulting and around 61% engineers possess grammar skills no better than a Class 7 student and only 7.1% engineers can speak English fluently.
Now this situation obtains when we all know that every child in the country aspires to have English medium education. The survey also showed that while Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore do the best in speaking in English, engineering students in Hyderabad and Chennai need maximum improvement. Now it is obvious that an economy with such a large share of unemployable qualified candidates is not only inefficient, but also socially dangerous as this gap between the aspirations of graduating engineers and their job readiness creates largescale dissatisfaction. Besides, if this is the crisis of the students emerging out of a premium education branch like engineering, then we can easily imagine the situation that must be prevalent about ordinary graduates like –arts, commerce and science.
So, is it surprising that there are lakhs of applicants for hundreds of Class IV jobs with doctoral, post-graduate and graduate qualifications? We must accept that for all our desire to establish a one to one correspondence between education and employment, we are still miles away from achieving that goal. It will be a bold mind who would claim that all the ills of our education system have an easy solution. The process of finding the way out of this slide would of necessity be tedious, time taking and demanding. It would not just require monetary resources, but even man power planning and foresight in terms of dove-tailing the contradictory demands in to an easy to adapt education format. Even without getting into the issues of corruption and distortion that have enveloped the education structure along with crass commercialisation and exploitation of the demand supply situation, we have to appreciate that some of the basics that have to be re-inducted in our education system pertain to language and developing the basics instead of focusing on maximising the scores at the examinations.
Our children must have their basic education in their mother tongue, as this is not just a language issue. Education in the mother tongue is a composite whole that imparts a full value system that enables the child to become a rounded individual rooted in the collective heritage to which he/she genetically belongs. Having accepted the linguistic basis for states reorganisation, it is also imperative that students know the language of their state. So, both the state language and the national language must be compulsorily taught till Class XII and proficiency judged by passing the state board, CBSE or the ICSE examination as the case may be. Moreover, the emphasis on engineering education while healthy is also misplaced, in the sense that experts in education have always stressed that the best minds in the society must be groomed in pure sciences instead of spending their time on campus of technical colleges.
The other most important element of improvement that needs attention is the pupil teacher ratio (PTR) in our schools. We have a very dichotomous situation. In urban areas most of the premium schools which even have air conditioned class rooms, the (PTR) is above 70. When the best practices demand that this ratio should be between ten and 20. But in the rural and tribal areas, there are hardly ten or 20 students for schools that are essentially manned by one or two teachers. Now in both the cases the quality of education suffers badly, and we do not seem anywhere near a solution for both the dimensions of this crisis.
We have a near obsession with cricket, but almost complete disinterest in developing the physical and sporting skills of our students. Playgrounds are becoming scarce, and there is hardly any national commitment towards excellence in the games. Little wonder our performance at the Olympic games is more of an embarrassment, than a cause of celebration. This should change and the students must compulsorily spend four periods every week at some or the other game. Schools must be mandared to make the necessary investment in sports infrastructure.
The debate about the GDP- to education spend ratio is perhaps as old as any controversy, and we have achieved pretty little in this direction. For all our claims about being the world’s fastest growing economy, and even about the inclusiveness of growth, we cannot forget that we stand at 143rd (2014) in terms of education spend as share of GDP. Now the legitimate question is whether we can really improve our education system with any element of seriousness if we keep spending such low amounts more so when countries with which we are competing in the global market like America and China have much bigger GDPs in dollar terms, and their share of spending is almost twice as ours.
This is an area where words alone shall not have any meaning. We need an agenda for action that is beyond politics as usual. The agenda has to have a national perspective that blends with the local and also prepares the children to be well rounded global citizens. Technology has to play its part along with tradition in checking the slide that right now seems irreversible.
Before I conclude…
As a part of a parliamentary delegation we are spending some time in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This perhaps is the only melting pot where caste, language and religion get dissipated in real human identities. The link language in Hindi whereas you can find people speaking Bengali and Tamil. It is not just an exotic tourist hub with charming beaches and pristine islands and places of historic interest like Cellular Jail where the freedom fighter Veer Savarkar had been incarcerated. The other attractions are — Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Andaman Water sports complex, Chatham Saw Mill, Mini Zoo, Corbyn’s Cove, Chidiya Tapu, Wandoor Beach, Forest Museum, Anthropological Museum.
A fact sheet
Indian Higher Education – Statistics
Literacy Rates* (%): Male – 82.14, Female – 65.46,
Both – 74.04 (Source: Census of India, 2011)
Total Education Enrolments
School Education: Primary School (I to V)
127.9 Million, Middle School (VI to VIII) 56.4 Million
Secondary School (IX to X) 28.6 Million,
Higher Secondary (XI to XII) 16.2 Million
Tertiary Education Undergraduate and graduate enrolments 16.97 Million
(Source: 8th All India School Education Survey, UGC Annual Report 2010-11)
Universities and Colleges
Universities in India – 573 Total Colleges – 33, 023
(Source: UGC Annual Report 2010-11; Prof. Ved Prakash, “Inclusive and qualitative expansion of higher education in India – 12th Five Year Plan 2012-2017” University Grants Commission 2010-2011)
Enrolment by Gender Higher Education
Male – 99.26 Million, Female – 70.49 Million,
Total – 169.75 Million
Enrolment by Stages – Higher Education
Undergraduate – 86.11%, Postgraduate – 12.07%, Diploma/ Certificate – 1.01%,Research – 0.81%
(Source: UGC Annual Report 2010-11)