In the recently published ranking of countries based on educational standards by World Economic Forum, India holds the 37th position. Singapore, Switzerland, Finland, Lebanon, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Qatar, etc. constitute the cream countries when it comes to standards of mathematics & scientific education. Let us find out the reasons why India has been left behind even by nations which are much smaller both in population & other resources.
The first reason quoted by the World Economic Forum is a low budgetary allocation for education in India. The countries holding position 1 to 36 spend above 6% of their GDP on education while India spends only 3.3%. Let us delve deeper into the matter. In 2012-13, the amount allocated for education in India was only 3.1% of the GDP. In the 2014-15, it dropped to 2.8%, and in 2015-16, it further decreased to 2.4%. In short, from 2012 to 2018, this percentage has risen only by a meager 0.2%. The amount is nowhere near to the ideal 6%, as spending by countries like Singapore and Switzerland.
Though our policy-makers are aware that education is a critical factor for the economic development of the country, the investment in the sector remains unimpressive. Surveys have also shown that in reality, governments have spent less than even 3% of the GDP on the educational sector and related areas like arts, sports, etc. ‘The Sarva Siksha Abhiyan failed due to lack of quality control in government schools’, says Rohin Kapoor, Director, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP. Though the budget for the programme had been increased by Rs 1000 crore, Kapoor says that the amount was too less to make any significant difference.
The second reason for India’s backward ranking is its uncontrollable population growth. If observed, most of the countries that have ranked higher are nations with small populations. Though human resource is fundamental to the development of a country, sometimes it becomes challenging to encompass it into the circumference of a scheme or policy. Education expert, Srini Bhupalam says that getting a huge population mobilized into the education scenario is an equally huge challenge. Children in remote, rural areas of the country are still far away from even a school. To change the face of rural education in the country, steps need to be ramped up! More workforce & budget are required for the purpose.
Then, the most crucial reason behind the
Indian education sector lagging behind others is the cynicism about scoring sky high marks or grades. In India, high marks are seen as a sign of a higher level of IQ. Be it colleges where school pass-outs want to get admission or companies where a candidate has applied for a job, in India; everyone judges a person’s capabilities based on his or her exam marks. Marks are a temporary benchmark of how much a student has studied, not how much knowledge he or she has gathered from the lessons. Since marks or grades are given very high priority even outside the academic scenario, students go to any extent to fare well during examinations or tests. This explanation takes us to the fourth reason – India’s exam-obsessed educational system.
P Nalperumalsamy, Chairman of Aravind Eye Care Hospitals, Madurai, said in an interview that Indians today lack practical knowledge of any job due to the exam-oriented education system. This educationist and Padmashri holder is convinced that Indian students are not encouraged going deep into any subject. They are pushed only as much as the syllabus requires and rote learning keeps them far away from any type of in-depth research as they are just concerned about how much needs to be studied for exams.
In the last few years, ISC pass percentages have never gone below 95%. But are all of these 95% students faring equally well even after the exams? The answer is no! This phenomenon is because exams are a determinant of only one ideal attribute in a student – memory! Exams and marks are not the best judges of how much knowledge a student has been able to absorb. Education Expert, Dr. Bhupalam too believes that evaluation methods need to be modified to become more scientific.
his discourse brings us to the fifth possible reason behind India’s faulty education system – teaching methodology. Principal, Hyderabad Public School, Dr. Reddy laments that due to this exam-obsession, a teachers’ only concern is to finish the syllabus & a parents’ sole objective is to ensure that their child brings back a report cards with bigger and better numbers. Sadly, this is taking a toll on the quality of education in India. No one is concerned about how things are taught, how much knowledge the students are gaining from the lessons or what life skills they are learning? The defective teaching methodology encourages students to go for rote learning, which in the long-run is bringing down the standard of education. Dr. Bhupalam says that India is sure to fare better in global rankings on education if the methodology changes into a more practical & application-based one.
India as a nation of a ‘billion’ is lagging in the rankings mainly because of low standards of mathematics & science education in the country. Lack of proper infrastructure in schools & colleges is the main reason behind this. Anjali Rajdan, the Principal, P Obul Reddy Public School, says that Indian schools do not have proper infrastructure for laboratories to encourage scientific experimentation.
Lastly, people’s attitude is a big problem for the country’s educational sector. India has been famous as a seat of learning since ancient times. But today, education for Indians is all about a means of earning money. This has an adverse effect on the system! Number one, extracurricular activities are ignored. Secondly, students take up subjects or courses based only on one factor – the kind of job it would fetch them. Which in turn automatically brings down the standard by creating a heterogeneous pattern in the field of education – concentration of students in specific subjects increases beyond capacity.
Apart from improving on the six points mentioned, few things more things need to be incorporated into the radius of Indian educational structure.
The education system needs to be rebuilt based on the development of practical skills. Skills are becoming inherent to the running of every business, every enterprise or every economy. Thus rote-learning and bookish knowledge will not work for too long. The Indian policy makers & students should realize this before it’s too late.
Leaving grades and marks behind, the policymakers should plan to reward originality, creativity, innovative ideas & research. The evaluation system should incorporate these aspects.
Even today, education in India is not digitalized. Along with improving technical infrastructure Indian schools and colleges require a digital facelift. To make this happen, public-private partnerships or even allowing private capital in the system may be considered.
Steps should be taken to eliminate mediocrity from the system entirely – students should not be allowed to take up certain subjects if they are not suitable. Private players admit students into streams like engineering, medicine or MBA in spite of the latter faring poorly in entrance tests; this is done in lieu of donations and other scruples. The activities of these institutions are to be checked. Reservations may also be considered responsible for mediocrity in the system.
One size would not fit all – this rule applies in case of education too. This is particularly applicable in case of primary & secondary school education. Different kids learn differently. Thus the age-old teaching techniques have to be done away with. Teaching methodology needs to be re-framed & syllabus needs to be changed incorporating the needs of each child.
Selection of teachers is crucial for the education sector. The teacher is the captain of the ship. Thus those who want to take up the profession due to the lack of risk in it or the excellent pay-package should not be encouraged. Instead, those who see teaching as a vocation should be selected.
The Indian education system is one of the largest in the world that incorporates millions of children & youth. It should develop the ability to churn out high-quality human resource for the world, as well as for its own Indian economy. It’s high time we overhaul the system seriously and change our attitude towards it. Only in this way, would we see it at the top.