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Prabhu is a doctoral student (in history) at Vanderbilt University and  also the International Affairs & Security Editor at the Centre Right blog. It has become about giving more people the same poor education than actually reforming India’s decrepit education system to produce able citizens; worse, the government is hijacking private infrastructure to do so.
Lest this be blamed on insufficient funds, let it be known that despite being a Third World country, India is no longer short of money – the education budget has witnessed a rapid climb from Rs.
This wasting away of India’s most valuable resource – its children – does not stop with merely the loss of future pecuniary benefits to the children themselves, but undercuts national growth (not just financial) in the long run.
Obviously, India needs a massive overhaul in not just education, but also the philosophy of education. By distracting the populace with talk of minorities and reservations, the government is only admitting that it is incapable of the, admittedly, Herculean task. I am not having the severe, chronic problem of not looking at the problems of my nation, myself. First, thanks to Vishy for highlighting my post and getting more people to think on this issue. Second, I vehemently disagree with Nisha Ambika’s response, not for its content (we can agree to disagree) but for its framework. Apart from that, I would simply say that my perspective of looking at things is that change is happening.
Being inside the education system, working to improve it, I find that many of educationists do voice what they think.
Please download the latest version of the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, or Windows Internet Explorer browser. Glad I clicked on it because the linked article (by Jaideep Prabhu) made for a very interesting read.
He sees little good in the (probably) well-intentioned but train wreck of legislation that is RTE. Despite constant reminders from industry about the poor quality of students and shameful results of international evaluations (such as PISA), there is little that the Government is doing to actually improve education in India. Universities have become credentialing offices and are seen only in a utilitarian perspective. The United Progressive Alliance has abdicated all responsibility for governing, while the primary opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is absconding.
But those very evaluations are being increasingly questioned because they measure children from different ethnic backgrounds on the same criteria. I see my nation’s reality extremely well, but I would not use such strong words to describe it.
The RTE does not mention methods of evaluation (nor should it) – the IB is not legislated and yet it serves quite well. PISA – for the level at which it was conducted, I do not think we can bring cultural difference into the equation. I didn’t think I was being harsh, but if I sounded that way, it was because of the magnitude of the crisis.



None of these can be genuinely taken up with a closed mind, an attitude that doesn’t question the status quo. The RTE has caused bitter opposition across the country which it would not have had the Rs. UPA has been incompetent, BJP has been impotent, parents have been apathetic (beyond percentages scored). If India’s GDP were what it was in 1990 and 6% was allocated, would that have been enough? I do find it amusing to see how Indians like to nowadays hide behind an exaggerated East vs. Amika makes – those points have also been conveyed to me by folks who are more involved in the education policy world than I am, and they seem sensible and valid. Assuming that India is littered with schools which have drinking water, toilets, and dedicated teachers (a VERY big assumption), the adulation of rote learning and percentage points is still a huge problem. That may be a wrong reading of your comments, but that is what I meant when I said we disagree structurally more than on content. To paraphrase Thomas Browne, no man should approach the temple of knowledge with the soul of a money changer.
1.78 lakh crores been sanctioned to raise teacher pay, raise teacher standards, provide better facilities, and create a functional curriculum (by way of example, I’d suggest something similar to the International Baccalaureate).
I don’t completely object to (c) because we are, after all, talking about government schools.
My post, Paideia, discusses those issues in a round about way – the notion of vocational schools, fundamental inequality of ability, and commodity fetishism of a certain type of education. There is that discomfort, that disturbance that I see in teachers, parents and headmasters alike because of these demands.
Let me explain why I have less faith in the state – you say that teachers in the KVs, private schools are talking about quality. 1.78 lakh crores (though there are “assurances” that the cost will decrease by 66% within five years). And yet, with legislation like the RTE, the government is ensuring that more people get poor and incomplete education, most probably at the cost of deteriorating quality for everyone. If even 10% of India’s children can learn to think critically, there is great hope for this mutt of a country. Why have international curriculum when each country have their own curriculum, suited to their needs.
A national rethink is required – what educationists said in their emails to me after this article was posted needs air space.
However, prescription of curriculum should not be in state hands beyond the broadest framework.
Anyway, to be brief, the utilitarian approach (I agree there are good reasons for it, which only compounds the problem) is a recipe for disaster. Talk to government school teachers and they will talk how they are not clear about Continuous comprehensive evaluation.


However, the moment I posted the article, I received five emails and a couple of twitter contacts which basically said what you are saying – that serious educationists are indeed thinking along these lines.
But how much power do they have to change the syllabus of the class they teach (assuming they are qualified)?
Piggybacking on private infrastructure as the RTE does is only a few steps away from the nationalisation enacted by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s which brought the country to its knees. The kind of nation that India is, the values that are upheld in Indian Constitution, should be the basis of Indian Education Curriculum, rather than aping mindlessly and perhaps making us devoid of our ethnic background, other countries curriculum. The difficulty is that between media and politicians, educationists are not exactly the most vocal group in the fray. I went to a very good public school (in the British boarding sense) in India, and we had good teachers there. A state which promised that it will allot 6% of its GDP to education and which till recent times was able to give only 3% of its GDP.
The nation’s children should be equipped to adapt to and live in different life situations and face its challenges, rather than learning skills and concepts that are not even applicable in their own lives.
Now, whether they read Enid Blyton or RK Lakshman is not of concern here as long as they can read at a certain level! However, I doubt even the principal there could have decided to teach us C instead of BASIC in Computer Science class. I am not saying that PISA findings do not indicate anything, they certainly do, and they inform me that all is not well with our education process, but do we need an international evaluation to tell us that.
The power lies in the hands of idiot administrators when it should be with the teachers and educationists who understand the problem. Before the RTE many children were kept out of the educational process because of their caste, class backgrounds, now they can demand justice and their right.
We are way behind what needs to be allotted and rightfully given to the education of the nations’ children. Discrimination to them was done by teachers, headmasters, now they at least have a voice. If I had to have objections against the RTE, I would have the following main three objections. Not just the teachers, but the local politicians, the Panchayat, upper castes and classes, play huge games of power in schools. If one reads the right document carefully, we can see that it certainly has many many loopholes but it also has good points such as describing and laying down what is meant by quality education, what should be the method of assessment. It is placing huge demands on an age old system, which now has no other option other than to change to meet those demands.



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