Nelson Mandela once quoted “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.”
After all, children are precious and the hope of our future.
What is the current state of child education in India, and what challenges must be overcome?
International law defines “child” as any individual who is under the age of 18, i.e. (0-18). Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, defines “child” means any person below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, the majority is attained earlier. Therefore, International Law gives the status of the child to persons who are below eighteen years of age.
Comprising more than 1.5 million schools, 8.5 million teachers and 250 million children the Indian Education System forms one of the largest in the world.
The government has come up with several schemes like – ‘Samagra Shiksha’ and ‘Strengthening for Providing Quality Education in Madrassas’ (SPQEM), to ensure that underprivileged children get complete quality education.
However, according to a report by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), around 32 million Indian children, up to the age of 13 years have never been to school, of which a majority belongs to a socially backward group.
Importance of Education in Addressing Poverty and Illiteracy
Our constitution under the Right to Education guarantees free and quality education to all children aged between 6 and 14. This includes incentives like Mid-Day meals, scholarships and even reservations in private schools to encourage maximum enrollment of students from underprivileged backgrounds.
Studies have further shown that only a little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade one reach grade eight, and those who do not attend school belong from age of 6-14. Majorly, 53% of girls from the age group of 5-9 years are illiterate.
As per the findings from a survey, ‘education’ is a social infrastructure which is just as important as physical infrastructure and not only for sustaining high growth but also for enhancing the overall welfare. Hence, one of the root causes of poverty often lies deep in illiteracy.
The statistics over the years have shown us that –
- The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate of 89.8%
- Whereas, the state of Bihar has the lowest literacy rate at 38.5%
- And, the district in Kottayam, Kerala has the highest literacy rate of 89.8%
- While, the district in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh has the lowest literacy rate at 19.0%
- Less than half of the total population of children of the country i.e. those between the age of 6-14 go to school properly.
- Only 53% of the population of the country receives primary schooling.
- Only 20% of the total habitation has secondary schooling.
- On average an upper primary school is near about 3 km away in 22% of areas under habitation.
- In nearly 60% of schools, there are fewer than two teachers to teach than allotted.
Challenges and Progress in Achieving Quality Education in India
Education has been included as one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Quality education forms the foundation of sustainable development as a force multiplier to enable self-reliance, boost economic growth and enhance skills and improve people’s lives by opening up chances for better livelihood opportunities.
The Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 became a landmark legal provision for children in the age group of 6-14 years and as a result of such policies and programmes, the number of school dropouts in the age group reduced from 13.46 million in 2006 to 6.1 million in 2014, i.e. 2.97 % of the total 204 million children, a significant gain compared to 2009 (4.28%) and 2006 (6.94%).
Despite the progress made in the last few decades, a few challenges still persist. A National Sample Survey (NSS) 75th Round Household Survey 2017-2018, revealed that around 30.2 million children between 6-17 years are out of school, 31% of whom have never been to any educational institution (NSO, 2019).
As per the observations made by the National Achievement Survey (2017), improved enrollment is necessary but insufficient for progress, however, nearly 100% enrollment has been achieved, and it becomes essential to bring learning outcomes in line with the expectations of all stakeholders.
The enhanced learning outcome as a form of improving competencies and skills ensures sustainable quality education. However, even after several efforts schools aren’t able to produce the expected results across the country. As per new data that even after five years of schooling, only about half of the country’s children attain and receive appropriate reading or arithmetic skills expected after two or three years of learning.
And besides this, 50% of adolescents don’t complete their secondary education.
Factors influencing learning outcomes among children –
There exists a positive relationship between regular attendance and learning outcomes. The challenges that present themselves are multi-faceted, such as extrinsic and intrinsic factors.
Extrinsic factors like the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) programme becomes an important reason to ensure an increase in enrolment and attendance driving the number of children to school. In addition to this, the lack of other infrastructure factors like access to schools, lack of/absence of sanitation facilities, safe drinking water, playgrounds, insufficient and under-equipped classrooms and teaching aids, etc forms a solid reason to justify the high dropout rates and poor learning outcomes.
Other than these factors, a number of intrinsic factors such as socio-economic context and literacy level of parents, social and religious beliefs of the community and the ease of access to education form roadblocks to the quality and continuity of education.
These same factors become a blockage preventing girls from being educated beyond a particular age or receiving education at all.
Research has shown that enhanced school infrastructure is essential and has led to achieving higher school enrollment, low dropout rates, and higher learning outcomes as it improves and encourages both students and teachers.
Focus on Imparting Quality Education to Children
We have established a CBSE School, The Global School of Excellence and run Mohalla schools to bridge this gap in education by reaching out to those who need it to become a sound and key part of the society ‘tomorrow’. We firmly believe that each child should be given and have the opportunity to be introduced to the essence of education.
We initiated and still continue to observe religiously events such as “Book Distribution Event”, “Sports Programme”, “Pratibha Samman Programme”, “Self & General Awareness Event”, “Celebrations and funfair visits with Divyang Children”, “Parent Orientation Programme”, “Educational Tour”, and “E-Tablet Distribution” to promote and encourage the need of education among the students.
In these events, we lay subtly yet strongly create an impact to emphasise how education can bring a positive change in our society. Events like “Book Distribution”, “Sports Programme”, “Pratibha Samman” and “Self & General Awareness” appreciate the pursuit of knowledge and the spirit of harmony, cooperativeness, and teamwork of the young souls.
Whereas, with events like “Educational Tour” and “E-tablet Distribution” we tried to keep the students and teachers going after seeking the flame of knowledge to help sculpt their minds and personalities by never stopping learning.
We are fairly and precisely focused on the need of imparting quality education to children, as our objective is to create a healthy and educationally wealthy environment for the young brains by imparting education to nurture and transform them into wholesome individuals for shaping a promising tomorrow.
The covid pandemic exacerbated this problem as the closure of schools forced several millions of students to be at home – detached from every means of education. However the post-covid situation addressed this issue and it has become a key to increasing the quality of education in India, offering and enabling every child with an equal chance for success in the continuity of education. The approaches have enabled us to address the existing gaps while enabling more children to access quality education in India while changing the lives, of all.
Also Read: SENSED’s contribution toward child education