Education in India

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” [2] – Malcolm Forbes (1919 – 1990), in Forbes Magazine
Simply put, there is no real good life without education. Since you are reading this blog, I am pretty sure you are literate and have probably undergone reasonably good education in your life. Answer yourself one question: What would you have done now (for living) if you were not educated? Its worth asking ourselves this question, though lot of times we don’t realize the things we benefited because of being an educated. Don’t you feel lucky that you are well educated and thus reasonably well settled in life?
Why is education important for an individual?
Self-sustainability: An educated person doesn’t depend on any other person for what s/he needs. Whereas, an uneducated person has to either depend on another person or will have to work unnecessarily harder to meet his/her basic needs.
Respectful Life: In general, an educated person lives more respectful life than an uneducated. This is a subtle statement, I hope this is understood in the right way. I am not talking about self-respect. Self-respect is not necessarily a product of education, but respectful life is a direct product of education.
Not just live but prosper: Education not only lets you live a real life, but opens avenues to prosper in life. As an educated person, you have the knowledge to innovate, the ability to become rich, the dare to dream and make that dream come true. Moreover, an educated person finds ways to develop not only the self but also develop others, much easier than an uneducated person.
Complements intelligence: I am a big believer that intelligence does not have dependency on education. I mean you may be intelligent though you are not educated, but that intelligence does not necessarily get used (to a full extent) if you are not educated. And having good education helps you earn a better life even if you are not intelligent. And we all know what intelligence can bring to mankind.
Exceptions: Its true that Sachin Tendulkar was a school dropout but went on to become the world’s best cricketer and Dhirubai Ambani is an illiterate but went on to become India’s one of richest. Though these personalities are inspirational to us, understand that these are examples of exceptions but should no way be thought as true indication of rules of life. A rule of life is education makes a human being complete.

Why is education important for a country?
Educated people automatically take their country forward in EVERY aspect of life. That is just a natural happening. Following is how education leads to country’s development:

Education —> Better Employment/Business —> Better Earnings —> Better Spending —> Economy grows —> Country develops

Lets look at Problems and their Root Causes in India.

Basically, good or bad comes from two sources: Education and Thought Process. These two can be sometimes interrelated and sometimes independent.


What is India’s literacy status?
India’s literacy rate is 74% standing at 134rd rank from top and 34th rank from bottom[1]. Lets look at some other countries:

Developed countries:
USA is 99%+
UK is 99%+
France is 99%+

Developing countries (BRICS):
China is 96%
Brazil is 90%
India is 74%
Russia is 99%
South Africa is 88%

Less than developing:
Indonesia is 92%
Mexico is 92.8%

Much lesser developed:
Zimbabwe is 91.2%
Libya is 86.8%
Iran is 83.3%
Republic of Congo is 81.1%

If you look at the above country sample, you must now understand that all developed and developing countries are more educated than India. Important to note is that lot of much lesser developing countries than India like Zimbabwe, Libya, etc have much superior education than India. No offense to the other countries (they have their problems), but how is this respectful for India? I mean Republic Of Congo having better literacy than India?

Can you believe the biggest democracy in the world holding such pitiable rank in world literacy (again, 134rd rank from top and 34th rank from bottom[1])? And the real number could be significantly lower than 74% given what we know about government’s track record of revealing the actual numbers. Ironically, India is supposedly one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Accepted. But, one should realize that no country can have sustained growth without basic education. India is no exception. There are rumors that India may become the world super power overtaking countries like China and US in few decades. In addition to illiteracy, for India, there are other problems like corruption, lack of infrastructure, overhead of political bureaucracy, ‘chalta’ mentality, etc that make it difficult to attain the World Power status. But I again want to stress that without solving the problem of illiteracy India can’t come even close to being there even if other problems in the country are solved. In fact, good education helps solve those other problems and take India forward. Because good education produces sensible citizens who will be more capable of taking the country forward.

Can reverse the negative effect of high population
We know that high population is a problem for India and is one of the reasons contributing to hindering of country’s development. But imagine high population of more educated people Vs more uneducated people. There are more chances that high population of educated, and thus sensible and able, people will in fact help the country better than low population of educated people. High population can thus be a bless in disguise with good education.

Talking about population/demographics, 50% of the Indian population are 0-25yrs, 65% are <35 years of age[5][6]. Very few countries has this demographic advantage. We know what affect young people can have on a society. They have the ability to powerfully shape a society – can be positive or negative. We already witnessed a positive affect of Indian young population – software boom in India. India is the preferred venue for software market and most of Indian software market has youth. Imagine if all of that 65% are educated – India can create wonders! Another reason why improved education is necessary for an improved India. Why is education (specifically) important for India? Above we saw why is education important for a country. Summary of why education is specifically important for India: India has 65% population below 35 years of age. Education is essential to empower youth and youth are the best people to empower India and take it forward. High population of educated people is better than small population of education people (reversal of negative effect of high population). India has extreme problems like Child labor and Poverty. According to Indian government, 20 million (out of 180 million) children between 6 to 15 years of age, do not go to school and work as labor. Some private agencies tell 50 million (and some other sources say 100 million) of such children work as labor. If all these children are educated there will be no child labor problem in India. We know how corrupt and inefficient the government, politicians and overall governance in India is. Part of the reason is for the system to be like this is lack of knowledge and thinking power among masses in India and thus the choice and election of wrong politicians running the country. Educated mass can make a better choice of a politician to run their society. Indians are considered to be naturally one of the most intelligent people; it has lot of accomplishments even with so much poverty and illiteracy. If those illiterates become literates (which then helps in decreasing poverty), India can have a chance to go beyond imagination and expectations in terms of development. Reasons for problems in India’s education Government schools in India: We know how pathetic most of the government schools are. Government schools are free in India (yahoo!). That’s great but we all know how pathetic most of the government schools in India are. Very high students to teacher ratio. Lack even most basic facilities, let alone things like innovation, creativity, etc which are like forgotten words. Teachers don’t come to school. Insignificant budget allocated to schools. I personally was told (by a govt school headmaster) that only 5K Rs is allocated to a government school for the schools maintenance. How is this sufficient? I also heard of some government schools not getting any money at all and teachers spend whatever they can/will to get the schools going. Many government schools I visited don’t have compound walls, gate and so parents wouldn’t feel safe to send their kids to school. Many schools don’t have basic amenities like benches, sweepers/cleaners, water, toilets, etc. Poverty: Poverty is actually a cause and affect of poor education in India. Parents of many poor families in India don’t send their children to school thinking that if they send them to some work they will at least make some money and help in family’s income. And the fact that government school in their village is (most probably) bad gives them another reason to not send their kids to school. An average villager is most probably so poor that they anyhow can’t afford to send their kids to private schools. Lack of awareness: Most people in villages don’t realize that education is a necessity and not a luxury. They don’t realize the benefits of getting educated. Most of them think education as a waste of time and resources. Misuse of government resources: We know how corrupt and greedy government and related officials in India can be. And its reasonable to assume education department is not different by much. They try to take advantage of each and every situation to pocket some portion of money that is supposed to go towards public education. There is no commitment from government to improve education. No pressure to do good to the very public who elected them. If the government utilizes the money, allocated to education, well then donations from people/organizations are not required and will be still be in a much better shape. Firstly, budget allocated to government is not sufficient[11]. Secondly, significant part of that money goes into pockets of people which makes the money spent on education even more not enough. Government Teachers and teacher unions: Teacher is THE most important element in shaping a child’s future. Teachers in government schools have become very unproductive and inefficient because of lack of monitoring the school’s teachers’ individual performance. Many teachers do other income generating activities during school hours while s/he was supposed to teach and inspire their students. Research states 25% of teachers in public schools in India do not go to schools[12][13]. If government or private parties expel a teacher because of his/her bad performance and incompetency, teacher unions start fighting claiming that they are treated with injustice. I think teacher unions have become too powerful and that impedes any possible reforms in Indian education system. Ways to improve India’s literacy How can we help improve India’s literacy in scalable way? Masses in India are mostly poor and some middle class who can’t afford to go to private schools. Around 40% are below poverty line. Improving government schools: Merits: Will be solving grass root problems because masses, who are poor, have only government school to go to. And we are making government take on its basic responsibility of making sure to educate each and every child – not as a privilege but as a right. Government funds are properly used and in most efficient way. Government funds are taxpayers money, then why shouldn’t taxpayers benefit from their own money and instead spend lot of money on private schools? And not that government has allocated short of money for education. This in fact complements RTE, the law that supposedly mandates that every child between 6 to 14 should get education. Demerits: System should make some drastic changes to improve public education. The society should change their attitude towards public education and only then public education can get better. Government, Teachers, Parents – all should change. Private schools: Merits: If government schools are good, I don’t see any merits of private schools, unless the schools have extraordinary capabilities. However masses look for good enough education school and do not have extraordinary requirements. Demerit: Poor and middle class people can’t afford private schooling. Poor people don’t have a chance at all to consider private schools. Middle class people shelve out significant part of their income to send their schools to private schools. if government schools are good enough why should they spend their hard-earned money on private schools? Parallel schooling is never the most efficient way of improving literacy in a scalable way. I strongly think the best way to make grass root level improvement of education is to improve public education, though I believe that is the toughest if the effort is not coming from/within government itself AND from the society. After all, it is the most basic responsibility of any government to see that every child is educated. I know of lots of organizations that work on improving literacy in India, lot of people/groups who are spending their time and money to establish free schools for poor children, lot of individuals who are donating money to organizations or free schools or individual children. But, I personally think that still no significant progress is being made in India’s educational development. And all those organizations and people are not necessarily pretending their commitment towards improvement in education. Good public education is an essential part of a country like India where 55% of population is living in poverty who clearly can’t afford to pay for their education [4]. So I strongly think that we should do something that involves influencing government in some way in addition to these patchy efforts from some parts of people, so that the country can improve it’s literacy sooner than later and in a scalable fashion. The problem with this approach is that this is very very hard to do. Anything dealing with government is hard to do. But, if few like-minded influential people come together this is worth a try. There is actually another slightly different way to improving public education – make general public (teachers, parents, etc) understand the importance of education and make them in turn influence the government to improve the public schools. Right now there is no pressure on government because those who can afford to go to private schools are ‘all set’ and most of those who can’t go to private school are either studying well with the resources they have or don’t care to study at all, so no pressure on government at all. And politicians are busy in protecting themselves and their political careers and making (more and more) money rather than focusing on/fighting for important issues (like education). Power of good public education Primary education is free in public schools in US. And the quality of public schools are excellent, equally competing with private schools. 83% of children study in public schools [3]. Public schools in US are so good that they influence the housing market and thus economy of their towns. Towns with good schools tend to have higher home prices and better development. I personally would like to see public education being so powerful. Powerful public education makes even more sense in countries like India since over 50% of people are below poverty line who can’t afford to go to private schools. Middle to poor class families should have the confidence among public schools and should not have to spend big money to educate their children. Reminder: Education should treated as a right and not a privilege. This means one should not have to pay money to exercise their basic right. Hard to understand a simple fact? With some basic understanding you can realize that investing in education is investing in India’s future. Its a simple fact. Its a good time to ask the essential question: Why is India so poor in literacy? Why do I (a normal person living normal life) and you know that education is so important for a country but India, as a country, and its politicians doesn’t realize that? Why is the government blindly ignoring this fact? It is fair to say that India, as a country, is handicapped with education being weak. Why is the country still limping with a broken leg for generations and generations when it can fix it’s broken leg and walk and run in the global race? When my one leg is fractured I try to fix it by spending some money and then walk/run properly in my life. Another simple fact that is apparently hard to understand by Indian rulers and politicians. Why isn’t the country doing that? Please do not think/say that the country does not have the money to do this. And please do not think that the education in India is unrepairable. Quality of education is as important as improving Literacy % It will be a mistake on my part if I don’t mention this in this article. Real improvement of education field should be considered not just increasing literacy %, but improving the quality of education also. Educating children with quality will make them intellectuals and without quality makes them just ordinary literates. India (or any country) may be better developed with 100% literacy, but will be much better developed if many of those literates are intellectuals. This involves things like going away from just text book reading (which is an essential part of Indian educational system) and concentrate on creativity-imbibing approach, creating awareness among teachers, parents, and children on importance of quality education. Quality is not something that can be included part of any law, rule or regulation. It should be inside the ‘blood’ of teachers, parents and that will ripple into children’s lives. RTE The bill “Right To Education” was passed in April 2010. The bill mandates that every child from 6 to 14 years go to school[7]. In case you are not aware, it took 18 years for the bill to get passed. Can’t believe these same political parties are winning again and again and doing nothing about a basic responsibility towards the country. Good that the bill is passed now, better later than never. Next question is: Is this law being implemented in a disciplined and efficient manner, if at all implemented? Experts say bill has lot of loop holes, for examples there are rules that favor private schools. And it is a well known fact that lot of politicians and other celebrities own private educational institutions. Having this said, we can be assured of some improvements if the bill is implemented with sincerity and efficiency. References: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13]