Primary education – fact check
A school for our children
Does the government really care ? Why cant we have the same zeal, the same “oversight” committees, the same timeframes, the same unlimited budgets – working for primary education.
Pic courtesy: Christian Science Monitor
Going by what happened in the past, it seems unlikely that any government will agree to study how the OBC quota is working and who the actual beneficiaries are. Even way back in 1990, no government except Gujarat was willing to provide the Mandal commission with data about representation of various communities in government employment. By delinking OBCs from a requirement to meet any objective backwardness markers, the government is basically going to have a “politically-powerful average-students quota”. Further, if the creamy layer is not excluded we are certain to have a “politically-powerful-rich-yet-average-students-quota”.
Still, I wonder if anything good can come out of this ?
I am working my way through available facts about the dismal state of primary education in India. I am convinced the only long-term way to deprive these politicians of their “mass support” is by tying together a primary education expenditure that is 8x or 10x times the obscene 12-16000 crores that is about to be spent on one of Indias least important issues (that is tertiary education in management,science and technology). The hope is the next 10-15 years, we will have all kids in unknown villages tune into TV channels or read blogs or have access to the internet. When that stage is reached, we may not have top politicians openly flaunt their uneducated mass support.
Some facts I have collected so far.
- Dismal outlay. Indias entire primary education budget for FY 2006 was only $1.9 billion (Rs 7.200 crores)http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/business/4303507.stm
- Compare this to the United States, whose *special education* budget is $8.5 billion (for trouble kids) .
- Compare this to the $2.3 billion aid to the Tsunami victims (I understand it is a natural calamity, I am just quoting the numbers for a perspective)
- Over 97% of the primary education budget (of the already meagre 7200 cr) goes towards salary of teachers and other staff. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_India
- This means that only Rs 300 CR is available for school infrastructure, classroom expenses, new schools, textbooks, and the whole gamut. To put it further in perspective, Rs300 cr translates to $67 million dollars!! The entire “non-salary” budget for primary education for the entire country is $67 million dollars ! Could this be true ?
- The countrywide elementary school dropout rate for girls is 41%. In other words, 4 out of 10 girls in this country do not go beyond 5th standard and 6 out of 10 girls dont finish 8th standard. In some states 9 out of 10 dont complete their schooling (high school) http://www.northsouth.org/dropoutrate.asp
- Indias primary education is not just pathetic compared to the west. India compares poorly to not just industrialised nations but also several much-poorer economies, such as Vietnam (90% literacy), Zambia (80%), Tanzania (77%), and Cambodia (70%).
- Teacher truancy is the highest in India schools. It is quite rare that a teacher actually shows up for class. The worst offender is Jharkhand (41.9%), followed by Bihar (37.8%) and Punjab (34.4%). This means that in Jharkand if you want into a school randomly 41% of the teachers will be absent. Remember while reading these stats, many village schools are one or two teacher (with an anganwadi worker). In those cases, 41% of the time the school is on holiday because the teacher is absent. Yes, we are talking padlocked. The all India figure is 25%. The south does not fare well on this count. Interestingly, only Uganda has a higher teacher truancy rate than India. Link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4051353.stm
- Politics have plagued teachers too. Since they man polling booths, enumerate census, monitor public distribution schemes, no political party will antagonize them. Most have other businesses take care of.
- Can we blame the poor teachers alone ? No! The reasons they dont show up. “The most common complaint is that schools are under-equipped, underfunded, understaffed, and overcrowded,” Would you like to teach in a cow-shed without any teaching materials, fan or light or toilet ?
- Half of all schools have a leaking roof (try opening your textbooks). 89% have no functioning toilet (even if there is one functioning toilet it is reserved for the teachers, so the students just use the shrubs), half have no water supply. Everyone must bring their own water bottles to school.
- Note we are not even talking about things like internet, phone lines, computer rooms, fans and lights, libraries, counsellors.
So friends, here we are now, India home to 34% of the worlds illiterate population, where schools are nothing more than cattle sheds, where 60 years after independence 4 out of 10 girls do not study beyond 5th standard, is working on a war footing. Powerful OBC committees are working behind closed doors on magic formulas for management education. Oversight committees are burning the midnight oil trying to manufacture statistics without simply agreeing to a honest study.
We are at war baby ! Forces are standing by for an amphibious assault on very root of our problems – MBA and BTECH education. Funds cannot be a constraint, we are going to spend 12-16,000 crores on MBA institutes, tech institutes that enable people to move overseas, and critical post-grad medical studies.
For every rupee spent on this quota, ten rupees must be spent on primary education. If this is not done, this government would have perpetrated one of the most cruel jokes on the really backward and needy masses of this country.