Challenges in Availing Uniform Access to Education in India
Education, for long, has been the key to scaling up in the social and economic ladder. To dream about the idea of equality of opportunity is futile till there’s no access to quality education. Given the vastness of the geographical expanse that this nation houses, the adversities associated with it are great, both in numbers and manner. A sphere that clearly echoes this challenge of the nation is that of education, among others.
The Front of School Education
Schools are the primary agents of supplying education to the tender minds of this nation. This is particularly more for the children belonging to the deprived sections of our society. The great expanse that we have talked of in the lines above, contributes critically to the making or marring of the accessibility of education. Besides, there are also the underlying factors of the financial health, gender, etc, related to these beneficiaries of school education, which hold the sway in equal distribution of educational benefits to them.
The lines below will be researching upon the possible causes of this deplorability in the sphere of accessibility of school education
The Location of the Schools
As per the information of 2017, available with the EY-FICCI, nearly 1.4 million schools accommodate more than 250 million students. That’s roughly 179 students for each educational institution enjoying the capacity of k-12 education. What these figures don’t speak about are the children left out of the ambit from these institutions. The situation, as we mentioned above, is more alarming for the children of the deprived sections. Things are even more stressful for girls and children suffering from disabilities. While some of the issues in enrolment get resolved by the small community-based schools, there is a little concern that these schools have limited amounts of meaningful learning and low standards.
Girls with more likelihood, don’t attend school in India, than boys. Disparities in enrolments regarding gender have diminished, particularly in richer states. Still, girls more likely drop out of the places having low enrolment rates. While boys frequently quit their schools on economic grounds, girls often follow the suit due to their involvement in domestic chores. And still some rural families, generally, consider girls’ education as extravagant.
The factor of social disadvantage also affects the accessibility of education. The trend has more been traditional with the disadvantaged sections of the society. These are the sections that enjoy more participation of the SCs, STs, and the OBCs.
Concerned authorities have brought in programs and projects to help these traditionally disadvantaged groups for attending schools. Still, access to education and their engagement in it isn’t up to the mark.
A major cause restraining India’s child from the accessibility to schooling is poverty. The children having poor economic status continue to get pushed to the borders of the system, and eventually beyond that. Anyhow, a detailed study displays that the social structure itself nourishes discriminatory economic impoverishment.
The Sufferings of the First Generation
It’s generally found that children from families with no or little previous experience in education are more likely to get prohibited from schooling. Often, the environment discouraging them from learning and continuing their education surround many first-generation learners.
Repeated illness and malnutrition accompanied by a shortage of healthcare facilities result in several children failing to attend school.
Quality of Resources and Infrastructure
The quality of provisions supplied to some schools in India is fragile. Many schools have inadequate facilities, infrastructure, and resources. Many teachers belong either to the undertrained or completely untrained category. Similarly, some syllabi of the curricula are useless and irrelevant. Several children get extremely little learning. Consequently, they face the risk of getting silently out from the process of schooling. The assurance of quality education has weakened further with the ever-increasing numbers of small and private schools. Often, classes outnumber the teachers in small schools. You can corroborate this with the fact that 16.6% of primary schools in India employ only one teacher. This results in teachers teaching across various levels of classes. Moreover, many such teachers have no or little teacher-training in multi-grade pedagogy. Also, the authorities have oriented the curriculum more for mono-grade schools, employing at least one teacher per grade.
The Front of Higher Education
Even with an average rate of growth of over 7% in the last decade, India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in the sphere of higher education is extremely low. By an estimation, even if India achieves its aim of 30% GER by 2020, 100 million qualified students will still not find admissions into its universities.
Despite the attempts for spreading the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) more uniformly across the nation, there is great variation. Some factors lie underneath the sphere of Higher Education that pose hindrances in the realization of the aim. These can be counted as:
Significant Inter Group Disparities
As per the findings of a report labeled as “Intergenerational and Regional Differentials in Higher Education in India,” a Muslim or Dalit in south India, even on being from the most deprived among communities, possesses chances for having better access to higher education. This access is despite upper caste Hindus availing the same opportunities in many other regions in the nation. Interestingly, people from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal — termed as the north-central region — and those from North East India have the poorest access to higher education. Those in the northern region — consisting of Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, and Haryana, and in southern India — are comparatively better positioned.
Similarly, the Northern and the Southern regions provide over 15% and 13% of its population, respectively, access to higher education. This is about people falling in the age group of 22-35 years. The number is just 10% for men and 6% for women for the north-central region. Whereas, only 8% of men and 4% of women have access to higher education, in the Northeast.
The Rural and Urban Divide
As per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) published in January 2018, there’s a large break between urban and rural education, in India. About the rural pupils, it proclaims that post eight years’ schooling, more than 40% couldn’t tell hours and minutes from a clock; only 43% of 14-18-year-olds could perform simple division; a little less than half couldn’t add weights in kilograms. Similarly, 46% didn’t know in which city the capital of India was.
The Key Indicators on Household Consumer Expenditure, belonging to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in 2011-12, spoke of some revelations. It showed that the average monthly educational spending for those in the 50th-60th percentile of the income distribution (the real “middle class”) in rural India, was Rs31.47. The figure was Rs125.49, for those in the same percentile in urban India. Such a huge contrast is, in all likelihood, to be reflected in the quality of education too. Moreover, Rs908.12 was the monthly expenditure on education for the top 5% of urban Indians. Whereas, for the lowest 5% of our rural brethren, it was Rs7.54.
So Where Does the Solution Lie?
Be them the institutes offering school education or the HEIs providing undergraduate and postgraduate studies, meeting the demands as discussed above seems quite a challenging task. Nevertheless, in the context of the recent technological advancements, the remedies to both the spheres of education apparently seem to lie in the distance and online learning modes.
These newer modes of delivery of instructions promise a world of benefits for the scholars of today, particularly for the pursuers of disciplines requiring lesser inputs of practical applications. Literature, arts, fine arts, humanities, etc, are such disciplines which seem to thrive well on the online and distance mode of education, today. Let’s hope that these new vehicles will usher the required change in our manner of imparting education, only for the betterment of all stakeholders of education.