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Underlying problems with India’s Educational system

 

Education is one of the yardsticks by which one measures the progress of a person and even a country. It would be quite difficult indeed to overstate the importance of Education. The more effective and efficient a country’s educational system is, the better its socioeconomic situation tends to be. Better-educated citizens often make for a productive and innovative workforce, strong and enlightened industry and political leaders, along with a marked technological progress. This is why many candidates running for higher office tend to make the improvement of school education one of their central issues.


See Also:

Problems with Educational System in India
The Problems Within Education in India


India is one country that could do with a great deal of improvement in this area. Education in India has been a hot topic for many generations, with respected figures calling for reforms. While India is valued as a country that is rich in both natural resources and in a vastly intelligent citizenry, many Indians are concerned that its current system of higher education is more of a hindrance rather than a stepping stone. A quick look at the South Asian country’s educational system often yields the following disturbing observations:

Lack of Infrastructure and Technology

There is a lack of infrastructure and technology to address the need for better primary and higher education in the farther reaches of the country. India has a sprawling geography that spans several cities and provinces, but the infrastructure and available technology for catering to their needs remain to be seriously wanting.

 

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As Kartikeya Sharma of iTV suggests, If enrolment rates were to be the sole basis, it would seem that India has succeeded in putting up the required educational facilities even in the remote areas of the country.  Enrollment rates have been registering highs of up to 96% from 2009.  The number of schools has also increased to 1.4 million, with 92% to 98% of the population having access to a primary school within a kilometer or two.

Evidently, the problem lies in the incapacity of the primary and higher education schools to meet the demands of the growing student base.  The national dropout rate of 29% for primary school only increases to 43% and 58% for upper primary school and high school respectively.  The reasons for dropping out vary from lack of motivation from teachers and insufficient facilities to economic reasons as not having resources to go to school.

There is a need for those in charge to utilize the world’s latest technology and a fast and reliable Internet connection throughout the country to improve education in India.  This will allow its citizens to enjoy their right to a good education.  What little money is spent on building more universities, it would be a good idea to consider putting money on improving the consistency and accessibility of the existing Internet connections both for in classroom learning and for distance education.

Utilizing technologies such as a digital class program or a distance education can be a worthy solution.  More than 12,000 schools all over India are already using SmartClass technology.  This offers a host of benefits both for the teachers and for the students.  Other technologies that are designed to provide better access to information and resources for teachers and students are available.  These, however, digital classroom and distance education technologies, do not come without a high price tag.  With the right negotiations, perhaps a good deal can be struck with the providers of these innovative products – all in the name of improving the quality of education in India.

Rote Learning vs. Analysis

Education in India currently focuses on rote learning rather than on developing a student’s analytical and critical thinking skills. Students in India, even those at a level of higher education, often have to sit through several tests that don’t challenge them to think outside the box or solve a problem, but simply to regurgitate the information that they glean from textbooks. Rather than be taught to think and to form an opinion for themselves, students are simply encouraged to memorize the textbook and then to spit it back out during exams.

 

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This approach to school education has its colonial roots and has lost its relevance in modern times.  Everybody knows that it is easy enough to forget everything that you have memorized after you have successfully answered your exams.  There is no real learning in this kind of approach, especially in higher education.  While many are able to pass their exams and eventually earn their degrees, they are not necessarily prepared to take on jobs to start their careers in their fields of study.

Only 15% of graduates of higher education are actually eligible for jobs in relevant industries.  To bring up the figures considerably, Prime Minister Narender Modi has made it a priority to make education relevant to the labor market.  The development of skills and competencies as part of the higher education curriculum is integral in improving the quality of education in India.

The Indian government sees the need to make sure that their predominantly young population realizes the importance of education and training for sustainable employment.  The target is pegged at 500 million skilled workers by 2022.  Tie-ups and strategic partnerships are being forged among academic institutions, businesses, and other governments with the intent to improve vocational training.  In fact, the government’s plan to put up a national vocational university that will standardize the education and training of future manufacturing manpower is underway.

Better Trained Faculty

Teachers need to be better trained and better paid. They also have to be the first to personify the importance of education.  There is a maxim that goes, “Those who can’t do, teach.”  Unfortunately, the rather dismissive tone of the previous saying seems to apply to the majority of the people involved with education in India.  It seems that teacher competency is sorely lacking in this area.

 

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Studies show that there is a high incidence of teacher absenteeism in primary and higher education schools.  Furthermore, there is a lack of time spent doing actual teaching and ensuring student learning.  This cannot be solved simply by mandating 100% attendance.  The issue involves a host of factors that boils down to lack of teacher training and motivation.

A collaborative approach could be taken by tapping resources for teacher education.  US universities with campuses in India, for instance, could be tapped to help upgrade and update Indian teacher learning institutes.  Peer exchanges on the American and Indian school education experience could also give a fresh perspective to teaching and learning.  For those with economic constraints, online distance education for teachers could be the solution.

Another constraint faced by teachers is the strict conventional educational policies.  They are basically limited in the way they teach and what they teach.  A little slack in this area will give the chance to expand not only their lessons but also the perspective and outlook of their students.

Teachers have to be trained or developed in some of a more progressive ways of teaching, such as transformative learning.  They should be allowed to explore other more effective modes of teaching and learning.  One example would be assigning higher education students to come up with their own questions and having them spend the semester doing research to answer the questions.  The teacher will have to be available for guidance if necessary. This approach is often applied to distance education courses.

Very few teachers are also truly committed to their craft.  With an attendance rate of only 85%, there is obviously a need for these teachers to find a reason to do their jobs.

It has also been noted that teachers’ performance is rarely, if at all, incentivized. While a teacher’s pay can sometimes be below par, the amount paid out to an educator remains the same regardless of how poorly or how well their students do. Thus, quite a handful of teachers develops a defeatist and passive attitude towards their profession. So long as they get their paycheck at the end of the month, they usually have very little regard for how their students are doing.

Since there is no questioning the importance of Education, India’s educational system overhaul should also involve a renewed attitude and support towards its teachers. Universities and learning programs alike should revamp their higher education syllabi for teachers so that the latter are not just taught the concepts for them to teach, but also the most effective way to communicate them to their future students. Legislators may also want to consider raising the minimum pay teachers can receive, and perhaps incorporating some incentives for teachers who preside over classes of students that perform well in their fields.

 School Education System Needs radical revamp

The school education system needs to be revamped in order to improve its outdated nature. The biggest problem that graduates of India’s higher education face is the threat of unemployment or underemployment. Unemployment is when a graduate fails to find a job or any form of paid work while underemployment occurs when a graduate is forced to take on an occupation where his or her highly technical skills are either made irrelevant or greatly underused.

 

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The latter is a particularly grave concern in the area of education in India today. Despite being known for churning out the biggest number of engineers in the world, many of these licensed and highly-qualified professionals end up discarding their degrees and technical learnings to work in the country’s booming business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

Clearly, there is a huge waste of talent if a very intelligent and well-trained engineer ends up sitting behind a desk and tending to an irate customer’s complaints through a headset for much of his or her working life. However, this is a sad reality for many of those who were and are products of an education in India.

As a proposed solution, those in charge of developing the educational programs and syllabi of Indian schools should bring the focus back on skills that would be useful for the job market of each respective field rather in just one field (i.e., BPO industries). They should also be active in rooting out the outdated elements of a moldering educational system by reassessing such periodically, and then making the necessary changes.

This should also apply to every aspect of education. For instance, the material in textbooks prescribed for students should be regularly updated and combed for erroneous and/or outdated information. School facilities should also be assessed for any required improvements, such as the bringing in of materials and equipment that could be useful in implementing distance education schemes.

 One Size fits all education system

Education is largely a “one size fits all” approach. It would be ridiculous to expect an elephant to crawl as well as a snake and to base its value solely on such a test that does not take its other abilities into consideration, to begin with. Yet, an assembly line sort of program is being implemented in many of India’s schools. Apart from heavily favoring rote learning, the pace and the methods being used in teaching students often neglect the fact that people simply learn differently.

 

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In a class of 60, for instance, there are sure to be students who learn better through visual cues such as charts or graphs while there will be some who understand the material better if the teacher reads it aloud. Then there’s also the fact that some students take longer than others to absorb a particular concept, but also end up retaining the said understanding for much longer.

There is also a serious lack of niche courses or learning programs in India’s current educational climate. Thus, there is very little incentive for students to learn about specialized aspects and skills in fields like information technology, engineering, and business. Instead, what they have is an outdated, overbearing system with a syllabus that is strictly controlled and centralized by authorities that are not always qualified to oversee a nation’s educational system.

While this is an educational problem that is not necessarily unique to India, the country has been known to rigidly stand by the status quo despite its apparent deficiencies.  Other developed countries such as the US have also observed that their higher education systems tend to be test-based rather than learning-based, for example.  This problem has largely to do with the fact that the sub-par and mediocre schools and universities that have been emerging in cities and provinces were established by those in power as tax shields for their burgeoning wealth.

Having to overhaul the system of education in India and evaluate all educational institutions based on the progressiveness of their policies would simply be against the vested interests of the ruling class who own the substandard schools.

For real progress to happen, India’s officials should be willing to risk ruffling quite a few feathers and to devote serious efforts towards drawing up niche programs and courses that will cater to students whose abilities and inclinations have been neglected by the previous system of education in India.

Lack of Good universities

There is little opportunity to establish and cultivate partnerships with renowned universities from around the world. There is a reason why prosperous families from all corners of the globe send their children abroad to study instead of letting them stay home for their higher education. This mostly has to do with how the colleges and universities in developed countries have the best learning facilities and the most sought-after programs being taught by the most accomplished academics and professionals.

 

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Since not everyone can go abroad to study, those in charge of education in some nations have opted to forge linkages with prestigious international institutions instead so that locals can take the courses they are offering through a local counterpart, an online website, or a distance education program.

India has tried to provide incentives for some of the world’s best higher education schools to partner with its own, but this scheme was sabotaged by restrictive and stifling regulations in the fine print. After all, forcing a respected institution to lock up millions of its endowment dollars in local escrow accounts and restricting them from taking additional profits out of the country will hardly inspire an enthusiastic response.

If India is to truly take its place in an increasingly connected world and for its citizens to benefit from the resulting flow of concepts and ideas, then it must be willing to come up with more enticing incentives. If such is not possible, then perhaps easing the more oppressive restrictions in education in India might be a better option.  This, of course, comes with the government’s willingness to liberalize policies in the area of foreign education and to invest in modern technology in both on-campus and distance education.

NonProfit Educational systems

The non-profit educational systems in India are being exploited by unscrupulous parties for their own gains. Theoretically, India’s educational institutions are supposed to be run solely by the government and by non-profit organizations. Unfortunately, the reality paints a different picture.

 

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Many of the non-profit organizations that are running the higher education schools are actually just shell corporations for individuals like money launderers and politicians. The latter is wont to take advantage of some flaws in the system and in creative structuring so that they can evade taxes and line their pockets with the people’s hard-earned money. The focus is thus trained on producing students who will participate in the aimless rat race of employment rather than in raising a new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.

It is thus high time for India to allow private investors to set up their own schools given that the government does not have the sufficient resources for providing the public with higher levels of education. Not only will doing so ease the burden on many overtaxed schools but allowing entrepreneurs and innovators to set up their own schools could facilitate the birth of new ideas and systems in the field of education.

For the period of April 2000 to January 2015, foreign direct investments towards India’s education sector added up to USD 1.071 billion.  Among the major investments that contributed to the improvement of education in India are IIT-Bombay’s establishment launching of the Desai Sethi Centre for Entrepreneurship in 2014 and the tie-up between the Bennett University and Babson Global to offer special programs for Indian students and entrepreneurs.

Widening gap between Rich and Poor

The current system of education in India has widened the gap between the rich and poor classes even more. Instead of producing more enlightened politicians and industry leaders who could have brought about a more egalitarian society, the current educational system has accomplished the complete opposite.

 

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Rich families continue to have access to the best and most exclusive institutions while poorer families struggle to gain access to even the most basic education.  According to policies governing education in India, a minimum of 50% of reservations should be allotted for members of disadvantaged groups.  In 2014, however, the Maharashtra accounted for 73% of reservations.

Truly, those in charge should work harder to make basic education a right that all Indian citizens can avail of, and not just a privilege which the rich can invoke to display their heightened status.

India’s educational system is not a hopeless case.  In fact, it has gone a long way.  But, the fact remains that it still needs a lot of work.  With the right decisions in terms of policy making, resource allocation, and teacher development, the quality of education in India can be considerably improved.


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This writer is a strong supporter of better education for everyone regardless of race or social status. He has written a number of articles on the topic of education and school systems.

Next ArticleThe Needed Changes in the Education System in India (Part I)