Thursday, June 9, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Class act? That's a cruel joke

Class act? That's a cruel joke
Subodh Varma, TNN | Jun 9, 2011, 06.49am IST

India's education system is staggeringly huge. Its 300 million
students and 6.5 million teachers could make up the world's fourth
largest country. In this otherwise sleepy behemoth, far-reaching
changes have been taking place in recent years.

Enrolment in primary classes is touching 100%. Over 120 million kids
are getting free mid-day meals at school. The literacy rate has
increased to almost 75%. The right to education has been enshrined as
a law. There has been a surge of interest and attention towards
education, largely because people no longer are willing to let their
children stagnate in backwardness. Education is increasingly being
seen as the door to a better life.

This momentum and the accompanying euphoria, however, hide a stark
truth that many are unable to see: that the education system continues
to suffer from four great divides. These are — ruralurban, men-women,
rich-poor and between castes. These divides are built into the system.
As a result, vast millions on the wrong side of these divides are
denied the benefits of modern education, their dream of prosperity


Take the case of scheduled castes and tribes. They account for about a
quarter of the population. Recent years have seen an intense urge in
them to get educated. At the elementary (Class VIII) level, gross
enrolment ratios, that is, the ratio of those enrolled to the total
number of children in the 6-14 year age group, have increased at a
faster rate for dalits and tribals than for other sections.

But look beyond the elementary level and you see a grim picture. The
drop-out rate for dalits is about 53% and for tribals a staggering
63%. This is way above the average for the country, which is 43%, in
itself a pretty high figure. In some large states like Uttar Pradesh,
Bihar, and Rajasthan, over 50% of dalit children do not go beyond
Class V. In other words, vulnerable sections like dalits and tribals,
who are also among the poorest, are not able to continue educating
their children.

We are talking about dropouts and not children who haven't ever been
to school. Estimates of out-of-school-children are shrouded in
mystery. There were about 3 crore in 2001-02. According to the
government, this had dropped to just 28.7 lakh in 2009. But an
independent survey by the Indian Market Research Bureau in 2009 found
that over 81 lakh were out of school.


The gender divide is starkly brought out by the fact that in the age
group 5-29 years, about 57% of males were enrolled in educational
institutions as opposed to 50% females. Even among those enrolled,
only 48% females were attending classes as opposed to 51% males. These
are results of an NSSO study in 2007-08.

The legacy of past discrimination against women remains visible in
today's numbers. According to Census 2011 data, among those above 7
years of age, there are 17.6 crore illiterate women in the country
compared to about 9.7 crore men.


In rural areas, over 51% of the poorest are illiterate and a minuscule
0.4% have gone beyond higher secondary. Among the richest, about 23%
are illiterate but nearly 9% have completed post-school studies.

In the urban areas, the situation is dramatically different. Though
42% of the poorest are illiterate, the proportion of illiterates among
the richest is only 7%. Just 1.5% of the poorest have completed higher
studies but 42% of the richest have done so.

Even geography seems to be against the poor. In rural areas, almost
all people — rich and poor alike — have a primary school within 2 km
of their residence. But secondary schools are in a different league.
While 59% of the richest have a secondary school within 2 km, only 39%
of the poorest do.


It would be logical for policymakers to believe that providing
technical and vocational education to the poor would lift them out of
poverty, with subsequent help. But the state of technical education in
the country causes dismay.

Just 1.9% of all students enrolled in the country get technical
education, while those receiving vocational education are a mere 0.3%.
In all, just about 2% of the country's population has ever received
technical training of any kind. Besides the paucity of technical
institutions like ITIs and polytechnics, the high fees in technical
and professional institutions is surely a cause for this abysmal state
of affairs.

According to the NSSO report of 2007-08, the average annual spending
by a family on technical education for their son or daughter is Rs
19,989 in case of government institutions and a back-breaking Rs
38,675 for those studying in a private unaided institution. Who among
the poorer can afford this kind of expenditure?

These averages are much higher in urban areas where most technical
education institutions are located. Studying in a private unaided
institution in an urban area means spending Rs 43,058 on average. This
average hides the range between top-class institutions and lesser


The rush by the government to churn out numbers has hit the quality of
education hard. A recent survey of learning outcomes of school
children reported in the Annual Survey of Education-Rural revealed
that about half of those in Class V could read only Class II texts and
the proportion of kids who could solve a simple division sum in Class
V had declined. In short, the standard of learning is low and dipping

Although a new national curricular framework was adopted in 2005, only
lip service is being paid to its approach. Untrained and demotivated
teachers are ignoring it, as are text book publishers and syllabus
makers. The number of teachers needed for unrolling the RTE is
estimated at 20 lakh and the standards of teacher education are being
lowered to hastily fill the gap. A study by the National University of
Educational Planning & Administration found that of the 47 lakh
elementary school teachers, nearly 25% have not studied beyond the
secondary level. Another quarter have just completed their
higher/senior secondary level.


There is a view that at last the government has realized the
importance of education and is channeling huge amounts of money into
the sector. This is far from the truth. The latest Economic Survey
notes that the combined spending on education by the central and state
governments is projected at just short of 3% of the gross domestic
product (GDP) for 2010-11. It is about 11% of all government spending.
This spend is nothing spectacular — way back in 1991-92, education
spending had inched up to 3.8% of GDP and over 13% of public spending.

What this means is that despite the high growth trajectory of the
Indian economy, essential problems like providing quality education
for all are not receiving adequate resources. Not only does this
restrict the opportunity of education, it also affects quality.

With people thirsting for better education, there is only one way this
plays out — higher costs for better education. As a recent NSSO study
revealed, the average cost for general education (not technical) has
increased by 176% in rural areas and 204% in urban areas between
1995-96 and 2007-08. This increase has the net effect of preventing
large sections of people from joining the educational mainstream.


Get all ZESTCaste mails sent out in a span of 24 hours in a single mail. Subscribe to the daily digest version by sending a blank mail to, OR, if you have a Yahoo! Id, change your settings at

On this list you can share caste news, discuss caste issues and network with like-minded anti-caste people from across India and the world. Just write to

If you got this mail as a forward, subscribe to ZESTCaste by sending a blank mail to OR, if you have a Yahoo! ID, by visiting

Also have a look at our sister list, ZESTMedia:! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> Your email settings:
Individual Email | Traditional

<*> To change settings online go to:
(Yahoo! ID required)

<*> To change settings via email:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive