Perhaps the only people who aren’t aware that India’s rickety education system is slowly and inexorably sliding towards a deep abyss, are the netas and babus in the education ministries at the Centre and in the states. Year after year, the detailed Annual Status of Education Report of the globally-respected Mumbai-based Pratham Education Foundation laments that real learning outcomes — measured by objective standardised tests — of children in rural primaries, especially government schools, are falling. Ditto in secondary and higher education institutions in which little attention is paid to developing critical thinking, logic, analytical and problem-solving skills of students.
It’s common knowledge that the major pain point of the country’s education system is its 1.20 million government schools. Fortunately, the country is blessed with an estimated 320,000 private schools which dispense superior primary-secondary education to 40 percent of 260 million school-going children, and are the saving grace of the national education system. However, instead of focusing their full attention on raising rock-bottom teaching-learning standards in government schools, government educrats have enacted draconian laws to supervise and regulate private schools and higher education institutions.
The silver lining of this grim scenario is that despite numerous hurdles including extortionate licensing conditions, syllabus imposition, admissions interference, teacher salaries and tuition fees regulation, a growing tribe of young, highly-qualified and confident edupreneurs has entered the education sector with determination to develop the country’s abundant but grossly neglected human capital. The cover story in this spring issue, painstakingly researched and written by managing editor Summiya Yasmeen, highlights the achievements, plans and aspirations of 33 of the country’s most can-do and never-say-die young educationists — the list is illustrative not exhaustive — determined to raise K-12 (and higher education institutions) standards to global norms.
And in the equally researched special report feature, as usual at this time of year, we focus a lens on the Union budget to examine why successive governments at the Centre and in the states refuse to invest in developing the most important resource of all — human capital. Our research indicates that the Union government’s establishment expenditure, which includes the inflated salaries and lavish perquisites of the neta-babu brotherhood, is so high there’s precious little left for social sector — education and health — spending. But unlike other media and/or smug academics in their ivory towers busy with much ado about nothing, we have gone a few steps further and proposed ways and means to rearrange the Centre’s finances and priorities to mobilise resources for human capital development sine qua non. I look forward to expert opinion and responses on the feasibility of our proposals to garner an additional Rs.4.98 lakh crore for human capital development.