The cover story titled “Growing crusade against corruption in education” (EW May 2005) made interesting reading. Kudos to Justice N. Venkatachala, the lokayukta of Karnataka for his outstanding work in rooting out “retail corruption” which affects the daily lives of common people. I’m glad EducationWorld has recognised his excellent work and featured him on the cover page.
But unfortunately despite being caught red-handed by Justice Venkatachala, most of the accused get away scot-free. This can be remedied only if the lokayukta is given prosecution powers. It’s no secret that politicians in power are also involved in most of the corruption scams.
I firmly support your argument that young children who can’t fight corruption are vulnerable and need to be saved. Congratulations on a great story!
Your special report feature in the May issue (“Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan: way behind targets”) presents a bleak picture of India’s elementary education system. With millions of children out of school, I wonder how India will ever emerge as a leader in the global economy.
As detailed in your article, though India spends more of its GDP (4.1 percent) on education than other Asian countries (e.g. China: 2.1, Sri Lanka: 1.3 percent, etc), its literacy and enrollment figures are much lower in comparison with China and Sri Lanka. The explanation of this paradox perhaps lies in your cover story on corruption in education.
Corruption in our education system is endemic and the bureaucrats who man the Central and state education departments are more interested in lining their pockets than the future of 415 million children. They routinely siphon off funds allocated for education at all levels. Like EW I strongly believe that rooting out corruption in education is the first step towards building a strong and prosperous India.
I am a regular reader of Education-World and particularly like your information-packed leisure and travel features. But in the May issue the feature on Kutch wasn’t of your usual style. It was sketchy and provided minimal information on the destinations profiled. The writers were more interested in describing the work of Educational Initiatives, the organisation they are employed with. To any travel buff this information is redundant.
Kutch is among the most remote regions in our country and since there is hardly any industrial/ commercial activity in this area, people elsewhere in the country barely know anything about Kutch. The socio-economic lifestyles of the different tribes of the region should have been described in detail. According to the writers, the Sanskriti tour was organised with the prime objective of interacting with the local people. But there is hardly any evidence of this interaction in the article. The Kutch people are “as mysterious as its history” gives hardly any insights. Also there is no mention of what the children had to say about the trip.
I hope you will screen the travel articles more stringently in future.
What teachers should read
The special report titled “Books teachers should read this summer” (EW April) was good. It clearly exposed the reasons for the gross lack of worldly knowledge among schoolteachers in the country. It was interesting to note the variety of books recommended by the experts â€” from popular fiction like The Alchemist and Gulliver’s Travels to teaching manuals such as The Study Skills Handbook and How Children Learn. The recommen-dations shed light on the type of books teachers must read to supplement their knowledge of the syllabus, but don’t give a general perspective of what books are good for teachers.
While some experts have recommended only teaching and self-improvement books, others have recommended only fiction and non-fiction reading. I believe teachers should have a wide intellectual bandwidth and summer reading should not be restricted to teaching and improvement books. Teachers should read on varied topics like history, geography, the sciences, travel, biographies, etc. Such comprehensive reading will help them add value to the courses they teach. If they learn the best teaching methods through a book, for example Innovation in Learning and Teaching, but don’t have a wider knowledge base outside their textbooks, their teaching skills won’t be useful at all.
Data access impossibility
In several issues of EducationWorld you have strongly emphasised monitoring the quality of expenditure in the education system. Certain examples were also cited of countries which have achieved higher rates of literacy with lesser outlays as a percentage of GDP. Your contributors too are quick to recommend some kind of decentralised system to improve elementary education. While ideal in terms of intention, this is an elusive chimera.
To make any informed decision one has to acquire expenditure documents of the two-tiered system of state and local bodies (in the hope that an informed strategy can be built). But this adventure is trickier than looking for King Solomon’s mines. Most of the expenditure related data is accounted in books of local bodies, which I was told point blank I couldn’t have. The other documents pertaining to secondary education which is accounted for in the books of the state government, the demand for grants (budget) and the financial accounts I got by undertaking some rather comical cloak and dagger manoeuvres. Even an organisation like the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, a government autonomous body, doesn’t have these accounts in full (ironically the very purpose of it being set up), for the study of these issues.
With such blatant hostility and lack of transparency, one can only speculate how any kind of social auditing is possible. While the idea of improving quality of expenditure is definitely laudable, one has to remember that accessing required information is a herculean task bordering on the impossible. I might sound a bit sceptical, but keeping the empirical and not the ideal in mind can obtain better results.