Although India’s 248 million households place education of their children #1 on their priority lists, successive governments at the Centre and in the states have cruelly neglected development of the country’s abundant human resource. During the past six decades since independence, the national spending on education — Centre plus states — has never exceeded 3.5 percent of GDP (cf. 6-10 percent in OECD countries). The outcome of consistent under-funding of public education is that the country’s 1.2 million government schools are struggling with obsolete curriculums, poor infrastructure, teacher shortages and abysmal student learning outcomes. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 of the Pratham Education Foundation, 27 percent of class VIII children in rural India cannot read/comprehend class II textbooks, and a mere 44 percent can manage simple three-digits by one-digit division sums.
The country’s much-hyped private school system — overwhelmingly preferred by middle class parents — isn’t great shakes either. It’s common knowledge that the great majority of India’s 320,000 private schools adhere to rigid curriculums prescribed by the country’s 34 outdated examination boards which reward rote learning capability, to prepare children to succeed in school-leaving and competitive national exams. Development of students’ critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving intelligencies — prerequisites for success in the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world — is a low priority in the majority of India’s private schools. In 2011, a Quality Education Study conducted by Bangalore-based IT major Wipro Ltd and Ahmedabad-based Educational Initiatives Pvt. Ltd, had revealed that India’s top private schools, including CBSE and CISCE-affiliated schools, encourage rote learning and consequently, their students’ performance in global standardised tests, which assess critical thinking and problem-solving skills, is way below international standard.
Therefore unsurprisingly, a small — but growing — minority of well-educated middle class parents are abandoning India’s obsolescing formal schooling system to educate their children at home. In our March cover story, we beam a spotlight on India’s budding homeschooling movement and present interviews with pioneer homeschooling parents in Mumbai, Bangalore and Coimbatore who share their motivations and experience of home education.
Our other stories are equally interesting. Check out the Early Childhood feature on protecting children from digital eye strain, health & nutrition column by Mumbai-based paediatrician Dr. Aatish Laddad which busts 10 common myths about juvenile diabetes, and the interview with celebrity psychiatrist Dr. Anjali Chhabria who has won wide national acclaim for advocating children’s mental and emotional well-being.