Cambridge Assessment International Education

Well begun but unfinished long march

EducationWorld November 2020 | Editorial

Two decades and a year ago, your editors embarked on a historic and perhaps in retrospect, too ambitious a mission. The first issue of EducationWorld — The Human Development Magazine, was ceremonially launched on November 1, 1999 by the late Prof. N.S. Ramaswamy (1926-2012), a great institutions builder and founding director of the National Institute of Industrial Engineering, Mumbai; Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management, Mumbai and Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Our mission statement articulated on that day was: “To build the pressure of public opinion to make education the No.1 item on the national agenda.”

On the 21st anniversary of articulation of this mission statement, it’s abundantly clear that this publication has failed to attain its stated objective. Contemporary India is ranked among the most illiterate nations of the world. Only half the country’s 165 million infant citizens are enrolled in pre-primary education and/or receiving professionally provided ECCE (early childhood care and education); learning outcomes of children in primary schools are abysmal with over 50 percent of class V children unable to read and comprehend class II textbooks; and none of India’s 1,000 universities are ranked in the WUR (World Universities Ranking) Top 200 of QS and Times Higher Education (THE).

Yet despite this depressing picture of the education system excessively controlled and regulated by government, green shoots of a renaissance are beginning to sprout in Indian education across the spectrum.

For the first time in living memory, education — or the neglect of it in post-independence India — is a subject of debate and discussion in society and media. The veil of anonymity cast over the education sector has been lifted with news and views of vice chancellors, principals, teachers and parents waging lonely battles to raise education standards in pre-primaries to universities, being given respect and currency. And perhaps for the first time promoters and leaders of private education institutions that school 47.5 percent of the country’s 260 million in-school children, and 70 percent of youth in higher education, are being given opportunity and platforms to air their institutional development recommendations and share best precepts and practices. We believe EducationWorld — India’s pioneer education news and features periodical — deserves a substantial share of the credit for sparking the overdue revival of Indian education.

However, even as we rightfully appropriate a large measure of credit for the new buzz in the country’s hitherto dormant education sector, there’s no room for complacency. Despite 21 years of sustained effort, a mere 10-15 percent of India’s 450,000 private schools, 40,000 colleges and 1,000 universities are subscriber institutions.

So even as we celebrate our record of uninterrupted publishing for 21 years and derive some measure of satisfaction for stimulating India’s belated education renaissance, there’s a long march ahead.

Also read: Wake-up call & season for introspection

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