Door Step School Foundation

Future of Education

When I was asked to write for ‘Nirbhid’ Diwali magazine, the first thought that came to my mind was about the education of the past. It reminded me of my own school education. I was born in 1936. So in 1947 I was in English first year that means I had completed 4 years of primary education and was going for total 11 years of school education. I was not going to stop after vernacular final that is 7th standard. In our Times 5th standard was called – English first standard, because from that year we were introduced to English. Up to 4th standard we learnt only Marathi. After 5th standard English, Sanskrit etc. were taught in the school. Up to 4th standard I was in the government school of the local board. Education was free, but we did not get any freebies like lunch, uniform, books etc at that time. We were not poor, but even middle class families used to send their children to government schools during those days. After 5th standard I was in private school .The timing used to be 10 to 5. After lunch we would go to school and have our tiffin in the lunch break. In the evening we used to play a lot with our neighbouring friends. We did not have much homework, and whatever it was, we used to complete it in the morning just before the school. We would just walk to school as it was not far away. Traffic also was not heavy, so we never had anyone dropping us to school. Teaching in the school itself must have been quite good at that time, as I remember that we never had any private tuition. No one used to bother about our studies or nudge for it. If at all we had any problem in studies mother used to guide us till 4th standard and then our father from 5th standard. In the evening after returning home we had to clean our self and then do our prayers such as ‘Bhimarupi maharudra’. Also we used to recite all the tables. Even today I remember tables up to 25 and can do oral calculations quite fast. Exams used to be written and oral (even for maths). I wonder if this recitation did any harm to our brain, but it did not create any problem for us. Only during 11th standard I had tuition for maths. We had algebra, geometry and numerical maths. I do not remember if we had separate exam for all these. So this was all about education of the past- education during our times. If we look at the recent past I remember the education of my children. By this time middle class had started to think differently. They started sending their children to English medium schools. We learnt English and were quite good in reading and writing in English. But we never had any opportunity or practice to speak in English. It might be different for those in Mumbai or Pune but I studied in Nashik, which was a small town and there was no emphasis on speaking English. Middle class parents started sending their children to English medium schools; thus, the number of English medium schools were on the rise. What British could not do during the 150 years of their rule, has taken roots in our society now. If we look at the situation now, Indian languages may start vanishing in the next 25 years. The other day I was at an event of Bengali Navratri. The girl introducing guests was Bengali but she started to speak in Marathi which was quite elementary. Even though the guest was Marathi he suggested that she can speak in Bengali or Hindi. But she said that she was not quite conversant in both the languages. I am sure that she might have spoken well in English, but she was not fluent in any Indian language. Nowadays, government is also starting English medium or semi English medium schools. Even vernacular schools start English from the first standard. On one hand there are people who insist on giving the education in everyday language or colloquial language, on the other hand there are schools which are teaching in English – which is not related in any way to any Indian language. I just don’t know what to say about today’s education. In 2011 free & compulsory education bill was passed. Actually before that also, education was free in government schools. The only change was that it became compulsory. But there is no clarity about how that will be implemented. If a parent does not send his child to the school is there any law to prevent this? And what if government cannot provide a school in the vicinity? There is no solution for these problems in the law. And even if there was any solution, we all know how difficult it is to make the government take some action. So we can say that the word ‘compulsory’ is just for show. We see two main changes. First, now we don’t need birth certificate or age proof of the child. Does this mean that we don’t need any paperwork for school admission? But that is not the case. Before admitting the child to the school one needs to ascertain his age because of the second new rule. The second rule states that a child should be admitted to the standard appropriate to his age that means if the boy admitted to the school is 8 years old he should be admitted in the third standard or say if he is 10 years old he should be admitted in 5th standard. To follow this, the age needs to be ascertained. Legal age proof is not required but the parents can give the age in writing (that they feel is correct.) Nowadays students are not dependent on exams for going to the next standard. Once a child is admitted to the school he goes to next standard every year up to 8th standard. For illiterate parents this appears like a boon. But actually due to such laws, the children from lower strata of society- who are dependent on Government education, are actually deprived of good education. For many years it has been observed by ‘ASER’ that even 5th standard students are not able to read second standard books. So for many years now, our organisation is conducting ‘Vachan Sanskar Prakalp’ (project for implementing reading skills) in some corporation schools. The project is supposed to teach reading skills to the students of first to fourth standard. First we test their reading ability, which shows that even children studying in Marathi medium are not able to read or write Marathi properly. Devnagri script is so simple and straight forward, that you need only 6 months to learn that. This is a tried and tested fact, we have taught a lot of children in 6 months. It is a terrifying fact that some children do not learn devnagri properly even after many years in the school. We have come to these conclusions after testing reading ability in 20 private schools in Pune. If children in 4th standard are not able to read properly and yet they are promoted to next standard, then we have some students even in 9th or 10th who are not able to read or write properly. This is happening in private schools so we cannot imagine what may be the case in government schools. After a lot of brainstorming, many ideas are put forward such as ‘Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan’, ‘Mahatma Phule Shikshan Yojana’, ‘Each one teach one’ and so on. Some of these are implemented, but as soon as the government or the minister changes they bring in some new policies. Main reasons for the decline in the quality of education. 1) Middle class no longer send their kids to government schools. Those who are sending their kids to these schools have less experience and do not have political connections. It is felt that by giving some freebies one can suppress them and no one will ask about the education quality. 2) Expecting a lot of non-educational work from primary teachers is not fair. 3) Delays in appointments of teacher and keeping many positions vacant. 4) There is no connection in policy makers and actual learners. Many times we feel that policy makers do not think about consequences of their policies. For example, not conducting exams till 8th standard or admitting to school according to age. Some of the policies may be appropriate in other developed countries, but are they appropriate for our country? It is like the story of the fox and the crane. Both of them need different kinds of utensils to drink the juice. If same utensil is given to both of them, one of them will remain hungry. How can we expect the kids to learn three languages when they do not have the necessary resources to learn even one language, do not have the educational background, and many times are required to help their parents in their work. They do not need exemption from exams, what they need is more time for learning. This is just one example. We all need to think more about this, we need to speak out for them. There are some good changes in the educational policy of 2020. For example, in third standard, one must be able to read and write properly and do basic level maths. This was good news! We felt as if a new dawn is coming up and we hope that it will be implemented properly. Many times policies are good but they just remain on paper and are rarely implemented. The future of our education depends on the implementation of these policies.

Written by Rajani Paranjape
Translation by Dhanashree Ketkar
Publication: Nirbhid Magazine

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