Monday, April 18, 2016

Universal Elementary Education in India: A Reality or Fantasy?

India adopted the National Policy on Education in 1986 marking a landmark moment in the education movement of our country.  Alongside the spirit of the education policy, in 2002, with the 86th Amendment Act, the Constitution of India inserted the provision of free and compulsory education for all children in the age group of 6–14 years as a fundamental right. In order to legislate this provision, the Right to Education (RTE) Act was formulated in 2009, while the Right to Education (RTE) Act has made progress in access to education; the delivery of education has worsened.

An article from Social Change analyses the reasons for this by using two main levers of the system: financial support and accountability. As far as support is concerned, three areas need attention, specifically, the low funding of education when compared with the global average; a mismatch between funds approved, actual funds available and funds spent; and inefficient, delayed and rushed expenditure. In terms of accountability, two main systemic gaps have been explored: accountability at the input level instead of the output level and accountability to funders instead of the community, with an emphasis on teachers’ accountability.

Education Policy was created with a national belief that education was ‘essentially for all’ and emphasised that education was a ‘unique investment’ for the present as well as for the future well-being of a nation. Almost 30 years later, we are still in the process of making this national perception a national reality.

Putting the Inputs in Place and Setting Inputs in Motion are the two essential steps to make ‘educated India’ a reality. Ensuring the accessibility of raw materials for education to the citizens—this would involve ensuring the presence of schools, classrooms, teachers and textbooks. This is the primary step on which the entire process is built. The second step is the one that makes the first step meaningful; over the years, we have been building a vast factory of education in our country, investing time, money, dreams and a lot of intellectual debates into it. Our expected product is an educated India, and we expect all the raw materials, mandated by the RTE Act, to actually churn out quality education. Herein lies the need for the second step. It is not really just one step, but more of a continuous effort of bringing the inputs in motion, making sure they are accessed and used, ensuring their effective and efficient functioning and thereby producing the output that this education factory was built to produce—Universal Elementary Education.


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