by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Is everything well and good with India’s education system?
The answer to this question is a resounding ‘no’.
Even a cursory look at India’s school education will reveal the serious issues plaguing the system. Let us take a look at these issues.
The quality of teachers in many Indian schools, though not all, leaves much to be desired. The reason for this is easy to find. If you ask a school graduate in India what he wants to become in the future, he would say doctor, engineer, and scientist and so on, but most probably, not a teacher. Teaching as a profession does not attract the most accomplished of candidates, who usually opt for careers such as engineering or medical field. Very often, students who do not make the cut for other careers opt for teaching as a profession. This is exacerbated by the fact that in many private schools, it is not necessary to have a teaching degree to become a teacher. It turns out that anybody and everybody can teach, which is not the ideal state of affairs.
Why do so few people want to become teachers? Why is it not the number one ambition of the young people in India? The answer is simple. Compared to other professionals such as engineers, doctors or lawyers, teachers in many schools in India, though not all, are paid low. This has eroded the respect and high status that teaching as a profession has been accorded since time immemorial. It is also a matter of regret that people who are entrusted with molding the future generations of the country should be rewarded with so little, in terms of money. This is most evident in private schools, where often fresh graduates without a teaching degree or experience are employed.
If a teacher is to be respected in society, and are deemed worthy of being paid well, they should have decision making opportunities about what to teach, and how to teach. Teachers should not be just robots who repeat the same lines in classes year after year, without using their intellectual capacities for any kind of decision making. This is the negative effect of the mass education policies in India where educational decisions are centralized and text books are written by the so-called experts. Teachers are just instruments to implement their decisions. This makes teaching a profession that involves very little intellectual challenge.
4.6 per cent of India’s GDP is spent on education. For a country of India’s size and population, this is hardly adequate. The lack of funds shows up in inadequate infrastructure, and lack of quality educational materials. How many high schools in India can boast of well-equipped laboratories or computers? How many Indian schools have well-stocked libraries? How many have a good playground, football or basketball courts? Barring International and private schools that charge exorbitant fees, the schools in India do not have the facilities needed for a high quality education.
The 21st century demands critical skills, creativity and leadership. Technology has advanced to the point of robots taking over human jobs like teaching. The modern world has little use for people who are just followers, who blindly follow orders with little thinking. Sadly, Indian education is still stuck in the past, with its emphasis on the supremacy of the text and the rote learning of facts. It does not engage the learners through the application of theory. Language learning in particular, is a case in point. A CBSE English examination can be aced if a student can understand the given text and write a pre-prepared answer. Writing or speaking skills are not assessed in the examination. For this reason, there is no guarantee that a person who is a graduate of English language and literature can speak, read and write good English. This is a basic problem with the curricula in schools in India. In fact, not speaking good English is the major handicap that Indian candidates have in International job markets.
There is a reason why a nation of 1.3 billion people cannot produce even a couple of winners at the Olympics. Students in India lose out on holistic education. Sports, debating, foreign language learning, arts and craft, dance, music and Model United Nations are just some of the activities that children in good schools around the world take part in, apart from academics. Very few Indian schools have these provided as part of their school experience.