There have been significant improvements in access to education in India in the last 50 years. Enrolment in government-run primary schools increased from over 19 million in the 1950s to 114 million by 2001.
There has also been progress in the literacy movement since 1991. In India literacy rates increased from 18.3% in 1951 to 64.8% in 2001.
These are remarkable achievements. However, a large gap continues to remain between the degree of expansion and the goal of universal education.
There are still over 35 million children in the 6-14 years old age group whom are not receiving any education. This means that one out of every three out-of-school children in the world is Indian. Also, one out of every three Indian citizens is illiterate.
Education is widely recognized as a key component in empowering people to overcome poverty and lack of freedoms. There are well-documented links between education and reduction in the rate of population growth, improvements in family health and equitable economic growth.
Lack of resources
The Public Report on Basic Education in India (PROBE) found that only one quarter of schools met the minimum requirements of useable classrooms and teachers. Up to 52% didn’t have playgrounds, 89% lacked toilets, 59% had no drinking water and 77% didn’t have a library.
There are also concerns relating to teacher training, the quality of the curriculum, assessment of learning achievements and the efficacy of school management. Given the lack of quality schools, many children drop out before completing five years of primary education.
With one upper primary school for every three primary schools, there are simply not enough of them to met demand. Access to upper primary schools is especially difficult for girls.
High Drop-out Rates
Drop-out rates are officially admitted to be as high as 35%. In 1993, enrollment in Class Five was only 54.63% of enrollment in Class One.
Access to education for girls is a serious cause of concern. It’s estimated that for every 100 girls that enroll in school in rural India, 40 will reach Class Four, 18 will get to Class Eight, and only 1 will reach Class Twelve.
Female literacy rose from 34% in 1990 to 45% in 2000. However, the fact remains that 190 million females in India are non-literate. Far more girls then boys fail to complete primary school.
The education of girls has important impacts on maternal health, infant mortality rates, child protection and HIV / Aids.
The Domestic Economy
Many children don’t attend school because they are required to work for eight or more hours a day instead. However, an important finding of the PROBE report was that only 5% of out-of-school children were actually involved in earning significant wages. The majority were involved in household tasks such as caring for siblings or tending grazing cattle.
India has the largest number of working children in the world. Save The Children India believes that there are up to111 million children involved in child labour in India. Most child-rights organisations are adamant that free, compulsory and quality elementary education is the first and most important step in the fight to eradicate child labour.
To a large extent, teachers and schools are not held responsible for the quality of education that they are providing. However, a climate is slowly developing in which parents feel that they can demand accountability from the system that promises to educate their children.
This is process is vital to driving education improvements in India. It is an area in which community-based organisations and NGOs can be of great help.
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Amarpurkashi Rural Polytechnic