Tamil Nadu is regarded to be one of India’s star performers in the sector of elementary education. The results of the 2001 Census show that Tamil Nadu has attained third position behind Kerala and Maharashtra both in terms of overall and female literacy. It recorded close to 100 per cent gross enrolment ratio (GER) at primary and upper primary levels based on 2007 estimates. A major legislative effort for the universalisation of education in line with the constitutional mandate has been the introduction of the Tamil Nadu Compulsory Education Act, 1994.
Under this Act it is the duty of the government to provide the necessary infrastructure (schools and teachers) for ensuring universalisation of elementary education. Parents are also liable to be fined if they do not send their wards to school, though this rule is not very strictly enforced as most of the children not going to school come from poor backgrounds. Tamil Nadu’s high enrolment statistics are also the result of the number of welfare schemes that the State government has introduced in the elementary education sector. The large number of missionary and private schools are also playing a role in the spread of education.
The government provides textbooks, uniforms and noon meals to the pupils making it a State where the per child spending is much higher than in educationally backward States such as Bihar, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and others and is higher than the all-India average. The State is making an endeavor to provide primary schools within a one km radius of human habitations with a population of 300 and above to increase their accessibility. It is also a State that has actually spent most of the funds allocated to it by the Centre under the SSA scheme, in contrast to States like UP, Bihar and Assam that have huge unspent amounts.
Tamil Nadu students stood first in the country in mathematics, language and reading comprehension skills according to the national mid-term achievement survey of Class III children commissioned by the NCERT in collaboration with the MHRD and the SCERT and SSA wings of the States recently. But it has come to light that local bodies like corporations and municipalities are not fully utilizing money collected as education tax as a percentage of property tax under the Tamil Nadu Elementary Education Act and this is affecting the quality and quantity of formal education provision at the grassroots level.
While the general literacy rate in Tamil Nadu as per 2001 data is 73. 5%, wide disparities exist across districts, gender, and area of residence as well as social grouping. The literacy rate of the SC and ST populations are consistently lower in all the districts. The retention rate within and after the primary school level is also not very impressive and there is a high percentage of repeaters. This is particularly so in the case of the STs and SCs.
It is to overcome this discrepancy between education offered in different kinds of schools, between rural and urban schools and to overcome other numerous ills that have crept into the education system—such as arbitrary collection of fees, induction of daily waged, inadequately qualified para teachers, rote learning, examination stress, problems related to the medium of instruction and so on—that the State government constituted the Muthukumaran Committee, which submitted its report in 2007.
This committee had the mandate to work out a framework of a uniform pattern of education in Tamil Nadu and to make recommendations for improving its quality. The report of the Committee recommends only one autonomous board, The Tamil Nadu State Secondary School Education Board, instead of the existing four State level boards—Matriculation, Anglo-Indian, Oriental and State Board.
Schools coming under this integrated Board would follow a common syllabus ensuring an equitable school education in the State not conferring any undue advantages with regard to admission into higher educational institutions for students completing their school education from one particular Board. Equitable standard education is to be provided by a Common School or Neighbourhood School system, which with uniform syllabi would help to ‘decommercialise’ educational institutions and put an end to many a private management that does not feel sufficiently accountable to society in this crucial sector.
The spiraling cost of education starting at the nursery level is cementing caste-class and rural-urban divisions. A common school system using the mother tongue as a medium of instruction would make equal education accessible to all without discrimination. A common school system also means a common examination pattern. The report of the Committee advocates a reasonable teacher-student ratio of not more than 1:30 and doing away with faulty textbooks and a system of rote learning.
It emphasizes the promotion of analytical and rational skills that would equip the students to learn by themselves; a testing and evaluation pattern that involves the application of concepts learnt rather than mere reproduction of facts. The school syllabus should not overload students with information but instead kindle their interest in the subject and teach them how to search for more information and conceptualize it. Traditional knowledge should be incorporated and made part of school education.
Evaluation should be comprehensive and not just of academic achievements, and that too only marks based. Evaluation should include an assessment of student abilities and performance in academics, the arts, sports and games, values, reading habits, character, conduct and other extra-curricular activities. Schools should not only lay emphasis on academic subjects but also on moral education. Here the Committee suggests that it may be better to have a progress book with entries made from time to time and also periodically sent to the parents so that they may be made aware of their child’s progress.
Regular consultation with parents about their wards’ progress and achievements and educational goals is a must. A sheet of paper containing marks obtained in public exams is not enough to understand a student’s development and potential. If the marks obtained in only one exam are going to decide the person’s admission into an institute of higher learning then all stress is on preparing for this exam neglecting other exams and activities. The chance or temptation to indulge in malpractices is also high.
Marks obtained in a one-time exam also are no accurate reflection of the student’s actual knowledge and achievement level and potential. Treating exams and marks as more important than life itself has meant the death of many a student. Finally, children belonging to linguistic minorities should be allowed to gain instruction in their respective mother tongue, while all students in standards 5 or 8 ought to have a specific level of knowledge in Tamil and English so that these languages can be used for communication.
No student should be dropped and he/she should be allowed to grow in the chosen field of interest and in accordance with their individual capability. A simple pass or fail should certainly not be a deciding factor in a person’s life. While the government has accepted the notion of one board for school education other major recommendations of the Muthukumaran Committee on education reforms are being sidelined by the State government. In fact, some government run schools are changing the medium of instruction to English and not all schools teach Tamil, though this is compulsory as per current State education law.
Moreover, schools with an eye on the results in board exams and aiming at future lucrative career possibilities for their students are introducing modern European languages like French (German is waiting to be introduced on a larger scale on the school level) that are supposedly high scoring subjects in comparison to Tamil, which is seen to be difficult even by those whose mother tongue it is. There is almost everywhere an exodus from government run schools to aided or private schools because of the perceived better quality and the lure of an English medium education, which is regarded by parents to be necessary in today’s world.
It is to remain viable and not lose out in this competition for students that government run schools are increasingly offering English medium instruction also, although the English medium sections are permitted only on a self-financing basis. The non-acceptance of important recommendations by the Muthukumaran committee is thus in line with the general pro-globalisation trend in the Tamil Nadu economy as a whole. Current education system Why is India still a developing country and what is stopping it from being a developed country?
India’s education system as a stumbling block towards its objectives of achieving inclusive growth. India is going to experience a paradox of nearly 90 million people joining the workforce but most of them will lack requiste skills and the mindset for productiveemployment according to a report in DNA. India has about 550 million people under the age of 25 years out of which only 11% are enrolled in tertiary institutions compared to the world average of 23%. . I will be focussing on how the education
system’s failure is leading to another social issue of income inequality and hence, suggest certain policies to improve India’s education system and reduce inequality. Problems and drawbacks The really critical aspect of Indian public education system is its low quality. The actual quantity of schooling that children experience and the quality of teaching they receive are extremely insufficient ingovernment schools. A common feature in all government schools is the poor quality of education, with weak infrastructure and inadequate pedagogic attention.
What the government is not realising right now is that education which is a source of human capital can create wide income inequalities. It will be surprising to see how income inequalities are created within the same group of educated peopleSo if the government does not improve education system particularly in rural areas the rich will become richer and the poor will get poorer. Hence, it is imperative for the government to correct the blemishes in India’s education system which will also be a step towards reducing income inequality.
Another reason for poor quality of education is the poor quality of teachers in government schools . Government schools are unable to attract good quality teachers due to inadequate teaching facilities and low salaries. The government currently spends only 3% of its GDP on education which is inadequate and insufficient. To improve the quality of education , the government needs to spend more money from its coffers on education. Most economists feel that the only panacea to the ills of the public schooling system is the voucher scheme.
Under the voucher system, parents are allowed to choose a school for their children and they get full or partial reimbursement for the expenses from the government. But however, the voucher system will further aggravate the problem of poor quality of education in government schools. Such a system will shift resources from government schools to private schools. This will worsen the situation of government schools which are already under-funded. Moreover, if the same amount given as vouchers can be used to build infrastructure in schools then the government can realize economies of scale.
For example- The centre for civil society is providing vouchers worth Rs 4000 per annum to 308 girls. This means that the total amount of money given as vouchers is Rs 1232000. If the same amount can be used to construct a school and employ high quality teachers who are paid well then a larger section of the society will enjoy the benefit of education. A school can definitely accommodate a minimum of 1000 students. I hope government takes certain appropriate policy measures to improve the education system otherwise inequalities are going to be widespread and India’s basic capabilities will remain stunted.
Let us strengthen the case for a stronger education system. Conclusion Certain policy measures need to be taken by the government. The basic thrust of government education spending today must surely be to ensure that all children have access to government schools and to raise the quality of education in those schools. One of the ways in which the problem of poor quality of education can be tackled is through common schooling. This essentially means sharing of resources between private and public schools. Shift system is one of the ways through which common schooling can be achieved.
The private school can use the resources during the first half of the day and the government school can use it during the second half. It is important to remember that the quality of education is directly linked to the resources available and it is important for the government to improve resource allocation to bring about qualitative changes in the field of education. Common schooling is one of the ways in which government can use limited resources in an efficient way and thus improve resource allocation.