Smart Class

By GovernanceToday
In Education
October 8, 2014
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A Far Cry for Schools in Villages

When one hears about the introduction of smart classes in the high-price schools, the first thought which arises in the mind: will there be a day when these smart classes will reach the rural areas of the country? Will the teachers who themselves are trained through traditional way of teaching (via black board and chalk) be able to adjust and accept the latest technology driven education??? Many questions,  hypothetical answers, reality far-fetched from the ground…

School-eduaction

NEARLY TWO -THREE decades ago, students in rural areas were dependant on wooden slates and bamboo made pen. The sitting arrangements used to be bizarre. Students had to clean the dust of the classroom and then sat on the sackcloth or homemade mats. Teachers
depended on the wooden black boards and dusty chalks. If we check now, there is no much difference. Most of the rural schools are having the same status where they used to be 20 years back. Thanks to information technology, most of the Indian villages are equipped with mobile  phones but no modern standard elementary education.

Call it a dubious distinction of the country that boasts of information technology. Forget the air-conditioned school buses in metropolis, most of the students have to walk on dusty, muddy or broken roads in order to reach their institutions in villages.

The story of smart classes and classrooms of rural India are like comparing multi-storey buildings or shopping malls to juggis or slums made up of grass and soil.

India, the world’s largest democracy, took around 63 years to ensure education for all up to the age of 14 by passing the Right to Education Bill in 2009.

There is a shortage of about seven lakh primary school teachers in India. As per RTE, the Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) should be 1:30 but in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand the ratio is far behind the national average

Poverty is a reason which creates hurdle in this “learning and teaching business” in rural India. Government also introduced a scheme called Midday Meal for primary schools across the country, which still falls between fine line of failure and success.

Though this programme provides a meaningful help to attract poor children to school, there are various issues related to its quality. Incidents of food poisoning is one such issue. Death of 23 students following consumption of midday meal in Saran district of Bihar in July 2013 is an alarming reminder in this regard.

There are other serious issues. Several times poor parents don’t afford education of their children and they are forced into child labour, a bitter reality defying the law. Poor children are pushed to factories in urban and semi-urban areas and their childhood are being lost.

School-education1According to a government report, there is a shortage of about seven lakh primary school teachers in India. As per RTE, the Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) should be 1:30 but in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand the ratio is far behind the national average. Most of the government school teachers do not focus on students  as they treat their jobs as ‘permanent’ and they have no fear of losing it.

Due to several reasons, drop out ratio among rural children is still higher than the urban India. Most of villages have one government- run primary school up to fifth class, but they are lagging behind in basic facilities like clean drinking water, toilet etc. In case, if a school has such facilities, they are mostly no more in use.

According to a UNICEF report, out of 200 million enrolled children in India about 80 million leave the school before completing their elementary education.

As per report ‘Flash Statistics: Elementary Education in India: Progress towards UEE for the year 2013-14’, there are 11.46 per cent primary schools in India which have only one teacher in entire school. About six per cent primary schools still don’t have drinking water facility and about eight per cent schools have either no toilets or is dysfunctional. About 20 per cent primary schools don’t have toilets for girls. More than 90 per cent primary and about 40 per cent upper primary schools don’t have computer facility and more than 48 per cent schools don’t have electricity connection.

There are also such schools in rural areas which are overpacked and the pupils-teacher ratio is much disturbed. The ratio of students in such schools could be 80-100. One can easily imagine, how can a teacher handle and pay attention to more than 80 students in a class in primary level. It’s definitely a daunting task.

The RTE rule says that primary schools must be within walking distance from students’ homes. The law says, “Provide a school within one km for children in classes first to fifth standard, and three km for children in classes sixth to eighth standard.” But still there are villages which don’t have schools and the children have the only option to go to schools of nearby villages, which leads to several problems related to their safety. The girl students usually suffer most.

Discrimination among children of different castes and communities is also a problem in village schools. A report prepared by Human Rights Watch, a US based international human rights body, reveals that students from marganilised communities such as Dalit, tribes and minorities persistently face discrimination from school authorities and fellow classmates. A report titled “They Say We’re Dirty’: Denying an Education to India’s Marginalized,” documented cases of discrimination against Dalit, tribes and Muslims in four states- Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Delhi. The unwelcoming behaviour from schools’ authorities often leads to drop out.

Having all these issues and challenges, can the education system of rural India go the urban way? This is a big question which needs to be answered as it’s directly related to the future of the country. Apart from better government schools in urban areas and metro cities, there are a  large number of private schools which have developed as an industry selling elementary education at exorbitant prices. Imposing limited restrictions, the government seems to have given free hand to private schools to adopt various measures and fee. Can’t we pressurise the government to compel these school companies to impart education in remote areas as well for the benefit of village students.