By Vijay Sanghvi
Are government and municipal schools providing quality education?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is forcing the pace of modernization on the Indian society through the transformation of aspirations, approach to life and attitude to work. Ambitions always become a necessity to be stepping stones to scale the high mountains of achievements. NaMo knows the secret as he struggled through early years to climb to the top through aspirations and diligence to work for it.
He is one of three Prime Ministers India had, with difficult childhood due to the financial circumstance of their families. Lal Bahadur Shastri had to swim across a river to reach his school as the family could not afford the boat fare. Chandra Shekhar walked every day five miles to his school in Balia from his village Ebrahim Patti. Narendra Modi sold tea cups at the Mehsana railway station to aid his father’s business before he could attend schools.
He also had to bear the stamp of a backward caste, unlike two others. He used his vision and innovative nature. All three climbed through difficult family circumstance to reach the top. Lal Bahadur Shastri had set to change the economic policy of the Nehru regime with the Economic Reforms Commission headed by LK Jha to prepare a blue print for necessary changes. Before he could see the blueprint, he had to fight two wars with Pakistan in 1965. The winner of war lost his life in attempts for peace in the subcontinent. Chandra Shekhar could stay in office for four months before the collapse to manipulation of the power hungry Congress.
Modi has however won his majority and also his mandate by his diligence. His vision also taught him to understand that mere charity under the garb of welfare programmes was not the solution to the perennial problem of poverty. They turn people to dependence on government. Welfare is an ancient tradition that helped to soothe the conscience of rich with the false impression that their charity was the service to humanity as was taught by the great sage Buddha. They never realized that their gift made people wait, without any substantial work, for next installment on their plate.
The Nehru government adopted the planned economic development model and reformed higher education to create engineers and other experts for major projects but did not attend to the need of imparting skills to hands to work on machines. NaMo promised better economic development model. He knows mere investments of capital or reconstruction of structures would not deliver the desired results unless human creativity were put to use. It entails imparting of skills through quality education.
He revealed step by step his idea. In his reply to the debate on the Presidential address to the first parliament session after the elections, he presented the principal problem of educated but unemployed youth in huge numbers as a national asset. India is young with average working age at 27 years while rest of the world had grown far older. Other nations need skilled hands to keep their machines running. India has the massive human bank to meet their needs by imparting skills to educated. It holds out high hopes of great potential avenue for millions of educated young.
The previous regimes continued the education system as inherited from the British without remodeling it to suit needs of the independent nation. The British needed it to churn out clerks for the governance to reduce their need for importing from overseas. No attention was paid to the quality of education in government and municipal schools attended by children of deprived and the Dalit families. These children did not receive the help of additional teaching from parents or outside their schools as children of upper class did from their families and social circles. Poor could not afford private tuitions. The discriminatory political intervention for space to them in higher education did not help as they were not educated to be competent to withstand a load of higher education. On the contrary, the reservation stamped them as intellectually inferior.
No particular schemes were devised to provide training on jobs as an apprentice to prepare them for skilled jobs. On the Labour Day, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi revealed the moving picture of merely 3 lakh apprentices in India as against 20 million in China, 90 percent in Japan and three million in a tiny population of Germany. Industries did not volunteer, trade unions resisted and the government was indifferent to the moving picture, he hinted.
It is evident that the overhaul of government and municipal schools to introduce quality education was impossible. Mere improvement in buildings or additional facilities cannot change inefficient teaching staff nor can it can be replaced. Most of them have strayed into the sector for monthly pay packets without a commitment to education. There was an additional danger of inviting pressure for the introduction of teaching the ancient Indian culture as a part of the new curriculum.
He showed a way by attending second time on Teacher’s Day the session of interaction with nearly three fourth million of students spread in schools across India with the use of the video conferencing. The Prime Minister could talk to several lakh students from the Centre in Delhi and answer their queries so a good teacher can through satellite links.
Within few days, he addressed scientists and experts of the Space Research Organisation and related disciplines to seek their help to devise the satellite links so good teachers can educate students through long distances in urban centres. He is inclined to put the modern communication means and mediums to introduce quality education without the need to dismantle the existing structure of common schools. He also conveyed a powerful message that young need to be modern to be competent with quality education to exploit potential markets for the exportable commodity of skilled hands.
The recent statistics coming from the Census reveal that 92 percent of children in age group of a fiver to thirteen years were attending schools in 2011. In four years number swelled by four more per cent with 96 per cent attending schools. It means even landless labour families are leaving their children at school gates instead of dragging them to child labour to substantiate the family earning. Achievement on this score with the Prime Minister according to high priority as revealed in several steps is the hope.