By Diksha Langthasa:
Part 1 of a 2 part series.
We live in a country where colleges declare cut offs reaching as high as 100%, a country that produces geniuses like Arvind Adiga and Nandan Nilekani. Yet, we are also a country that has multitudes of illiterate children who have never graced the compound of a school as a student. Our country has a growth rate of 8% but ranks 134 in the literacy report compiled by the United Nations.
The problem of illiteracy plagues countries of economic backgrounds. The United States of America ranks at 45, while the UK ranks at 44. Both are countries which figure in the top 10 in the UN Human Development Report. It is instead a much smaller country like Georgia which ranks 1st in the report. Similarly, in India too, it is a small economy like Kerala which manages a near 100% literacy while prosperous states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh lag behind. In both instances, we can see that the size of the economy is not a dominant factor in improving the literacy rate of a country. Instead, it is policies of the government which will help in best use of this human capital through education and adequate spending.
The Right to Education Act was introduced in India in 2009 in which the main responsibility rested on the shoulders of private institutions which were to reserve 25 % seats for the economically weaker sections. Yes, the government did a noble thing by securing seats for them on paper. However, it also completely ignored the needs of those belonging to this class. Many often cite that they don’t have an appropriate atmosphere at home to study; others complain their teachers don’t teach properly. Both reasons are true when we take a real look at their lives. Many children have siblings and households to take care of while the case of teachers not being competent does seem credible. Why do we not enroll our children in the government institutions?
While the primary education system itself is at most defunct and inefficient, the institutions for higher studies too don’t present a rosy picture. While I read in a newspaper that only one-fifth of the total children who appeared for class 10 board examination went on to complete their schooling; even less than one-fifth of that portion pursue higher studies. On top that, it is impossible to accommodate all of these students. There is an absolute dearth of good education institutions so there will always remain those who face a bleak future due to a mediocre guidance in higher studies.
And that is where our country’s vast human capital suffers. Our country has a young population with almost 60 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 59 (the working class) with a majority of this being young adults. This vulnerable group required the highest level of guidance to navigate them to a safe destination where they may escape from poverty and sufferings. Imagine what would happen if each one-sixtieth person were equipped with skills like speaking in English, performing Arithmacy and adequateÂ tuition. Our skilled labour force will lead the way for the economic growth of our country.
It is important for our country to reduce the gap between the demand and supply of education. This huge surplus of demand for education should be met by entrepreneurs and government alike by increasing the supply of education. More institutions providing quality education should be opened instead of opening schools to make a profit on the excess demand of the population. Government schools can have better infrastructure, better and efficient teachers with a system to keep the inefficient on check, and providing incentives to students to attend schools.
A survey by National Adult Literacy Association in 2005 shows the link between literacy and the cost effects on the economy of a country. It shows that a large economy is a result of a skilled workforce and not the other way around. The report shows how education increases productivity, provides skills to people, increases the labour force and thus increases the economic growth of a country. It was after this report that Ireland decided to increase spending in the public sector from 1 million pounds to 30 million pounds. It is time that India too takes such steps and capitalizes on its huge youthful population.