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Why We Need To Stop Pretending That Indian Education Is Heading In The Right Direction

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By Anesa Kratovac:

Undeniably, there are quite a few contradictions in India- mainly in its extremes of urban modernism and rural underdevelopment as well as in the juxtaposition of modern culture with traditional culture in both public and private life. One of the biggest and most important contradictions that I’ve come to examine in depth, is education. Honestly speaking, my understanding of Indian education is also skewed: although I have read plenty about the inadequacy of public education in India, living in Mumbai, I am also surrounded by some of the most well-educated, ambitious individuals who will be the future of this country. Working for a youth leadership organization, The Blue Ribbon Movement, I have also had quite a bit of exposure to college-age youth who are passionate about making a difference in their country as engineers, managers and professionals. This experience highlights the disconnect between my own sheltered, urban reality and my knowledge of the true livelihood actuality in most of India.

education

It is undeniable that development of any country is reflected in the quality of its education system, since knowledge and economic opportunities depend on solid education achievements and skills. Literacy, in this respect, as well as self-empowerment and ability to participate in community issues is essential to the improvement of the conditions of any society. India’s education system is largely carried out by the government, but the fact that the government is not able to improve teacher absenteeism, track children’s learning progress and prove accountable for learning outcomes is not only an issue of underinvestment in education; it is also the inability of the government to understand the complexity of the issues confronting rural life and urban life and how that translates to poor educational outcomes.

The inability for the policy makers to comb through all the elements that contribute to the complexity of education issues in India and truly come up with cost-effective solutions to eradicate illiteracy and improve India’s performance standards has encouraged many independent organizations to fill in the gaps. Teach for India, Pratham and Barefoot College are some of the most progressive institutional examples of innovative practices put to use to bridge educational inequalities. But, private institutions can only reach so many children, no matter how noble and effective the cause. It is truly a policy issue that centres on enforcing accountability- on teacher selection, promotion rules, competency versus memorization evaluations and the encouragement of parents to have a greater role in their child’s education. Indeed, without such push for reform, India will have a few pockets of elite progress floating on a large pool of illiteracy and underperformance, which will continue to enforce the cycle of poverty and lack of socioeconomic progress.

Indeed, the current statistics of India’s educational underperformance are startling. Out of all the Asian countries, India has the fourth lowest literacy rates at 74%, with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh trailing slightly behind; this becomes even more staggering when compared to Sri Lanka’s 98% literacy rate achievements. Other findings of student accomplishments in primary school mainly sourced from Pratham Educational Foundation, point to even greater gaps:

• Only half of all children aged 8-11 years enrolled in a government school are able to read a simple paragraph with three sentences.
• Less than half (43 percent) of these children are able to subtract a two-digit number from another two-digit number.
• Only 37 percent of children enrolled in class 4 and 5 can read fluently.
• Less than half (45 percent) are able to divide 20 by 5.
• Only 16 percent of class 4 pupils can master measurement of the length of a pencil with a ruler.
• Only 22 percent of class 6 students could understand that crumbling paper does not alter its weight.
• Reading and math skills of class 4 students in India’s top schools are below the international average.

These outcomes point to an ineffective, unaccountable system that is in dire need of reform. It is not easy to transform such crumbling and complex issues overnight. It will, in fact, take years. But first, we must stop pretending that India is heading in the right direction, because cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Delhi and others produce educated and skilled youth. Yes, it is wonderful that urban areas claim internationally-competitive organizations, corporations and start-ups, but to think of this progress as India’s incredible achievements in education is turning a blind eye to vast prevalence of educational inadequacy in the country.

Progressive milestones should be celebrated, but they should not be occasions of forgetfulness that beyond this one percentile safely tucked in urban modernity, is rest of the country that seems forgotten. The mainstream media is itself responsible, since it rarely mentions the many issues confronting the country and only highlights progress and sensationalism. The more we discuss and advocate for issues out in the open (with friends, through blogs, through publications) that are important to us, the more attention and hopefully action we will instigate towards eradicating them. Let’s not keep silent and most importantly, let’s help make India fully literate by 2020…now, that would be progress!

You must be to comment.
  1. Harsh Doshi

    Check out my views on the Indian education system
    http://finebakedbread.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/what-india-actually-needs/
    on my blog Fine Baked Bread

  2. ashutosh

    Real problem of lack of enjoyment in style of education and practical learning with freedom with self exploration of ideas.
    There is direct link with education system and India’s problem see it at https://upashu1.wordpress.com/ or at https://upashu1.wordpress.com/

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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