As per a report released by UNESCO in 2015, in terms of absolute numbers, India – with 28.7 crore illiterates – was the country with the largest number of adults without basic literacy skills in 2010-11 compared to 2000-01 when it had 30.4 crore illiterate people. Adding to this, according to the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC), 36 percent of the 884 million people in rural India are illiterate.
The Government of India has been trying its best to eradicate the problem of illiteracy in the nation, but what all these initiatives lack is a deeper dig into the grassroots. In the tribal belt of Udaipur and Banswara of Rajasthan, most of the schools are built under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme. The majority of villages are only equipped with schools up to Class 8 which makes it even more difficult for the populace living in the extreme interior to get exposed to higher education.
Lalit Chaudhary, who is currently a teacher of Mathematics in the Government Senior Secondary School, Mor of Banswara district in Rajasthan. In an hour long conversation, he suggested some reforms in the Indian education system from his 27 years of teaching experience.
He started off with the recent review of the ‘No-detention-till-Class-8’ policy, stating that a student spends the initial years of their schooling to develop their brains start to utilise it independently during their teenage years. Failing the students before they face the real challenges of life can demotivate them to the extent that the students might not attempt to achieve in future endeavours.
Later, he emphasised on having only two books till Class 5, which would be for Mathematics and Language in the tribal regions because the current students in the schools are mostly first generation learners and don’t even use Hindi as the first language in their day-to-day conversations. He even shared how the participation of the students decreases when the opportunities are thrown open to other senior and junior students.
“The junior students of senior secondary schools don’t take the lead in the most basic activities like the assembly, sports and so on, because of the hierarchy in the system. There should be primary school from Class 1-5, secondary school from Class 6-10 and senior secondary schools should be completely separate”, said Lalit Chaudhary.
The schools in the tribal regions can’t flourish without community support and interventions, and it can be a tough task for the Block Elementary Education Officer to have a bird’s eye view of all the schools in the block. Appointing a ‘Village Education Officer’ in the communities to watch out the school processes can be one alternative, and with this, there is a hope that the current rigid power dynamics can be dissolved.
In India, there is an urgency to redefine the purpose of education, distinguish between education and literacy, and have focus primarily on skill-based learning. Promote and practice creativity, original thinking, research and innovation.