When Microsoft founder and one of the most brilliant corporate leaders Bill Gates spoke some months ago about the real problems the developing world faces today, he pointed a finger at India’s education sector and said that the problems in the education sector were a real challenge that India faces. Gates could not have hit the nail on its head more accurately!
While the BJP led NDA government at the Centre and in many states is stressing a lot on making changes in the curriculum of various school and college courses in the country, the details coming out of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for 2017 throw light on some shocking details of what the status of basic primary education is in our country today.
ASER report points out how shocking level of students cannot perform basic tasks like solving some arithmetic problems and reading even text written in their own language. This makes the future prospects very scary, to say the least.
The ASER 2017, carried out by an NGO, indicates that as far as basic foundation skills like reading and arithmetic are concerned, a significant percentage of youths in our country cannot perform daily tasks and common calculations in every day life. About 25 per cent of teens in the age group of 14 to 18 years cannot read basic text fluently in their own language and more than half struggle with division (3 digits by 1 digit) problems, states the ASER 2017 report. Less than 60 per cent of the youths could tell the time accurately. Only 58 per cent of those who have completed 8 years of schooling or are enrolled in school or college can read and follow instructions.
This isn’t something new. It has been happening in our country for years now and yet we are falling short in changing the situation. As far as geography and general knowledge is concerned, while 86 per cent recognised the map of the country, only 64 per cent could tell the name of the capital correctly and hardly 42 per cent could point out their state on the map.
The opposition in India complains that the BJP governments in various states are running an agenda of saffronising the education sector. Introducing Sanskrit as a compulsory subject in central board run schools, putting questions in exams on Hindu epics and other such steps have been taken which clearly give credence to these allegations. First, the government must make the basic education structure robust. Learning Sanskrit can be optional and nobody is against the introduction of courses that introduce students to ancient India, but what purpose is served if basic reading and mathematical skills are not learnt by students. It’s shocking that close to 36 per cent students cannot even tell the name of the capital correctly!
National television channels reported a few weeks back that in some northern states, the BJP government is now painting most of the schools in saffron. It’s an irony that instead of ensuring that education is imparted effectively, the governments in certain states are seen spending their energy and money on such senseless things.
What the ASER survey reveals is absolutely shocking and if urgent and strict measures are not taken to bring the education sector (especially in rural areas) back on track, the country will face a crisis in the coming decades.