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Problems in Rural India
Despite the country’s soaring GDP, India is home to almost a quarter of the world’s poor population. Although India lifted 270 million people out of poverty between 2006 and 2016, 270 million more people continue to live below the global poverty line. The extreme poverty that India’s poor faces disproportionately affects rural populations and women, who receive fewer opportunities in education, healthcare and employment.

Named after the goddess of education, nonprofit Bani Mandir works to elevate people in India’s most vulnerable communities by solving problems in rural India. The organization, based in West Bengal, India, aims to address the root causes of poverty, particularly in rural areas and among women. By providing solutions to education inequality, access to healthcare and women’s opportunities, Bani Mandir empowers India’s rural poor.

Education

One of the root causes of poverty is a lack of education. Access to education is integral to lifting people out of poverty, as education reduces inequality and drastically improves the opportunities students obtain as they age. In India, where 45% of the poor population is illiterate, improving access to education in rural areas is vital.

Girls in India, particularly those living in poverty, face additional barriers when it comes to attending school. India gave girls the right to education in 2009. However, many girls are still unable to attend school due to housework responsibilities, stigma and health concerns. The lack of girls in school contributes to fewer women in the workforce. Women make up only 25% of the labor force in India.

To increase enrollment of girls and students from rural areas, Bani Mandir has provided education for more than 10,000 students, maintaining equal representation between girls and boys. Bani Mandir also helps children receive sufficient nutrition support and trains teachers in effective teaching practices. These advancements are improving the quality of education for a larger number of students.

Access to Healthcare

In India, rural communities receive significantly less access to healthcare. Due to the lack of health facilities and insufficient awareness about the benefits of healthcare, many workers in rural communities are unwilling to sacrifice a day’s wages to attend a healthcare visit. Additionally, women in India receive less access to healthcare than men. In a 2019 study, men and boys were two times as likely to visit a healthcare facility. The study also found that many women who should have seen a doctor did not.

To improve access to healthcare in India’s vulnerable communities, Bani Mandir offers comprehensive healthcare programs. Women make up 60% of those benefiting from Bani Mandir’s health services. Bani Mandir’s 23 health projects served more than 3,500 people living in rural villages and slums. The organization also arranged more than 100 health camps to address immediate medical needs. Finally, Bani Mandir partners with schools to provide health programs to students. Its work is encouraging students to seek healthcare and to grow up in a culture where going to the doctor is standard practice.

Women’s Empowerment

Since many women are often denied access to education and healthcare, their employment opportunities are limited. Furthermore, employment is not a guarantee of equal treatment. In fact, pay inequalities result in men making 65% more than women for the same labor. Although gender equality in India is a constitutional right, many women are unaware of their rights and of the ways they can support themselves financially.

Bani Mandir offers more than 375 self-help groups across 30 villages and supports more than 15,000 women and girls to help eliminate problems in rural India. These women’s empowerment groups educate women about their rights, organize finances and offer loans for small businesses, encouraging female entrepreneurs. Bani Mandir also aims to change societal perceptions and stigmas against women by educating broader communities. Bani Mandir’s programs are educating upwards of 10,000 community members about women’s rights issues.

By addressing the problems in rural India pertaining to poverty, such as education, healthcare and women’s opportunities, Bani Mandir is inciting change across entire communities and improving the lives of rural populations. The organization also offers services that improve sanitation, care for the elderly and support for abandoned children. With its wide scope, Bani Mandir is providing countless examples of concrete ways to create change. To build upon the positive change that Bani Mandir and other nonprofits have inspired, the Indian government should sharpen its laws around gender equality to ensure that women and girls obtain adequate access to employment, healthcare and education.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Unsplash

STEM Education in India

According to India’s latest census, 7.8 million children must earn a living while attending school. Another 84 million children do not even attend school. One of India’s biggest challenges is making education accessible to all its people. While primary education in India is now required, many children do not have the means to attend school. Although India’s literacy rates are rising, studies show that many children in primary schools fail to comprehend basic skills and concepts. As new technologies emerge, STEM education is becoming an important aspect of India’s education. The Agastya International Foundation and India STEM Foundation are two nonprofit organizations introducing rural children to STEM education.

STEM Education in India

In 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that 75 percent of India’s technology graduates lack the qualifications for jobs in their fields. This report came a month after India released its 2011 census stating that nearly 92 million children in India struggle to achieve an education. Today, India’s government and nonprofit organizations, such as the Agastya International Foundation and the India STEM Foundation, have partnered to provide children with a strong education they can depend on later in life.

Agastya International Foundation

Founded in 1999, the Agastya International Foundation is a “transformative educational organization” that provides poor rural and urban children with hands-on learning through its mobile science labs. With more than 130 mobile labs set up across India, Agastya provides more than 500 students with hands-on learning every day. The Agastya International Foundation hones its curriculum to fill noticeable gaps within India’s education system.

  • With a rural 172 acre campus, Agastya provides children and young adults with a wide range of hands-on learning activities. The Camps @ Campus program is a unique opportunity for rural and urban children to come together. During the program, children sharpen their academic abilities while simultaneously drawing lessons from their rural or urban counterparts. Agastya also offers learning opportunities for remote children who are unable to attend on-campus programs. Lab-in-a-Box contains science experiments that are sent to village schools in the more rural corners of India. Agastya trains at least one teacher per school to assist the students as they work through each experiment. There are a total of 12 boxes packed with more than 133 experiments that range from chemistry to biology.
  • The Agastya International Foundation’s most effective program is its mobile labs. Trained teachers travel across India in a van to supply rural children with an education in science. In 2018, over 160 mobile labs reached nearly 4 million children in 2,460 schools. The teachers reported seeing a spike in attendance whenever the Mobile Labs came to visit. Agastya’s Lab-on-a-Box programs also saw similar results, reaching more than 600,000 children in 780 schools.
  • Agastya is also empowering aspiring teachers through their Young Instructor Leaders program. This program breaks down the traditional setup of a classroom by allowing the students to become the teacher. Last year, over 18,000 children participated in the YIL program. One young leader organized cleaning programs in his village while another provided her family with financial and educational advice. Due to Agastya, the young leader “lost [her] fear once [she] became a young leader.” Already impacting over 6 million children and 200,000 teachers, the Agastya International Foundation continues to create, connect and empower children with science throughout India.

India STEM Foundation

Similar to the Agastya International Foundation, the India STEM Foundation’s mission is to educate young children about science and technology. In an interview, the program manager, Nityanand Channur, stated that “there is definitely a need [for a] holistic learning approach in [India’s] education system.”  Through its hands-on education in robotics, the India STEM Foundation hopes to inspire young students to pursue careers in STEM fields. Since 2006, the Foundation has created robotic labs, workshops, training for teachers and robotics competitions.

  • Robotics has quickly become one of the many stepping-stones to engage children by using important concepts in math and science. Through problem solving and teamwork, the students work together to create a working robot. Robo Siksha Kendra is the India STEM Foundation’s robotics program that has captivated more than 500,000 students and created 15,000 teachers. In 2018, India STEM Foundation partnered with Lego to create India’s first Lego League. Over 2000 students participated in the robotic event. The students were tasked with researching and designing a solution to a real-world scientific problem or question.
  • Alongside its robotic program, the Foundation also supports the Atal Tinkering Lab, which uses the same hands-on methodology to create an environment for students to create and innovate. The Atal Innovation Mission was created by the Government of India to encourage and foster curiosity in children. Its mission is to “cultivate one million children in India as Neoteric Innovators.”

STEM education is not only fostering an interest in science, technology, engineering and math, but a future for children and India. India’s next generation of innovators is on the rise and ready to meet India’s growing need for STEM careers.

Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

education in India

As India’s population continues to grow, the number of education initiatives from both nonprofits and the government has increased. The approaches to modernizing and unifying education for India’s 1.3 billion people vary, with some focusing on equality and others on upgrading the curriculum. Educate Girls, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and The Akanksha Foundation are three programs looking to improve education in India, through different methods.

3 Approaches to Better Education in India

  1. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
    Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the Indian Government’s flagship program for universalizing elementary education. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan mandates education for children ages 6 to 14 under the 86th amendment to the Constitution of India. SSA is implemented in coordination with state governments to reach 192 million students, with a particular focus on girls and children with special needs. SSA also has an emphasis on community-specific education, in order to address the particular needs of all communities, especially indigenous communities. India has almost 600 Indigenous communities, most of which are rural. Those who live there speak almost 300 Indigenous dialects, meaning that education policies cannot be one-size-fits-all.SSA looks to open new schools in villages that lack infrastructure, or where existing infrastructure is inadequate. For existing schools, the goal is to strengthen teaching staff and increase access to teaching materials and resources such as computers. Many schools in urban areas have significantly benefited from SSA, seeing improvements in textbooks and consistency with teacher salaries. However, rural villages are not seeing the same benefits. In the Keonjhar district, the school does not have proper classrooms and only three teachers for the almost 90 students it serves. The community has appealed to the government for nine years but has received little assistance.
  2. Educate Girls
    Educate Girls works to increase government accountability for education in India’s rural villages. Educate Girls is a non-profit organization established in 2007 by Indian native Safeena Husain. The organization focuses on mobilizing forces in local communities to advocate for better education opportunities in India. Educate Girls currently operates in 13,000 villages with an overall goal of reaching 16 million children cumulatively by 2024.Educate Girls works to increase education in India by lobbying existing governmental networks to improve education conditions for both boys and girls, as not to duplicate services. Husain feels that by forcing the hand of the government, not only do they reduce the risk of duplicating service, but they also hold the government accountable to its citizens and avoid government dependence on non-profit services. Educate Girls uses a base of community volunteers to identify, enroll and retain girls in school to help improve literacy and numeracy rates.The organization aims to change the behavioral and social approach to girls’ education to create an environment where equal opportunities are automatic in India. Volunteers currently go door to door in villages to identify every girl who is not in school. Educate Girls takes pride in their survey’s 100 percent saturation rate by knocking on every door in the village they are targeting. This initiative led to the re-enrollment of 380,000 girls.Thanks to Educate Girls’ in-depth research, it has partnered up with the UBS Optimus Foundation and the Children’s Investment Foundation to create the first-ever results-based bond program. Educate Girls was also just named an Audacious Project of 2019. The Audacious Project is an organization funded by numerous donors and housed by TED, which chooses a few organizations each year to showcase for donors and to present at the annual TED conference. Educate Girls was one of eight organizations selected for this year’s Audacious Project.
  3. The Akanksha Foundation
    The Akanksha Foundation has taken education in India out of the hands of the government, creating a network of public-private schools that are built, staffed and managed by the foundation. Although the schools are privately funded, the organization establishes partnerships with the community as a whole in which it operates. Akanksha schools believe that nurturing home environments is equally as crucial to academic success as a positive school experience. Its academic model starts with an initial evaluation of needs and goal setting. Then through constant evaluation, Akanksha schools tailor their standard curriculum to each community’s needs. Akanksha schools also believe in a focus on extracurricular activities to help develop social and emotional intelligence, teaching students to be responsible and compassionate citizens.Akanksha has 21 schools in Pune and Mumbai, reaching 9,300 students. Within those districts, 12th grade passing rates in the Akanksha schools are higher than the government-run high schools. Ninety-two percent of 12th graders from Akanksha passed compared to only 86 percent passed in the public high school. Similarly to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan government initiative, the results are seen in urban areas, but rural areas are still not receiving comparable resources or attention. India tasks local governments with auditing and enforcing education in their communities, but efforts are often obstructed by cultural opinions about education.

– Carly Campbell
Photo: Flickr

Girls Education in IndiaEducation in India has greatly improved over the past decade. However, there is still much that needs to be down to decrease the education gaps that exist in rural areas and between girls and boys. These 10 facts show the problems that still need to be solved and what is being done to improve education in India.

10 Facts About Education in India

  1. Considering India has the second largest population in the world, it isn’t surprising to find that India has the world’s second-largest school system, after China. However, there is still a gap in participation rates despite the millions of enrolled students. These gaps are particularly evident among populations of lower castes, minorities, and rural regions. Education in India is on its way toward improving due to major increases in government funding in rural areas.

  2. Free and compulsory education in India is provided to children between the ages of 6 and 14. In August 2009, the Indian Parliament passed the landmark Right to Education Act that made education in India free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14. There have been tremendous increases and advances in access to education and because of this act. For example, literacy rates in India have increased in recent years. The student population in the school system grew by 5 percent between the years 2010 and 2015.

  3. India’s improved education system is one of the main contributors to it’s growing economy. Over the past several years, India increased spending on education by 80 percent between 2011 and 2015, increased literacy rates to nearly 74 percent as of 2011, increased English-language speaking in classrooms giving more access to foreign studies and careers and has significantly increased primary education than ever before. This has to lead to a surge in youth working in some of the best technology-centered jobs in the world. Subsequently, India has seen an increase in GDP.

  4. One in 40 primary schools in India is conducted in tents or open spaces with unqualified teachers. Insufficient funds are allocated to rural regions and primary schools depriving children in rural areas of primary schooling in buildings. Often children are taught in tents or open spaces with little to no common resources, such as pencils, pens, paper, chalkboard, etc. Further, UNICEF and other global organizations have observed that one major problem with education in India is unqualified teachers. For example, according to WENR (World Education News + Reviews), the qualification requirements for teachers are low. 

  5. A disproportionate number of total out-of-school children in India are girls. In the rural areas of India, is not uncommon to find that child labor is a primary reason children are not in school. This is because of the need of children in the farms and family work to provide a living for families below the poverty line. Most of these children are girls. In certain regions, there is still resistance to sending girls to school. Even with the Right to Education Act making school compulsory for children 6-14, more girls than boys are forced to drop-out by their parents to help out at home. However, progress has been made in keeping girls in school. The Right to Education Act doubled the number of girls toilets in schools by 2016 and increase the number of walled school grounds removing a significant safety concern for girls school attendance. Since the Right to Education Act passed, the percentage of out-of-school girls 11-14 decreased from 10.3 percent in 2006 to 4.1 percent in 2018.

  6. Preschool education in India is not mandatory and fairly uncommon. The Right to Education act emphasized education in India for ages 6-14. However, preschool education is not necessarily prioritized. In reality, more than 30 percent of educational funds are allocated towards higher education, leaving education for children under age 6 underfunded.

  7. As of 2011, 21.2 percent of India’s population lives under the official poverty line. High poverty rates lead to high drop out rates for children. Why? Their priority and primary concern is helping their families survive. For the impoverished, education is a luxury, something only the rich can afford in terms of time and money. This mindset can be changed by allocating more money to building schools in impoverished areas in India thereby providing direct access to school and working around the schedules of those also helping their families.

  8. In this years’ budget, the Finance Minister announced a 4.9 percent increase in the education budget. Four billion Indian Rupees ($58 million) will be allocated for setting-up world-class institutes of education in India. According to the Hindu Business Line, “Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will bring in a new national education policy to transform India’s higher education system to one of the best in the world.” Thirty percent of funds will be allocated towards higher education to emphasize research and innovation in higher education.

  9. The recently increased education budget is focused on research and higher education in India, rather than primary and rural education. Though a meager amount of money will be spent on education in rural India, the state and central governments are working together by allocating approximately $5.7 billion for improving rural school infrastructure and recruiting teachers. With more qualified teachers and better infrastructure, a better school environment will be in place for children in these areas.

  10. In addition to the issue of poor infrastructure of schools in rural areas, many children must travel far to attend school. Consequently, the government launched Samagra Shiksha, the first integrated scheme extending unified support to states from preschool to senior level. Under this program, preschool has a newfound priority. Girls from disadvantaged areas are also provided with more attention in terms of education. This is a step toward new programs that aim at improved education in India.

– Furaha Njoroge
Photo: Flickr

Education in India
India, the home of 1.2 billion people, is a vast and diverse country. While the overall literacy rates have been on the upward trend recently, rising from 64.8 percent in 2001 to 74 percent in 2011, there are still approximately 1.7 million children who are out of primary school.

Education in India

Within the country, there are also vast differences in the literacy rates among the different regions and states. The highest ranking state by literacy in the country in Kerala with 93.9 percent while the lowest ranking state, Bihar, has a literacy rate at 63.8 percent.

The main barriers that prevent children from accessing education in India are poverty, gender discrimination and lack of resources in schools as teachers lack training and schools are overcrowded. On the national level, 41 percent of schools lack basic hygiene service. There is either no facility or no water. The gap between male and female literacy rates has shrunk from 21.59 percent in 2001 to 16.68 percent in 2011 and the increase in literacy during the same period is 6.9 percent for boys and 11.8 percent for girls. However, there is still a persisting gap in the overall literacy rates as 82.1 percent of males are literate compared to 65.5 percent of females.

Child Labor

Children from marginalized underprivileged groups face other barriers to accessing education in India. They are often victims of trafficking, sexual and labor exploitation as well as domestic service. Some are forced to work to repay family debts. Forced child labor in India is primarily in the garment-making and quarrying industries.

Some children also perform dangerous work producing bricks. According to UNICEF, around 11 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working. The government has made efforts to deal with child labor, passing legislation such as the Child Labor Act, but the problem persists.

OSCAR Foundation’s Work

The OSCAR (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) Foundation aims to keep children in school by teaching underprivileged children from the poorest communities life skills and values through football. Children in the program learn not only to play the game but, more importantly, to value the education that empowers them to reach their full potential. The kids involved in OSCAR’s programs go on to become role models and make a positive change in their communities.

Akshay Chavan, a 16-year-old boy, has been with the organization for seven years. He is a player, coach and leader, currently pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce in St. Xavier’s college in Mumbai. As a young child, he suffered from an injury with lots of complications. In the 2017 Annual Report for OSCAR Akshay confessed: “On the first day itself, I felt welcomed. The coaches encouraged me to play, and the rest of the team was very supportive. They motivated me when I felt low. I developed a strong connection with OSCAR friends and started feeling confident enough to fight for myself.”

Founded in 2006, this nonprofit organization’s main goal is to prevent children from dropping out of school and improving education in India. So far, they have directly or indirectly impacted over 3,000 children in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Ut Delhi. The organization nurtures and develops children’s talents and encourages them to become leaders and responsible citizens. OSCAR has three core programs: Young Leader’s Programme, Football Programme and Education Programme.

The Young Leader’s Programme aims to give young children the opportunity to create their own careers and make a change in their communities. Children older than 17 years in the football program who show potential to be good leaders are selected and go through a training process of workshops in football coaching and personal development.

The Football Programme teaches children from ages 5 through 22 not only football skills but also how to be consistent and value their education and focuses on girl’s empowerment.

The Education Programme is specifically aimed at children who struggle in school and provides them with educational assistance. They currently help 400 children in subjects like Hindi, Maths and English. As part of that program, the Foundation has three projects. They provide tuition and additional classes to pupils who experience difficulties in learning, teach children computer skills and offers scholarships to children from low-income families to complete their higher secondary education.

Poverty Alleviation

Over 30 percent of the world’s children living in extreme poverty are located in India. While everyone is negatively affected by poverty, children suffer the most detrimental effects. Living in poverty stunts their development, limits their access to education and keeps generations stuck in the cycle. Low-income communities have other issues related to poverty like substance abuse, early childhood marriage and gambling because education also influences morality.

Education and literacy’s positive outcomes are endless. They are linked to an overall improvement of the quality of life- life expectancy, infant mortality, nutritional levels, migration and other aspects of life. The OSCAR Foundation started out by addressing community issues in the Ambedkar Nagar slum in Mumbai and has grown to reach thousands of young people. By doing something as simple as holding several football sessions a week, they are transforming children’s lives and constantly improving children’s education in India.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr

girls' education in India
Education is a necessary component for the growth of a nation and educating girls still continues to be a problem in most developing countries. India has made quite considerable progress with an overall increase in literacy rates from 64.8 percent in 2001 to 74.04 percent in 2011, but girls’ education in India still requires improvement in a number of ways.

The Current Situation in India

The literacy rate of women, according to 2011 census, is 64.46 percent while the male literacy rate is 82.14 percent. The top states that have the largest number of literate women in India are Kerala (92 percent), Mizoram (89.4 percent), Lakshadweep (88.2 percent), Tripura (83.1 percent) and Goa (82 percent). At the same time, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have the largest number of women entrepreneurs in the nation.

The states that include the lowest female literacy numbers are Rajasthan (52.66 percent), followed by Bihar (53.33 percent), Jharkhand (56.21 percent) and Jammu and Kashmir (58.01 percent). Though there has been a substantial increase in the number of literate women in the past few years, the number still falls low for the entire nation.

How This Situation Arose

One of the main reasons for the lack of girls’ education in India is the male-dominated society. Even though the country is making progress, the belief that women belong in the home is still widely held.

Gender inequality is a very serious issue in the Asian nation, which is why 10 million female babies have been aborted over the past 20 years. A son’s education is given more importance because it is thought that daughters will eventually get married and live with their husband, so many believe that a girl’s education is not of much help directly to her family.

Addressing Girls’ Education in India

The government has taken numerous strategies to improve girls’ education in India:

  1. Beti bachao, beti padhao (Save daughters, educate daughters) was conceived in 2015, which addresses the issue of the declining Child Sex Ratio (number of females per thousand males aged zero to six) across the country. It is a joint initiative by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Human Resources. This strategy works to stop female foeticide, increase the number of girls attending schools, decrease school dropouts, implement rules regarding the right to education and increase the construction of toilets for girls.
  2. Progress has been made in the northwestern part of India, especially in Rajasthan. New literacy efforts have been made to boost the number of girls attending school and a summer coding camp aims to introduce computers to girls.Michael Daube, an American artist and founder of a New York-based nonprofit, is raising money for an all girls’ school. Furthermore, Manhattan Architect Diana Kellogg is building an exhibition hall where female artists can display and sell their products, thus increasing employment.
  3. Jharkhand has taken a big initiative toward female education upliftment. The Jharkhand School of Education has decided on distributing free textbooks, uniforms and notebooks to all girl students from grades nine through 12.
  4. Gurgaon, located in the Indian state of Haryana, aims to provide free education to girls in grades nine through 12.
  5. The Uttar Pradesh government plans to provide a monetary incentive of 30,000 rupees to female students who have an outstanding performance in intermediate or equivalent state examinations.
  6. UNICEF is also working with the Indian government to provide quality education for all girls. As a result, Bihar has now made girls’ education a priority. A new program has been initiated in Bihar which includes education for daughters and thousands of girls are now attending school.

The situation in India may seem daunting but it is steadily progressing with time. With hope, in the coming years, girls’ education in India will achieve new heights.

 – Shweta Roy
Photo: Flickr

Education in IndiaAlthough India has had substantial economic growth in the last ten years, one in five Indians is still poor. In rural areas, one in four lives under the poverty line. Almost half of the poor population cannot read or write, making it difficult for them to boost themselves out of poverty. With these considerations in mind, it is clear that education in India is crucial to reducing the number of the impoverished.

The British Empire controlled India from 1858 until 1947, so British influence can be seen in most sectors of the Indian public sphere. The education system, like many countries that were under British rule at some point, is divided into three major parts: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary education caters to children aged six to 14 and is similar to elementary and middle school in the United States. All Indian children are required to attend primary school and it is free of cost.

Secondary school, similar to American high school, instructs children aged 14 to 18. Secondary school is also free, except at private schools. At secondary school, children learn three languages: their local language, a language of their choice and English. Tertiary school, or higher education, has deep roots in Britain’s system. There are many universities and colleges in India that provide students with many educational tracts.

Public and private education is available in India, but the private schools are often more poorly funded and maintained. India has put more money into educating its children, and the percentage of adolescents without schooling has fallen about 40 percent in the last 40 years. The literacy rate has also increased substantially, even within the last 20 years.

However, education in India is far from where it needs to be. About 50 percent of nine-year-olds in India cannot do simple addition and 50 percent of 10-year-olds are unable to read a simple paragraph. These statistics are due to many factors. Many teachers in India are unqualified and the courses they teach are unable to accommodate the sheer number of students who are now in school. Their salaries are actually quite high due to union strikes, and many do not take their teaching job seriously. Every day, 25 percent of teachers do not show up to school.

There are many steps the country can take to improve education in India. In order to teach the large number of students now attending school, the curriculum must be altered so it is not catering to a small number of students. Teachers who do not show up for their positions must be held accountable by the government.

Female education is also neglected, with over 60 percent of girls dropping out of school. Legislation to support women pursuing education would help revitalize education in India and improve conditions for the impoverished, as educating women is the best way to lift communities out of poverty.

There are many organizations that are working toward improving education in India. Pratham, a nongovernmental organization, works with communities and the government to implement programs that invigorate teachers and students while minimizing costs. Founded in 1995, the organization’s programs have touched the lives of over 600,000 children.

Education for Life, a smaller organization, focuses on educating children in the rural areas of India. It currently has a little over 500 students at a small school in Rajasthan, and its efforts have improved the literacy rates in the area.

VIDYA, another nonprofit, works with the marginalized on an individual basis to empower them in their education. While there are still many ways education in India can be more effective, it is steadily improving thanks to the many nongovernmental organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults.

– Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

Child Prodigies in India
An estimated 5 to 6 million child prodigies in India have IQ levels of 135 or above. Only a few will have a shot at big moves in life; the rest will remain in urban slums. Gaining admission to a university is seen as a privilege for the social elites. Discovering the child prodigies is akin to mining for diamonds in the rough.

The Vidya school has members who survey for children by collecting details of each child’s socio-economic status and testing their logic in a standardized and timed packet of problems. It has been empowering underprivileged children via integrated methods of admission. This campus boasts over 11,000 students with a nearly even ratio of boys and girls. The children from poorer families are sponsored. The minimum requirements to keep their scholarships are tenuous; the children are expected to maintain high grades and partake in extracurricular activities.

Success for the Future

These programs can put the students on a track to success in academia and career opportunities. Child prodigies in India can be instilled with a sense of fulfillment and leave a positive impact on not just the Indian economy, but the global economy.

Aside from the pressure to maintain top grades, there is also pressure to be the sole breadwinner of their families. Often the parents of these geniuses are uneducated and see little value in academia. Instead, they pin the child’s future on working immediately from childhood in roles such as housemaids for girls or physical labor for boys. If the students can’t find support from their parents, then the next best option for the child prodigies in India is mentors.

Child Marriage

An unambiguous hindrance for millions of Indian girls is child marriage. The marriage of underage girls can have a negative impact on health, education and increase the likelihood of intergenerational poverty. The marriage of underage girls in India has nearly been cut in half. Of Indian girls younger than 18, the percent that get married is 27 – compared to 47 percent just a decade ago. Better access to education for girls and better public awareness of the negative impact of child marriage are credited for the decrease.

Formative Early Years

The early years of childhood can affect the outcome of adulthood. The gap between the rich and the poor can manifest as early as nine months of age; for example, underprivileged children are enrolled in primary school a year later than their privileged classmates. Quantitative research reveals the number of vocab words and mathematics skills a student possesses can determine academic accomplishments in secondary school.

The initiative of providing opportunities to the child prodigies in India will pay off in the long run. A healthy and educated population in any country is a positive indicator that a country is making positive strides and on course to great achievements. The achievements not only benefit the nation of India, but for humanity through their contribution in science, medicine and human rights. Investing in the child prodigies in India is synonymous with investing in the future of India.

– Awad Bin-Jawed

Photo: Flickr

How Foreign Aid Has Advanced Education in IndiaIndia, located in South Asia, has a population of 1.2 billion people and is on its way to becoming the world’s most populous nation by 2030. However, the country still struggles with providing its growing population with access to quality healthcare, potable water, education and clean energy. The education sector in India, in particular, requires special attention, since so much of the nation’s personal and national development is based upon it.

India, being a developing nation, has struggled in this area for a very long time. For instance, even in the late 1980s, between 30 and 40 million children of primary school age were out of school. Foreign aid to India, as a result, proves to be an effective investment in this arena, and there are many ways foreign aid has advanced education in India.

One of the ways foreign aid has advanced education in India is by initiating projects that focus on improving the sector from its core. For instance, one of the three major goals of USAID’s Global Education Strategy is “improved reading skills for 100 million children in primary grades.” Focus on the children in primary grades is essential, as so much of a country’s future depends on it. For instance, according to the World Bank, “an increase of one standard deviation in student reading and math scores is associated with an increase of two percentage points in annual gross domestic product (GDP) per capita growth.”

In order to advance this target, USAID supports 10 initiatives in the country and partners with the government of India to “identify, support and scale early grade reading innovations developed in India.” Additionally, USAID focuses on improving the capacity of educators to improve pedagogy and teaching.

For instance, the Teacher Innovation in Practice program works to positively impact the teaching practices of 14,657 teachers to improve early grade reading outcomes of more than 564,000 primary school children in the states of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in India. By developing teachers’ mindsets, building an enabling environment and improving pedagogical skills and knowledge, the main goal of this program is to reignite teacher motivation to drive better student learning outcomes.

Other initiatives focus on improving the literacy rate in the country, which was as low as 19.3 percent shortly after independence in 1951. USAID, in partnership with Tata Trusts and the Center for microFinance, is leading an initiative called the Nurturing Early Literacy Project that aims to “shift the prevalent rote-based pedagogy in India to one that views the child as an active learner.”

The project incorporates different approaches, including in-class sessions for teachers and equitable access to libraries for children, both in schools and communities. The aim of this project is to improve the reading skills of more than 90,000 primary school children in the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

India reportedly spends a mere 3 percent of its GDP on education, making foreign aid geared towards development in the educational sector crucial. Foreign aid has advanced education in India significantly over the years. For instance, the literacy rate increased to 65.4 percent in 2001, and currently sits at 74.04 percent.

Hopefully, with continued support from foreign investments, India will be able to develop its education sector, thereby potentially boosting its economy and reducing poverty.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

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India's EducationIndia is the world’s seventh largest country by size and the home to the second biggest population after China. With these features, India’s education system has an enormous responsibility. Some of the main problems that affect education in India are a lack of infrastructure, poor global rankings, social/gender gaps and lack of economic resources to support education.

However, there are efforts to reform education in India through the National Skill Council (NSC) that works with the Confederation of Indian Industry. These groups are focused on improving vocational and management schools through renovating curriculum and faculty.

The government hopes that by the year 2022, there will be 500 million people trained in varied skills that would match tomorrow’s demands. The real challenge for the success of this initiative is to the creativity and involvement of non-governmental organizations.

Quality education will make India’s youth gain valuable skills to tackle societal and economic challenges. It would “provide children with the protection they need from poverty, exploitation and disease; and give them the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their full potential.”

The global corporation Microsoft also aims to improve the quality of education by decreasing the gap between those who have the opportunities and those who don’t. Microsoft launched a global initiative known as YouthSpark. It aims to provide opportunities for 300 million youth over the course of three years. In India, the project targets 80,000 youth.

The problems that India faces in its education can be also improved by bringing new technologies into the classrooms and schools. Efficiency will cut down the running costs for a massive education network. Also, there needs to be an inclusive and a quality education while utilizing the public-private model of sources.

Noman Ashraf

Photo: Flickr