Although 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