My friend Badri has written up his thoughts on the problems with our current education system in his blog Thoughts in Tamil. His post is in Tamil. For all those others who can't read Tamil, here's an English translation of his post. Badri has incidentally made a conscious choice to blog in Tamil rather than in English.
The Indian Education system is in great trouble. These are some of the faults I find in the current education system.
- Several children do not even get a basic elementary education.
- The rich and upper middle class in cities find decent quality private schools to send their children to. Even in these schools, getting a pass in the exams is the priority, not learning. Even these schools fail in teaching various arts, and in particular common sense to children.
- Both the private and government schools in smaller towns and villages are uniformly pathetic.
- Even if a student graduates from a higher secondary school, there are not enough colleges. The only hope left to most high school graduates is correspondence education. It is not clear to me whether one can be motivated enough to study through the correspondence course material sitting at home.
- Even if one graduates from college, the graduates are mostly unemployable, because of poor quality course material and teaching in the colleges. I have myself seen a number of such people while interviewing them for various posts in my organization.
Despite all this, several thousand young men and women have been leading our nation forward. On just about all counts of economic indicators including the foreign exchange reserves, "India is Shining". Just imagine where we can be if only we resolved our education related problems?
Here are some of my (not so complete) ideas:
- Compulsory free education should be made available till Class XII
The state and central governments should completely absorb the cost of providing free education till 12th standard to every child, irrespective of caste, religion and economic status. This should cover not just school fees, but also free books, food if necessary, uniform clothing and even a place to stay if the parents cannot afford that to their children. Those with money can always opt for their favourite private school, and feed their own children. Alternately, some rich may decide to send their children to the govt. schools.
- Govt. schools should be run by private entities/entrepreneurs.
It is very doubtful if the government can manage hiring qualified teachers and provide quality education to children. Like in the USA, the government can opt for building the schools and make them available to private companies on a long-term lease, based on auction. The organization that comes up with the lowest bid and agrees to maintain the best quality education would be chosen to run each school in each locality.
We need to introduce a concept of 'education credit'. It is an amount equal to the average cost incurred in teaching a child in the privately run Govt. schools. This education credit is made available to every child. The child can either avail of the education by exchanging this credit in the Govt. owned and private operated school, or cash this portion against the fees and other costs incurred by them in a completely private school. This way, the tax payer does not have to feel miffed that his her money is used only to train OTHER children. Panchayat and municipalities must own and manage the school premises and oversee the operation of the private entities running the school.
- All education above higher secondary school level should be primarily dealt with by private entities.
If some state governments wish, they can run colleges, but it should be unnecessary. Students should be offered lenient education loans at very low interest rates.These loans are liable to be paid only after the students finish their education and find a job of their own.
That is, free education until higher secondary; but paid-for education after that. Those who can't afford to pay for this higher education get low-cost and lenient loans. This kind of comfortable educational loans are made available to students in USA.
- Alternate education must be promoted
It appears to me that there is no need to teach anyone for more than 3 hours a day till the secondary school. Therefore, the available education infrastructure can be used more effectively through the shift system. Three normal shifts can be run between 0700-1000, 1100-1400 and 1500-1800 hours. An hour gap in between for the children to leave the school and the next set to walk in. In the late nights - from 1900-2200, the facility can be used to provide education to old and unlettered. Facilities such as the building, furniture, library, computer centre, laboratories and play fields can be used very efficiently in this
Further, individual teachers wanting to run their own curriculum can be entertained to use the nearby school facilities including the building, furniture, library, computer centre and laboratories. Like the 'Gurukula' method, a single teacher can lead a group of about 20 children from 1st to 12th standard. The students can write their 10th and 12th standard examination under the National Institute of Open Schooling. Nothing stops those who graduate through this system from joining the available colleges. Through the 'education credit', each student can pay his teacher. This helps the teacher earn a reasonable income and the student is also guaranteed quality infrastructure.
- College education through correspondence system to be increased
In each town, "Tutorial" colleges (as they are called in Chennai) can be set up by individuals who enroll their students in a correspondence course run by authorised universities. [This is applicable only to non-professional courses.] The day-to-day training is provided by these Tutorial colleges. The timings can be flexible, allowing for the students to also find a part-time work during the day.
- Impediments in the way of setting up for-profit private colleges to be removed
Today, only a charitable trust can set up educational institutions. Therefore, honest entrepreneurs interested in making profits will not get involved in spending their time and setting up quality educational institutions. The result is that only criminals who plunder money illegally in the name of "charitable trusts" get involved in providing education, and make money through capitation fees. To stop this, the government should allow for for-profit companies to set up educational institutions.
This move will result in considerable capital flowing into the education sector. These colleges so set up will still come under the purview of the education ministries around the country, and so the government can still regulate the fees charges for providing the education. This is akin to regulating the distribution of power in Mumbai and Delhi. The government regulator only decides the upper limit cost per unit of power. Similar regulation now exists in telecom. Therefore it is perfectly possible to bring about the same in education as well.
I do not claim that these suggestions, if implemented, will remove all problems we have in our education sector. However I am hopeful that they can alleviate the problem considerably.