Quality Education – The Illusion Behind The Promise

by | Oct 29, 2017

Me (after coming from a government school visit in Samastipur, Bihar), type on Google search-

Condition of government schools in India

(Google shows 3,91,00,000 results in 0.72 seconds). You will find a number of articles with the heading

  • ‘Condition of Government schools in India-a shocking truth’
  • ‘Condition of Government schools in India-quality of teachers and teaching’
  • ‘Poor conditions of government schools in Delhi needs quick attention’
  • ‘Why are government schools in very serious condition?’

and so on. A particular lines I read on this in an article: “Although India is amongst the ten fastest growing economies in the world, it still has a third of the world’s illiterate population. According to global education report of 2004, India’s ranking was 106 out of 127 countries in the education sphere. With 34 percent of the illiterate population in the world, India has the largest number by far”. But why did I search for this question? Why did I want to know about the condition of government schools in India? Why the data, facts, and figures mentioned in the articles above is not shocking to me?

Since the past few weeks, I have been visiting government schools here in Samastipur district in Bihar where i work with my fellowship host organization Quest Alliance. Here are my main observations from my visits, which seem to be uniform in most of the schools-

  • There are no books available for the students. Half of the academic year is almost over but the teachers and kids are adjusting somehow.
  • Even though washrooms exist, students do not prefer to use it because they are not clean. So, I asked one of the girls in the school “Where will you go if you need to urinate?” she told: “My house is nearby, so, during lunch, I go home.” “And what about others?” “They will go out in the open, obviously”.
  • There are separate classes for girls and boys. Because as per one of the school headmaster’s statements “girls do not speak in front of the boys, they hesitate. Therefore, I decided (in a very proud tone) to create a separate section for girls and boys.”
  • The availability of basic amenities like fans and electricity are exclusive to the headmaster’s room. Teachers make themselves feel better by sitting outside their respective classes and using a fan that needs no electricity (a hand fan which needs to be waved back and forth). And the students live with the heat.
  • The midday meal is cooked under the full supervision of small insects and special thanks to the cobwebs for their genuine contribution in the interior decoration of the kitchen. Students told me that they have complained regarding the deteriorating quality of the food, but no action has been taken by the school authorities.
  • Gardens without plants, slogans about cleanliness which will make you question the reality, a playground where no one plays, students not dressed for school (approximately half of the strength in the class will not come in school uniform, shishya giving guru dakshina by washing their guruji’s lunch boxes.
  • The PTR aka Pupil-Teacher Ratio is progressing at its best i.e. it is mostly 60:1 in the schools which at the primary level is mandated to be 30:1 and at upper primary level be 35:1 according to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
  • A few of the students in the 7th and 8th standard still don’t know how to read and write basic Hindi.
  • You could easily see students roaming outside the school premises during the school hours.
  • Schools do not have proper functioning SMC (School Management Committee). The RTE envisions an SMC as the basic unit of a decentralised model of governance with active involvement of parents in the school functioning.
  • Teachers not having a proper knowledge of their subjects. One of the parents shared that one day their kid was reading from the notebook that “bandargah wo jagah hoti hai jahan se hawaijahaj udta hai”. (a seaport is a place from where airplane takes off). Thanks to the teacher.

And if you try asking the stakeholders, who are actually responsible for this, then here are a few opinions I heard from my conversations with them-

Teachers saythe government is responsible because they were not being provided with books on time, parents are responsible because they do not take any interest in the education of their kids, parents do not attend the parent-teacher meeting. Kids do not stay in school after mid day meal, mostly students are working in the fields with the parents, in order to earn their daily living, so they do not concentrate on their studies properly.

Parents sayTeachers are responsible, as they do not have proper knowledge of their subjects, they are not interested in the well-being of the kids, humaare time me bhi toh teachers padaate the (during our time also, teachers used to teach) , poor implementation of the rules and regulations of the Act, teachers do not realize their responsibilities these days, the teachers themselves will not enroll their students in the government schools because they are aware about the real conditions of the school.

Students sayWe want to study but teachers sit outside the classroom or everyone will be sitting in the headmaster’s room chatting with one other. Also, we do not have books to study.

You see, it’s all a convoluted blame game. But will blaming each other solve the problem? We often see people talking about ‘quality education’, ‘education for all’, ‘hum apne vidyalayon me bachcho ko gudvatta porna shiksha dena chahte haine’ (we want to provide quality education to our kids). But the question is what is quality education? What quality are we trying to achieve? Who will this system effect? Who will take responsibility for their actions?

We seem to have created a system where no one has the answer to any of this, resulting in a directionless path. As a nation so keen on providing education to every child, we seem to be far off the mark. Are we really being true to our objectives? And with all the hope that we have in the future of this country and its demographic dividend, will we ever get to see a time when we will be achieving our truest potential, or will we continue to be the ‘country with the largest number of illiterate people?’

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  1. Sanjana Kaushik

    Very well written article Jaiti. And I can relate these things as I have closely seen the government schools in Madhya Pradesh. Conditions are exactly the same. We can’t say how much time it will take to get resolved but it’s high time when government have to focus on the quality education putting students in center.

    And also there can be some possible intervention in recruiting the teachers. A single exam can’t decide whether a teacher really want to teach or they just want a “Government Job”

  2. Jaiti

    I agree with you Sanjana.It’s very important that teacher’s should take accountability of their actions. But at the same time, I think government should start considering other things as well like giving teacher’s salary on time, providing books to the students at the start of the session only or else books should be made available in the market so that students can go and buy themselves instead of waiting for the government to send it .


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