There has ever been so much of talking about universalization of education at least at the primary level. Great thoughts have been quoted; great schemes have been formulated; a number of commissions have been commissioned to make their recommendations regarding education; a lot of experimentation has continued to be conducted particularly in the field of education during these sixty years of the country’s independence, but the results achieved are far from satisfactory.
Ever since 1951, India has been making an all-out effort to universalize primary education. In this direction and to fulfill this ambitious plan, steps have planned — Educational facilities within easy walking distance of the child, encouraging parents towards a compulsory enrolment of children in the schools, taking due note of the drop-outs among children and to avoid such a situation in the best possible way and improving the quality of education at the primary level and making it more attractive in order to allure the child to come to the school.
The greatest problem on all fronts has always been felt in the rural area and particularly in the matter of the girl child there. The number of primary schools was estimated to have been in 1950-51, 209671, to when it was estimated to have been increased in 1984-85 to 6, 03,741.
This records an increase of about 150 per cent. The effort of making the school facilities available within a walking distance has also borne fruit and nearly 90 per cent of children are to walk from 1 km to at the most 3 kms.
The enrollment in the primary classes — I to V also increased to 77,039 million in 1982-83 from 19.153 million in 1950-51 while the latest figures have shown a still greater increase.
But the whole scheme seems to flounder at the level of the Union Territories and at the level of the Scheduled castes and the Scheduled tribes. The position particularly in the matter of girls among the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes is still worse.
Children of such groups do not get enrolled inspire of all efforts and all incentives. The girl child is considered necessarily as a handmaid to the mother in the household chores and in looking after the younger siblings. In some parts of the country, the girl is not sent to a co-educational school due to social inhibitions. On this accounts girls even if they join in the earlier age group drop out as soon as they grow a little older.
Under the World Bank ‘Education for All’ project even educational kits have been distributed free of costs; education, otherwise, is of course free but the results still are not that encouraging.
The problem of dropouts is a very major problem. The child as he grows above the age of 8 years or 10 years is treated in the rural families as one to be an earning supplement, hence education for him and for the family seems to be an undue luxury. The state of dropouts thus goes up to 60%.
In order to meet this situation part-time short duration classes, especially for girls have been evolved as an alternative to the formal system of education. The major thrust of this non-formal education programme has been undertaken in the States like Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Every type of effort has been made, from inducing and attracting children to schools through entertaining shows, to rewarding staff at the Panchayat level for showing encouraging results in the enrollment of children and for carrying out non-formal education programmes.
Even free textbooks and stationery, free dresses to girls, midday meals and such other allurements have been given in order to successfully implement this education for all programmes.
But there are, among other problems, two major problems hindering this programme. The one is nonavailability of women teachers in the far-flung interior areas of the country.
Women teachers would attract girls more to schools and also give a sense of security and confidence to the parents. The second major drawback is the lack of commitment on the part of teachers. The male teachers try their level best to get themselves attached or posted to a school in the closest vicinity of their home villages.
Having got this done, they remain on roll of the school while they are attending more to their own farming or home. Absence from the school is difficult to be checked due to the lack of the supervisory staff and due to the inaccessibility of certain areas and regions.
Where the teacher lacks the sense of commitment he or she can hardly inspire students to feel that sense. Their absence from the schools gives leisure and license to children to indulge in playfulness or run back to their homes.
It is only one State — Kerala — which has shown the best results as far as the universalization of elementary education is concerned. It is a small State as far as the size is concerned and the general population has awareness towards education. That is the reason that the State has successfully implemented the programme of education for all.
Otherwise, inspire of all efforts and all good ‘intentions, the programme of education for all has not caught up in the country and this still, after sixty years of “dependence remains a distant dream.