A Gap worth Bridging

BY VALETA BROWN

Rajesh Kumar Sharma providing an average lesson in his now-famous school beneath a bridge in New Delhi.

In New Delhi, India, a man named Rajesh Kumar Sharma started a school under a bridge for the children of laborers from nearby villages. He said most of the kids would spend their days in the fields or playing around. Sharma had 140 students when he started teaching, 70 of whom are now in government schools. Sharma’s story shows that education system in India is not meeting the needs of the poor.

Poverty, a reality that plagues both rural and urban areas in India, is perhaps the most significant indication of a need for better education in India. Children from poor, rural villages often do not have the opportunity to attend school and get an education that could help them rise out of their circumstances.

In recent years, education in India, one of the world’s most populated countries, has continued to lag behind in International standings. The country’s large population now contains the highest number of young people with 410 million people under the age of 15.

While they have experienced expansion in both primary and higher education, education quality is still far below that of countries such as China and Korea. India’s failure to promote basic education is a surprising fact in light of their efforts to improve economically. Basic education has been recognized globally as a critical element for economic development.

The Right to Education Act (RTE) of 2009 has led to the creation of groups such as the school management committees (SMC). Comprised of parents, local authorities, teachers, and educationists, the committees were aimed at increasing community participation in the school’s operation. However, the committees are unable to serve their purpose due to members’ lack of understanding of their responsibilities.

Government schools are still falling short. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), the percent of children in Class V who could not read a Class II-level text increased from 46.3 to 53.2 percent between 2010 and 2012. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) showed similarly grim results ranking India one of the least proficient countries with respect to math and English literacy.

Increased privatization of the primary education system has also hurt India’s lower-class citizens who cannot afford to pay the rising cost of school for their children. Students in families with higher incomes are turning away from government schools that are not meeting students’ basic educational needs. Private school students in India perform better than students who attend government schools that are plagued with a lack of basic infrastructure, teacher absenteeism, and bureaucratic lethargy that leaves supervision highly deficient.

If India is to heal its broken primary education system, it will have to address these issues with comprehensive solutions and stop covering them with Band-Aids disguised as RTE and SMC.

Further Readings:
An Unsustainable Education Model – UWN
Primary Education in India Needs a Fix – Forbes
School Under a Bridge – HuffPost

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Valeta Brown is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be contacted at valetabrown@wustl.edu

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