The State of Education in India

Yesterday saw the release of the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) for 2012, reviewing the education system and the various initiatives implemented by the government to promote education in rural India. The report assesses the impact of these programs (such as the Right to Education Act) and makes recommendations for their betterment. The report is based on a survey of schools, both private and government, in 567 rural districts of the country and is, hence, the most comprehensive data on primary education.

Unfortunately, although not really surprisingly, the report reveals some dismal statistics about education. Besides an upwards curve in the rates of enrollment, the situation is pretty disappointing, as Livemint reports:

Its prime finding is that standards of reading, writing and arithmetic skills have gone from bad to worse. In 2010, one in two children in the fifth standard could read the texts meant for the second standard; two years later, the proportion was two out of five. Similarly, in 2010, nearly three out of four students could do two-digit subtraction, and in 2012 only one in two students could do so.


This report comes soon after the news that most teachers failed to pass the Central Teacher Eligibility Test. This shows beyond a doubt that, while the government may be focusing on getting more students into school, their effort doesn’t go further to ensure that the schools are actually educating the many students who are now enrolled. The focus is most definitely on quantity over quality, a trend that we must now work on reversing.

Interestingly, the discussion on the state of education does not really touch upon the idea of reforming the education system altogether, and introducing entirely new elements to the system. The talk of making curricula more interactive, creative and participatory is restricted to urban education systems, and even those within a small minority of more progressive schools. Maybe, given that the current system seems to be in a shambles, we should be examining the reasons for its failures, and asking whether the core skills we’re teaching (and the methodologies we’re employing) are truly valuable to the learners, or whether we should be looking even deeper at the roots of this failure, at the very elements of education that we truly value and promote. As I read recently in a blogpost on education in India,

The quality of any culture is decided by its education system. Competence, flexibility, adaptability, progression, innovation, perseverance, determination, efficiency, leadership, mannerisms, sincerity, honesty, civic sense, and more, all are the milestones of a ‘literate’ nation.

It would be nice to see a meaningful transformation of our education systems that encompass these values. Suggestions for how we can accomplish this together are welcome.

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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