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Challenges with K-12 education in rural India

Despite the improvements in literacy rates across the country, the access to quality education remains a challenge for several sections of the country. I’m primarily talking about the population in rural India right now. While you’d find government schools building in most corners of the country, many among them are either low functioning or defunct altogether. That’s primarily because of two factors: 1. Lack of monitoring of school’s progress and 2. The local population’s disenchantment of these formal education when they’d don’t see any value.  With new technologies that are already available, it’s not difficult to track how the school has been doing over time and pull up the responsible people when needed, it’s the second reason that needs more attention and effort.  Hope is a prerequisite for education. You can’t teach a person who doesn’t believe those teachings would improve his/her life. And it’s needed not only in children but also their parents. Parents need to have hope that their children will be able to get good jobs and a good life if they are educated and the children need to believe that whatever they learn they will be able to use at some point in their lives to make it better.  I was volunteering at a rural place called Rajakhet in Uttarakhand some time back and I was curious about people’s perspectives about quality education. A general response I got from the local educators was that the parents are not too interested in their kids' education because they feel that even after all their high grades all they’d amount to is working for five thousand rupees in a blue collared job. It’s not the type of job but the pay here that should be emphasized. They said that if that’s the best case scenario then why not let them do the things they can without a formal education. In some ways they were right, there’s a huge disconnect between the jobs available in the market and the people who need one. Also if there’s a high supply of workers, the salary for that role automatically decreases. I remember having taken up my first job at three lac rupees in an IT services company like many others in my peer group. And I also remember that this starting amount was exactly the same that my cousin had received when he’d started in a similar company 7 years before me. In fact, due to a high supply of engineers, the starting salary had been reduced to two lac rupees in some big MNCs and a new lower role was created to justify it.  In Rajakhet, there was also an upcoming trend of going to places in the Middle East as blue collared workers and since it paid much higher than what they’d make in India with the same skill set, it made obvious sense to go for them. While they are great opportunities for the local population, options like these only contribute in eroding any interest in high quality education all the more.  It tends to become a cyclical issue in some ways where low quality education produces a workforce with lower skills who then either take up blue collar jobs, get disheartened by where their formal education has landed them and finally lose interest in ensuring good education for the next generation altogether. One regular fix is to go to a metro city so that their kids are able to get a good education.  There are several ways in which we can improve this situation though. First among them is by strengthening the education system by ensuring qualified teachers are recruited and then monitoring the school’s progress on a regular basis. Second, often, the schools themselves are suffering with a lack of resources and despite all the right intentions they aren’t able to improve too much. We need to step up and help every school that is in that position. After all it’s the future of our country that depends on it. Third, running campaigns to inform parents the benefits of education and imploring them not only to send their children to school but also in taking interest in their education. Fourth, connecting curriculum with jobs in the market. This is more for the higher ages and should be done to reduce dropout rates. And fifth, creating a proper connection between the job market and education system so that students know that if they qualify the school getting a decent job wouldn’t be too difficult. Even if these aren’t very high paying jobs they should at least pay enough to make basic formal education worth it.

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