“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” -Nelson Mandela
The above famous quote sums up the cardinal importance of education and it is all the more true as far as our country is concerned. As a young democracy, India is growing in leaps and bounds on the education front. The farsightedness of the founders of the nation in providing ample importance to educational growth has paid rich dividends to us as a Nation.
Historically, education occupied prominent position in India. The priestly class in ancient India studied to gain knowledge while the kshatriyas and the vaishyas studied for specific purposes like statecraft, warfare or running a business.
The ancient learning systems were oriented towards earning a living. Internationally also India was the top destination for students from other countries coming in for higher studies. Nalanda, one of the biggest centres, had all the branches of knowledge, and housed up to 10,000 students at its peak.
After Independence, the policy makers worked hard to transform the elitist system of education created by the British into a mass based system, built on principles of equality and social justice. Right to Education was made a fundamental right with the formulation of the Right to Education in 2009 and a National Education Policy was also announced. Subsequently, policy makers tried to universalize education through measures like the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and Mid Day Meal scheme.
Today, India enjoys a pride of place in the international arena not only as a fast emerging economy but also as a vast pool of powerful human resource consisting of suitable and educated personnel. Highly educated, tech-savvy and scientifically trained Indian citizens are engaged in a variety of employments in every nook and corner of the world doing India proud.
One of the note-worthy achievements over the years has been the increased literacy level. At the time of attaining freedom, India’s literacy rate was just 12 per cent. Today, as per 2011 census, our literacy rate comes to 74.4 per cent. Kerala with 93.91 and Mizoram with 91.58 per cent lead and inspire other states to achieve further heights.
There have been challenges and shortcomings in this journey too. Access to education is still a dream for many, especially in the remote and rural areas where there are no school buildings or even possibility of reaching the school during rain or snow. Equitable educational access to tribals, marginalized, SCs and STs is a major point of concern with policy makers trying to bring them into the nation building process. Inaccessible schools become safety concerns as also lack of toilets for girls in rural areas resulting in alarming levels of drop outs. Children with special needs have invariably been relegated to the unseen corners while planning for education.
These issues are now being recognized and the government is working on several initiatives for inclusive growth of these sections of society on priority. Technology is being used to provide better access to education through several programmes like GIAN, SWAYAM and National Digital Library. Inbuilt monitoring and effective assessment systems, vocationalisation of education at high school and college levels have also been recognised as the need of the hour.
The spurt in education and desire to fare well however, has led to a perturbing situation where there is a lot of stress on the students for achievement and performance. With the child being viewed as a product of the mechanical education system, the emphasis on the personal growth and life skill development has been overlooked. The individuals being churned out are unable to think for themselves or to assume ownership and take independent decisions. The education system needs to enable a child to deal effectively with the challenges of society by enriching the school curriculum with life skills training programme.
In 2012, the CBSE introduced life skills training programme as part of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation targeted at the adolescent students between 10-18 years of age. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) has under its agenda, the life skills training for the upper primary girls along with providing quality elementary education. Value based education also becomes necessary for the all round development of the child as a citizen of the country which can be achieved by focusing on value inculcation, nurturance and development at the school and college level.
With miles already travelled, the continued focus of the government would enable the country to build individuals who believe in themselves and are able to serve the real purpose of Education i.e. nation building and shaping our future generations.