By Humra Laeeq
The latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) that was carried out by the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Pratham released on Tuesday, has some startling news for Indian citizens. The survey shifted its focus from studying lower age groups to that of 14-18-year olds. The report released on Tuesday shows that, among rural youth, 14% failed to identify the map of India, 36% could not name the country’s capital and 21% could not name the state they lived in. The statistics expose the decadent education system of the country on one side, but also reveals glaring cultural loopholes within that system.
Is the state at an administrative fault?
Is the problem wholly with the state administration of educative programmes? Rather not, since enrollment number of children in primary schools across rural and urban populations is high, almost an appreciable 93%. The statistics have improved after the 90s, especially with the progress of economic liberalisation and state funding in schools all over the country. More and more parents see their children enrolled in schools. The problem arises when schooling is placed within the socio-cultural context. The question is how many of these children are actually deriving optimum benefit out of it.
The verity of the rural situation
The loopholes that quantitative statistics often miss is that of cultural attitudes towards education for adolescents and young adults, which still holds a grounding in rural and backward areas. Prejudices, stereotypes and situational needs associated with learning inhibit a large portion of the youth from carrying forward studies. To begin with, education as a means of fruitful investment in the long run seems like a distant and unachievable dream to the parents, who are usually farm labourers or domestic workers.
For such underemployed people who use physical labour to earn their daily bread, the ideology of ‘more hands more work’ seems to promise a better future than an intellectually invested one. Hence, they enrol children into primary school when they are incapable of labour, but draw them out as soon as labour work is available. Similar atitude reflects in rhe willingness to learn and teach as well. Neither do rural schools have good quality teachers and nor do students put in effort because graduate employment is a far fetched idea to them. Girls are taken out much earlier due to issues like menstrual hygiene and hesitation.
Distanced from the privileges of education
For such rural inhabitants then, education does not have the priority that urban, middle class citizens attribute it. The hard won efforts of the state in trying to enroll children into schools is only limited to a lower school position, after which the cultural bias and situational capacity inhibits completion of such a project. Rural parents are also significantly enticed by schemes like mid-day meals and day care for children, or fund provision to parents. Such schemes take away the focus from educating the child as the primary concern for these parents. They choose to enroll children to gain the non-academic benefits too. These concerns square down to a worldview they hold.
That worldview is a lack of faith in education. They believe in opportunities and mental work. As such, these people are not only physically isolated from those who reap the privileges of education but are mentally distant in terms of what and how they think.
Featured image source: Wikimedia
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