An evaluation of educational systems, education practice and policies, and educational achievement across diverse geographical, cultural and temporal settings is of paramount importance in an age where inward looking nationalism is replacing outward looking globalisation. We do not just live in an age of different globalisations. We live in an age of competing nationalisms which needs to be counter-balanced through inter-cultural dialogue to foster global and transnational solidarity. One of the pathways towards this end is to develop an educational culture of comparative studies. In a multicultural nation-state such as India, the international dimension to comparative studies needs to be valued in addition to of course, socio-cultural communities within India as units of analysis. A comparative study of Indian education with respect to other nations of the world will throw some light on the areas that need to be improved upon.
Inadequate Resource Allocation
While it is understandable that in developing countries, public resources are often not sufficient and hence, education has to compete with several other important sectors that need urgent resource allocation, financing of education should be prioritized as education is development, according to human development specialists.
After acknowledging the contribution of education to economic growth and development, and in accordance with the human investment revolution in economic thought, the Government of India for the first time became open to the idea of investing in education in its 1968 Policy and quantitatively fixed a target of 6% of national income to be allocated to the education sector. Currently, the education expenditure out of GDP percentage is not even 4%, which is not only less than the average proportion of GDP invested in education in the developed countries and globally, but also less than the average in many other developing regions of the world, including African countries such as South Africa(6.2%,2018) and Zimbabwe(6.1%, 2014).
Population Explosion and Diluted Expansion
With more than 300 million students in India, the student population of our country is more than that of the total population of some of the largest populated countries in the world such as Indonesia and Brazil, and the total population of three most populated countries in Europe, viz.,Russia, Germany and France—taken together.
Prof. Tilak points out, “In the post-independent India, particularly since the inception of the plan era, an educational explosion has taken place, which may be described as an “educational miracle”. The ‘miracle’ is particularly important when one examines in the context of the colonial legacy. Mass education, comprising universal primary and secondary education, was never a priority in the colonial educational policy, nor was of course higher education. The colonial rule transformed an ‘intermediate’ literate society into a predominantly illiterate society (Basu 1982; also Desai 1986).”
However, there has not been a concomitant rise in quality of education with quantity of population and institutions. Long ago, educationists like J.P. Naik (1975) observed that education was in crisis, which can now be described as a ‘continuing education crisis,’ with the “ever-elusive balanced triangle of the 3qs—quantity, quality, and equity”.
Gaps in Secondary Education
Charu Jain and Narayan Prasad point out, “Most developing countries have attained near universal primary education, but secondary education and high-quality education are essential foundations for an employable workforce for the future. Currently, lower secondary education is compulsory in approximately 80% countries in the world, and the transition to secondary education needs to be ensured in those countries.”
Around 81.2% of the adults aged 15 years and above are literate at global level in 2013. India’s adult literacy rate is 69.3%, lower than almost all developed and most of the developing countries. However, it is at par when compared with the literacy rates of other South Asian countries.
India’s gross enrolment ratio (GER) for secondary education is around 60%, which is lower than the world estimate of 75%. However, India is ahead of a few neighbouring nations like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. According to research by Charu Jain and Narayan Prasad, “In countries like Brazil, France, Japan, and Singapore, the GER exceeds 100% which indicates that the national system can accommodate all its school-age population at a given education level, whereas, in case of India, the low GER reflects shortage of supply and impact of other factors, such as the indirect and direct costs of attending school, which may limit enrolment.
The government’s role in education serves as a “foundation for understanding education policies and practices across settings and countries”. Education needs to be liberatory in its essence and only considering education as being of fundamental importance to not just economic development but to the more holistic idea of human development will liberate human beings. From an economic perspective, investing in human capital is indispensable to national and global development and a comparative analysis of education in multiple settings, states and countries needs to take place in order to foster a culture of multilateral understanding and transnational cooperation.
Manjima Misra is a postgraduate student of English literature at University of Delhi and a distance learning student of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at University of St Andrews, Scotland.
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