By Kavita Sahay Kerawalla
India has identified children’s education as a key area and has made many strides in improving access to quality education for children. To ensure quality and inclusive education for children, various policies and programs such as the Law on the Right to Education (RTE) of 2009, the National Policy for Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) 2013 and the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 have been put in place. Through these programs, the government aimed to strengthen the education system, increase enrollment and reduce the number of out-of-school children. He also started programs such as midday meals whereby students who could not afford two square meals a day would continue their studies to ensure that they received at least one balanced meal per day. However, gaps remain.
While the gaps between access to quality education for rural and urban populations as well as the âhavesâ and âhave-notsâ have always existed, the unprecedented pandemic has widened them further. The outbreak of COVID-19 has displaced millions of people, resulted in loss of livelihoods and excluded children from schools.
Amid the lockdowns, education continued through virtual sessions that require a student to own at least one smartphone, or even a computer or laptop. Many students in cities have been able to continue their studies and achieve their educational goals digitally. However, students from suburbs, small towns and villages were unable to do so due to the lack of available resources. According to data presented by the Ministry of Education to parliament last month, nearly 30 million children across India do not have a digital device to access online education.
Internet technology has not yet reached all parts of the country. Even in villages and towns where the internet is available, students face problems accessing education due to intermittent connectivity and the inability to purchase digital devices.
In India, we also face a big gender gap where a girl may not be sent to school. This divide has also widened due to the economic downturn during the pandemic. When parents’ incomes were reduced, they chose to reduce the education of their daughters rather than their sons.
Additionally, a family’s socio-economic status affects the development of a child’s cognitive skills and learning ability. In an economically marginalized environment, access to multimedia and multilingual resources is limited. This limits the development of cognitive skills and the overall personality of a child. Access to resources has been further reduced amid the pandemic. As a result, the gap between the skills and abilities of children belonging to the upper and lower strata of society has widened.
How can we fill these gaps?
By investing in early childhood care:
A child develops a response to a stimulus depending on the environment in which he was raised. When children are exposed to a diverse environment, from the start, they not only learn better, but they also develop better affinity skills. These skills help them adapt to any change in environment.
There is also a need to provide students with age-appropriate learning resources, a game-based approach and appropriate pedagogy to help them develop the skills necessary to thrive in a dynamic future. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to invest more in infrastructure, pedagogy and curricula for kindergarten or pre-primary students.
By investing in teacher training
It was noticed that at the start of the pandemic, while many private schools were able to train and equip their teaching staff to meet the challenges of the new normal, this was not the case in public schools. However, some public school teachers have used innovative ways to ensure the continuity of their students’ learning, such as writing the lessons on the walls of village houses or using the microphone in mosques to read the lessons.
In the future, it is necessary that the basic qualifications of teachers are in tune with the demands of today and prepare them for the challenges of the dynamic changing world of tomorrow.
By demanding that education be moved to the Union list
The initial promulgation of the Indian Constitution defined education as a matter of state. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 moved it from the state list to the concurrent list under section 57. This means that central and state governments are empowered to pass laws regarding education.
If education, including primary education, is put on the Union list, this will ensure uniformity and better quality. Currently, only some states like Kerala have achieved higher literacy rates. By making education a central subject, we can ensure the interventions of the Union government in improving overall quality and increasing literacy rates across the country.
In conclusion, I am personally convinced that in order to achieve the NEP 2020 target of 100% gross enrollment rate in school education by 2030, the participation of all stakeholders is necessary. As responsible members of society, we must partner with government, schools, industry, educators and parents to close social gaps in access, participation and learning outcomes in the world. school education. Our efforts today will enable our future generations to build a stronger nation tomorrow.
(The author is Vice President of the Ampersand Group. The opinions expressed are personal.)