There are nearly 1.2 lakh single-teacher schools in the country of which an overwhelming 89% are in rural areas. More than 30% of schools had no toilets and over 60% had no playground. The selection of the top positions of the institution has emerged as a great challenge. A research scholar who gets a UGC fellowship does not want to complete his Ph.D. work in time but tries to extend it since after his/her Ph.D. if he/she gets an appointment in a private institution, he /she will get less salary. The conditions of teachers in self-finance institutions are very pathetic. Mushrooming of coaching centres and dummy schools across all cities has misled students into believing that they can perform better in entrance exams if they go for coaching at such centres and by skipping classes in regular schools.
At present, pollution is the most challenging issue for a healthy life in the world. We talk about air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, climate change, etc. We always try to explain to the youth the necessity of a healthy environment. But as we observe today, day by day, our environment is getting polluted. It means that we could not educate the youth/common man. Something is wrong with our education system. This is the main question, so we must look at our education system, which we believe is polluted. What is the meaning of pollution? Pollution means the creation of defects in the natural balance of human life. If this defect arises in our education system, then surely, we will call it “education pollution”.
The percentage of expenditure on education out of the total government expenditure is an indicator of the importance of education in the planning of expenditure before the government.
The National Policy on Education 1968 recommended the spending on Education to be 6% of GDP. National Education Policy, 2020 (NEP) reaffirmed the recommendation of increasing public investment in education to 6% of GDP. But the expenditure on education is limited to below 3.5 percent of India’s GDP, as on Jan 30, 2022. The broad term of education can be stratified based on different target levels of learning such as primary education, secondary education, higher secondary education, and higher education.
School Education: A Sad State of Affairs
On the occasion of world teachers’ day, 5th October 2021, UNESCO launched its State of Education report for India The findings are largely based on an analysis of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) and the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) data (2018-19).
As per the UNESCO report, there are nearly 1.2 lakh single-teacher schools in the country of which an overwhelming 89% are in rural areas. UP (3.3 lakh), Bihar (2.2 lakh) and Bengal (1.1 lakh) have the most vacancies in teaching positions in schools. At around 21,000, Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of single-teacher in schools. Of the 11 lakh vacant posts in the country, 69% are in rural areas as per the UNSECO report in 2021. Pupil teachers ratio is adverse in secondary schools. There is no information available on special education in music, arts, or physical education. 7.7% of pre-primary, 4.6% of primary, 3% of upper primary and 0.8% of the secondary teachers in school are underqualified.
The report projects that India needs 11.16 lakh additional teachers to meet the current shortfall. The proportion of teachers employed in the private sector grew from 21% in 2013-14 to 35% in 2018-19. The Right to Education Act stipulates that the Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) should be 30:1 in classes 1-5 and 35:1 in higher grades.
Lack of Digital Infrastructure: The overall availability of computing devices (desktops or laptops) in schools is 22% for all of India, with rural areas seeing much lower provisioning (18%) than urban areas (43%). Access to the internet in schools is 19% all over India – only 14% in rural areas compared to 42% in urban areas.
Increment in Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER): For elementary schools, it has increased from 81.6 in 2001 to 93.03 in 2018-19 and stands at 102.1 in 2019-2020. GER is the number of students enrolled in a given level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the official school-age population corresponding to the same level of education. Overall retention is 74.6% for elementary education and 59.6% for secondary education in 2019-20. 3/3
Secondary education is also in poor condition. According to a recent survey conducted in 780 government schools in 13 Indian states, key facilities (including toilets/drinking water) were found to be mostly missing or in poor condition. The survey shows that when the RTE Act called for adequate infrastructure, less than 5% of the schools had all 9 facilities mentioned in the Act. More than 30% of schools had no toilets (many girls say this is a major reason for dropping out), and over 60% had no playground (it is no wonder we are concerned about both health and fitness). However, students are awarded 75-90% marks in the practicals. It’s because of this, parents/students always ask the management about the availability of “help“ in the examination. Public colleges in science, therefore, have minimum enrollment. There is a large scam for the affiliation/establishment of new academic institutions.
Deteriorating Public Sector Higher Education
The Rajasthan Police booked the Vice Chancellor of a state-run University and four others for allegedly faking details for a bill to establish a new private University. The selection of the top positions of the institution has emerged as a great challenge. At present, it has been observed that the appointment of Vice-Chancellors of different universities in different states is not done on time. The loopholes in the selection process get exposed when the Vice Chancellors are either suspended or removed on charges of corruption for appointments, embezzlement, taking bribes, etc. It is also alleged that hefty bribes are paid to the appointing authorities. I think the process of the Vice Chancellor’s selection should be very transparent.
As universities across the country face tumultuous times, the public universities of good standing and long history are increasingly being targeted as spaces harbouring “seditious activities”, declaring a few universities as “anti-national” spaces, which have consistently attained top National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) scores and rankings according to the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).
Unfortunately, in most cases, we do not have proper well qualified teachers even in the public sector institutions. According to the Ministry of Education statistics, a total of 6,549 faculty positions are vacant in central universities. Most of them are in Delhi University, with 900 vacant posts, followed by the University of Allahabad with 622 posts, Banaras Hindu University with 532 posts and Aligarh Muslim University with 498 posts and Jawaharlal Nehru University with 326 vacant faculty positions.
Pathetic Conditions in Private Sector
Further, there is exploitation of teachers, especially in private institutions with minimum teachers and a maximum enrollment of students. The conditions of teachers in self-finance institutions are very pathetic. In many states, there is no Act for self-finance institutions. In the Act of Private Universities, there is a provision that all the appointments of teaching and non-teaching staff will be regulated by the UGC norms: method of appointment and pay scale. In the public sector, it is rumoured that candidates invest a lot of money (bribes) for their appointment. Above all, bribes are not only there in getting the appointment but surprisingly even if one gets an appointment letter through the public service commission, the head of the institution asks for a bribe for permitting the new incumbent for joining the post. He claims that if the candidate is not allowed to join, will lose seniority and also financial loss. It is really unbelievable, but it is happening. A research scholar who gets a UGC fellowship does not want to complete his Ph.D. work in time but tries to extend it since after his/her Ph.D. if he/she gets an appointment in a private institution, he /she will get less salary. During my tenure, I was surprised to know that in spite of unemployment only one candidate applies for the ‘lecturer’ posts and gets the appointment. I asked one youth about the same, and it was realized that the amount of salary is only Rs. 15-20 thousand. Sometimes salary on paper is as per UGC norms, but the due salary is not paid and at the same time, thanks to digital marketing, an ATM card is being generated by/for the Management. The desired amount is withdrawn by the Management through ATM. There is always a rift between the head of the institution and the Management over the utilization of funds.
In research, we have Ph.D. scholars but not research scholars. There are two ways of exploitation – of the supervisor and of the research scholar. Both are possible. This exploitation is in many ways: financial or physical. We must take care of such issues. One of the main reasons is to get a Ph.D. degree without working. In the present situation in the private sector, the Ph.D. aspirants contribute a large amount of money. Research scholars are admitted without a research supervisor and physical laboratories. They are just degree-awarding institutions.
During the COVID-19 period, the private institutions benefitted the most because the presence of students was not required – no examination, just passing. Practical examinations were/are being held only through practical records. Above all, the institutions were asked to promote the students to the next grade/class without any examination during the pandemic. In many institutions, students were directly admitted in the second year without teaching/enrolling in the first year, and management just took the entire fees of the first year. It is unbelievable but true that there are various agencies that are enrolling students just for degrees. These agencies can also manage teaching/nonteaching faculties for record’s sake.
I am not against students joining coaching institutions but my concern is much more serious and fundamental, that is, students enroll themselves in regular colleges/universities but instead of attending classes in their institutions, they go to dummy schools or private coaching classes at the same time. Are we giving free/subsidized education and scholarships to regular students just to enroll in the institution and join coaching classes?
Mushrooming of coaching centres and dummy schools across all cities has misled students into believing that they can perform better in entrance exams if they go for coaching at such centres and by skipping classes in regular schools. The new trend of popularizing coaching institutions, over-dependence on digital technology, and reduced financial support to institutions of higher learning shall prove to be the death knell of our long cherished formal education.
The NEP 2020 announced by the Ministry of Education, is a welcome move for the countrymen. It emphasizes holistic multidisciplinary education for stakeholders. However, there are many challenges to its implementation since it does not match the ground realities. To me, it seems that the policymakers are not aware of the ground realities.
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About the author
Prof. Ashok Kumar is former Vice-Chancellor of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya University, Gorakhpur (U.P.) & CSJM University, Kanpur, (U.P.), Nirwan University, Jaipur, Rajasthan, and Shri Kallaji Vedic University, Nimbahera, Rajasthan. He is President of the Social Research Foundation, International Society of Life Sciences.