New Delhi: Mention the education system and the opinions start flying thick and fast. And so it was at the One Globe 2013: Uniting Knowledge Communities conference that took place in Delhi on 7-8 February. Participants at the event highlighted issues plaguing the education system—policy deficiencies, lack of quality and absence of vocational training.
“Tackling Indian education system and approaching its policies is like maneuvering a battleship,” saiid Sherena Mistri-Yiannouka, founder and country manager of consulting and training company Dynargie Singapore.
Critics have carped often that the government-funded educational system is not in sync with the needs of the job market; recruiters say that they find graduates of Indian universities unemployable, requiring them to spend time and resources on training them in basic job skills.
In a speech to the vice-chancellors of central universities at a conference in New Delhi on Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rued the lack of quality and poor global standing of Indian educational institutes.
“India is a difficult country because of its enormity and it faces multiple relapse in its education system”, said panelist Khozem Merchant, president of Pearson India, the local arm of the British education company Pearson Plc. “What it needs most is open choices from the policy makers when it comes to education”.
Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for human resources development, focused on female literacy.
“Educating girls and women is the only solution for a better world. An educated girl is more equipped to seek medical help, follow sanitary advice; also, children from an educated mother are known to have a better life than those of uneducated ones.” he said.
Still, India’s education system scores over that of China, reckoned Robin Lewis, professor and director of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). That’s because India is more open to foreign investment and partnerships in education. Lewis did criticize both countries for their exam-based evaluation system. “How can two hours determine a child’s future,” he asked.
Nancy Silberkliet, co-CEO, Archie Comics Publications, criticized text books for being boring and dull, and failing to hold a child’s attention. She suggested introducing graphic novels and comics in school curricula; many young people would love that.
Vineet Narain, chairman of the Braj Foundation, an NGO, said it’s important to teach students about India’s ancient heritage. “The west faced its hippie movement as they didn’t know their culture and roots. It shouldn’t happen with India,” he said.
But all the culture and heritage will come to nought if there are no teachers to teach and no roofs to study under.
Chavvi Rajawat, a sarpanch in a Rajasthan village, said the system needs to change and there should be more accountability.
“There are schools where students of three standards sit under one roof and there is just one teacher teaching them,” she said. “Also for girls, connectivity is a problem as much as lack of toilets in the schools. Where are the funds going?” she asked.
S.C. Arora, vice-chairman, Lotus Valley Group, sounded a contrarian note claiming that infrastructure is not as important.
“I have seen education happening under a tree, what more important is knowledge of teachers and their attitude of teaching,” he said.