New Delhi: Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen called for accountability in delivery of elementary education and public healthcare services, effective use of resources and cooperation with unions in these sectors. Speaking at a seminar on “Right to Education: Action Now”, organized by CII, Aspen Institute India and Shiksha, he underlined the centrality of expansion of elementary education for sustainable and inclusive growth.
Suggesting deployment of more economic resources in education and better organization of public services he said, “Resources generated from economic growth should be used for public services and public goods in general, rather than being absorbed only in private consumption.” He also highlighted the issue of diversity.
He said we should ensure efficiency and accountability in delivery of public services through organizational reforms. Despite economic reforms, the slowness of progress on school education has been taking much longer to remedy.”
He observed there has been some reduction in the proportion of poverty-stricken people. But the process could have been much faster if growth achievements are combined with ways and means of more widespread sharing of economic opportunities.
A reference was made to India catching up with China in the areas of life expectancy and infant mortality, but that there was still a long way to go.
Expressing concern at the shocking incidence of absenteeism and neglect on the part of many teachers, he pointed out the poor state of school inspection system in India needed to be addressed on priority.
To tackle these problems, he suggested positive collaboration with other social groups and particularly unions of primary school teachers and healthcare workers.
Although praise for democracy in India, he averred that, “Even though democracy can bring important benefits in the absence of universal literacy, an educated population can make better use of democracy.” He placed a premium on female literacy and said, “Female literacy can enhance women’s voice in family affairs, reduce gender inequality and child mortality.
“The contribution of basic education to development is not confined to economic progress only, there are other rewards of schooling. Education can have powerful effects on quality of life.”
Using e-learning instruments to impart education at primary and secondary levels was emphasized.
Gautam Thapar, vice-chairman, Aspen Institute India, said, “In the context of globalization, education assumes greater meaning. If we don’t address the issue of education, our demographic dividend may turn into a demographic disaster.”