Before we started developing the technology that we have right now, we did a lot of research—going to villages and talking to teachers, parents and students. We were aware of the various problems that have crippled the Government schools in India but getting a first hand experience of the whole scenario put things in a much better perspective for us.
Here is a far from exhaustive list of the main problems we saw in the Indian public school system:
- Too many students and not enough teachers (Recruitment is slow, and there are many vacancies that go unfilled for years. Result? Unfair workload for existing teachers and corresponding decline in the quality of teaching.
- Teachers need to work for all government programs, from election duty to pulse polio campaigns. At the expense of the children who come to school to learn.
- Teachers are made to attend way too many training programs.. These mandatory programs need to fit into an already busy calendar, and teachers invariably do it at the expense of their students. Moreover, this training is often based on theories that do not take the real situation into account. With the real situation that teachers have to deal with-- the large number of students, the limited time available, the examination oriented focus of education, and the lack of facilities—this training proved to be irrelevant for the teachers.
- Very high percentage of teachers are absent from schools. The reasons are varied, and include infrastructure, corruption and motivational issues.
- There is supposed to be a teacher for every 40 students. Most administrators follow this to the letter: if a school only has 120 students then they only get 3 teachers even if the school actually has 5 classes or grades.
- Serious infrastructure issues like power, lack of classrooms, lack of study material (Even textbooks--the minimal study material available to children--are usually delayed by 2-3 months every year.)
- Lack of basic amenities like drinking water and toilets. It turns out that the lack of toilets is a major reason for female students’ absence from school.
- Students do not put in any effort at home. Everything from lack of family encouragement to working after school, to lack of infrastructure at home (privacy, space, light, books) conspires to prevent children from studying at home. While many of these factors are not within the direct control of the teachers or of the educational system, little effort has been made to find an effective substitute for the system of assigning homework.
- A very small percentage of the students coming out of our primary schools has basic reading and writing skills.
The list could go on, and I will be sure to elaborate on these various problems, as well as their impact and the urgent need for solutions in the near future. I’ve identified problems specific to the rural education system. Satya Meva Jayate’s detailed article offers a more general critique of the Indian education system in general.