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30% of Indian children attending private institutions, the Indian private
education market is the largest in the world. This is hardly surprising given
the population size but, for a variety of reasons, private schools are
outperforming state run institutions despite recent study showing that the
Government spends, on average, more than twice as much in educating a pupil.
The key factors behind this imbalance are inefficiencies that have become
imbedded in state schooling and efficiencies fee-paying schools have created.
To lift the performance of their own schools issue the Indian government must take
heed of both.
among the malpractices commonly associated with India’s free education are the
attacks oneducation standards and teaching practices.Schools are accused not of
completing the syllabi in the school year and the necessary equipment is not
always available. Often much power is bestowed on individual teachers who have
the ability to pass or fail their own pupils while offering extra-curricular
tuition(for a fee). Teacher absenteeism is also rife and the authorities seem
powerless to prevent.Additionally, there are stories of outright corruption
including overcharging and bribes taken to admit or promote a child, or even
issue qualification certificates.
found in the provision of school infrastructure pose the most direct threat to
a child’s education. A survey in 2013 found that of 780 schools across 13
states 30% were found to have inadequate toilet facilities and 60% had no
playground. Given this it is hardly surprising how unfashionable it has become
to teach in Government schools. Formerly a position of prestige and respect,
teaching is now seen by many graduates as a last-resort career giving rise to a
severe shortage and pushing the student:teacher ratio as high as 70:1 in
extreme cases. The lack of mentorship or access to a professional network as
well as antiquated career progression(often based on seniority rather than
performance) are obvious changes the government must make to buck this trend.
by operating in a private environment;fee-taking schools have learned to
streamline their practices to remain competitive in a diverse market.
Principles have far greater authority over their teachers and employment
contracts include performance and attendance clauses. The teachers themselves
are often less qualified so must strive to hit their targets to guarantee
employment and command less salary, allowing the private schools to reduce
the student: teacher ratios.
stand out legislation on learning in recent years is the Right to Education Act
(RTE) of 2009. This established free and compulsory education for every child
between the ages of 6 and 14 and guaranteed 25% of places at private schools for
pupils from economically weaker sections of society. The idea was to level the
playing field for poorer students however, sadly this policy has had the effect
of devaluing the education provided in state schools and, thus, exacerbating
the superiority enjoyed by private institutions. Furthermore, the RTE included
no provision for the improvement of the existing Government schools, embedding
the problems outlined above.
enforcement of this 25% has led to a number of malpractices being adopted by
private schools where unfair financial barriers (high cost of uniforms or add-on
admission and maintenance costs) are placed to prevent poorer students filling
the RTE enabled places. As a result it
has been estimated that across India only 15% of RTE places at fee-paying
schools were filled.
to these issues India’s education department has announced ambitious and far-reaching
reform in two stages; peripheral and core. The first outlined fundamental
infrastructure shortages that have been holding back Government schools and
targeted 8000 new classrooms and 25 new schools are to be opened by the end of
2016 and a recruitment drive to employ 9000 new teachers. The core stage, yet
to formally begin, proposes a radical change in teaching practices including a
decentralisation of authority giving more powers to individual principles,
incentivised contracts, and the creation of School Managers. And then perhaps
most adventurous is the creation of a pilot “super-school” complex of 10
schools each specialising in different areas of education.
All in all
it appears that the government has started to take note of the problems that
have blighted their school system for a generation. Some issues (support for
newly qualified teachers) are easier fixed than others (changing the mind-set
that Government schooling is inferior) and in the meantime the private
education sector will continue to innovate and dominate.
World Malaria Day Theme for 2016 is "End Malaria for Good"
Since 2008 the 25th April each
year is World Malaria day in association with the Malaria Consortium whose bold
goal is to reduce infection by 90% (from the year 2000’s levels). Globally the
achievements so far are impressive with a 60% reduction in mortality rates
since 2000 and a 37% reduction in infection during the same period. Despite
this there were still 214 million cases of the fever reported last year and
nearly half a million deaths.
India has taken huge steps to eradicate the
disease and in recent years has reduced its incidence to fewer than 1 million
cases in the past two years. Those most at risk are
pregnant women however the introduction of routine screening has been delayed
by budgetary constraints.Familiarly, it is the least educated urban, and rural
tribal communities where healthcare is limited who suffer most. Just 8% of the
population accounts for 46% of all diagnosed cases.
The developing world is certainly fighting
this oldest of diseases but will need continued support from all quarters to
make the final push and end the misery that it causes.
It will surprise
few that India’s children are amongst the most likely to suffer malnourishment
however the reasons behind this are certainly not as simple as one would expect
(i.e. lack of food).
malnutrition is defined as not enough or too much of a single food group. This
in turn leads to complications in utilising consumed sustenance and therefore
hampering the body’s ability to fight off and recover from infection. The
problem faced by Indian society is primarily related to a lack of protein in
the diet of young children which is then exacerbated by the sanitary and
religious conditions that they find themselves living in.
other forms of serious child malnutrition (such as iodine, vitamin A, or iron,
deficiencies) lack of protein is by far the most lethal and, according to the
World Health Organisation (WHO), plays a major role 50% of all deaths under 5
years of age. The situation in India is particularly severe where 30% of the
entire world’s under-nourished population can be found. In a country of the
size, both geographically and economically, of India it is clearly not just a
lack of food that is accountable.
factor behind India’s child malnourishment is the influence that is held by
India’s various religious sects and the dietary recommendations that are
advocated. Contrary to popular belief India is by no means a vegetarian
society, however the rise of fundamentally religious political parties who
espouse the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle has restricted what food may be
served at school’s midday meals (MDM). Most controversial is restriction on the
serving of eggs which can provide a significant protein boost (one egg contains
half of the recommended daily intake) and are easily digestible to those
suffering with malnutrition.
brought into practice in the 1990s India’s MDM programme has become a vital
source of nourishment for the poorest children in society. However, respecting
regional religions place strict vegetarian restrictions on the lunchtime menus.
A current example is the region of Karnataka where 9 out of 10 children are
suffering with malnutrition but as it is administered by the Hindu fundamentalist
Bharatiya Janata Party are forbidden from the MDM on religious grounds. Perhaps
the fact that milk is served in schools nationwide leads to a logical
conclusion drawn by the nation’s Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) who advised “he who can
take milk should have no objection to taking sterile egg”.
nicknamed “the open defecation capital of the world” the state of India’s
public sanitation is the other unique contributing factor to this problem.Particularly
affected are rural areas where, according to the WHO, it was estimated that
last year 61% of Indians defecated in the open. A staggering statistic, far
higher than any other (reportable) country, that results in the deaths of 1000
children each day to diarrhoea related diseases and has a wide reaching impact
on their ability to retain nutrition and maintain a healthy, growing body.
To combat this
precise issue Prime Minister Nehendra Modi embarked on the Swachh Bharat (Clean
India) Mission in October 2014 to be concluded by October 2019 to mark Gandhi’s
150th birthday. Construction has been undertaken at a furious pace
and there are signs that the tide is turning; between Oct ’14 and Jan ‘16 the
number of rural families with access to a working toilet went from 42% to 49%,
however, physical construction is only half the battle. The other side to
tackle is convincing the (mostly) rural population of the need to cease open
defecation. In a country proudly steeped in tradition this is
no small challenge but one that must be overcome if India is to take its
rightful place at table with the world’s other super-powers.