Meeting of SRI Group on Education


Meeting of SRI Group on Education

Date: 23 Feb 2018
Prof. B.B. Kumar, Chairperson, ICSSR
Prof. K. Ramachandran, NUEPA
Shri Shailendra Sharma, Pratham Foundation


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Record of Discussion

Subject            :  Meeting of SRI Group on Education

Date                  :  23 February, 2018

Venue               :  Room No. G-74, Parliament Library Building, New Delhi

Experts         :    1. Prof. B.B. Kumar, Chairperson, ICSSR

                            2. Prof. K. Ramachandran, NUEPA

                            3. Shri Shailendra Sharma, Pratham Foundation


                    First meeting of SRI Group on Education was held on 23 February 2018 in Room No. G-74, Parliament Library Building, New Delhi. In addition to Members of Parliament, three experts  Prof. B.B. Kumar, Chairperson, ICSSR, Prof. K. Ramachandran from NUEPA and Shri Shailendra Sharma, Pratham Education Foundation also participated in the meeting. Justice (Retd.) Shri V.S. Kokje, Honorary Advisor to HS presided over the meeting. Honorary Advisor, SRI Shri Rahul Dev opened the discussion. Among other SRI Members, Dr. Ram Gopal Aggrawala, Dr. Harsh Kumar and Shri Abhilash Khandekar were also present.

                  While elucidating  the need for forming subject specific groups, Advisor, SRI outlined journey of SRI since its inception to forming of SRI Groups on various subjects. He said, Hon'ble Speaker had a vision for evolving a mechanism  to provide a platform where Hon'ble MPs can discuss and deliberate on a specific subject connected to people among themselves as well as experts outside the floor of the House. Such discussion with the experts can be helpful in identifying and deliberating issues and sub issues which affects the  present day India. 

                  Honorary Advisor, SRI said that the principle objective of meetings of SRI Groups is to get an idea of priority or focus areas in which Members are interested and provide a pool of relevant information and a dynamic forum for knowledge sharing which will help Legislators engaging in better debates on the floor of the House. After introducing the resource persons invited for the meeting, Shri Rahul Dev, requested the Members for their initial responses and sub issues they think may be discussed on the forum .

Shri Ram Sinh Rathwa, MP LS expressed his concern over growing Rural-Urban divide in Education sector in India and consequences of No Detention policy currently being followed in schools.

Shri  Mehaboob Ali Kaiser,MP, LS wanted the issue of developing an aptitude in children to increase their employability in future work force to be taken up in future for detailed discussion.

Prof B. B. Kumar, Chaiperson ICSSR pointed to declining Quality of Higher Education Research, Policy Stagnation, Unemployability of Youth, Missing Link between education and day to day life skills, elitist mind set in education which are some of the disturbing trends in Indian Education System today.

Prof. K. Ramachandran Faculty, NUEPA highlighted the issues of  Learning Crisis in the field of Education, insufficient investment in the quality enhancement of Teachers, inclusion of preschool education in the school education, structural reforms in one package rather than focusing on the many small reforms in the piecemeal approach.

          He also highlighted the point of coordination in the various components currently looked after by  various ministries into one  and monitored by MHRD. For Example ICDS component of preschool education overseen by Ministry of Women and Child Development, some by Skill Development Ministry and others by Ministry of Law and justice.

          He also suggested to think over massive reforms of Curriculums right from Primary level to Tertiary Level (Higher Education). Teacher Education and Training is also the need of the hour. He also talked about the institutional reforms and developing institutes of the National Importance. He also stressed upon the autonomy and financial independence of the Institutes of Higher Education. He further suggested that it’s pertinent to first achieve Goals of Education to achieve other Goals of SDGs. While pointing to the current Budget provisions, he said that we should move towards the 14 years of School Education as a reform agenda, including the early Childhood Education as a integral part of School Education. He insisted upon the need for holistic package addressing the areas viz. systematic reform, people related reform, institutional reform, governance and regulatory reform and financing reform in education sector.

Shri Shailendra Sharma from Pratham Education Foundation, made a power point presentation for the Hon'ble Members  on the subject " Schooling and thereafter: Is India ready to reap the demographic dividend." Some of the key issues discussed during the presentations were:-

          He started by saying "At the turn of the current millennia, it was claimed that India is poised to reap the benefit of “Demographic dividend” because of a significantly high youth population. Our median age is around 28 and by 2020, more than 50% of the population would be below the age of 25 years".

          He said, "It is very clear that a sizeable youth population is not going to be an advantage on its own unless they are ready to join the emerging economy". There are growing murmurs about the possibility of “Demographic Disaster” instead of “Demographic Dividend”, unless more opportunities are created. Opportunities, does not mean only to “get the job or job ready” but to be “ready for the life ahead”.

          He further added that recently there was a  survey released by 'Pratham Foundation' which looked at children in the age group of 14-18 in Rural India. The survey has attempted to see the children in the age group immediately after free and compulsory elementary education and before they step into adulthood attempts to understand what lay ahead. It examined four domains- activity, ability, awareness and aspirations. The expansion of the schooling beyond the elementary stage is quite visible with about 86% children of this age group still in formal education set up. He further pointed out that regardless of whether they are enrolled in school or not, 42% children in this age group are working. Among the working population, about 79% work in agriculture primarily on their own family farm. There are three key takeaways here:

1. That children do not leave the school immediately after the end of their fundamental right to free education,

2.  Hardly 5% of them take any vocational course.

3.  Working to support the family’s income appears prominently.

          While explaining status of learning outcomes he said, about 23% of Children cannot read a simple text which the school curriculum expects them to attain within two years of schooling. 57% of them cannot do straight three digits by one digit division. In terms of applying basic foundational principals like calculation, estimation, applications, etc only 40%-50% could do it. Barely 42% could correctly point their own state on the map of India.While about 60% of them wanted to continue their study, among those who could not read, 65% do not want to continue.

          Putting forward the labour ministry data he said, around 1 million people enter the workforce in India every month. But with this kind of foundational skill, it would be very difficult to train them for any higher order skills required for any work other than manual labour. Clearly, this scenario compels us to rethink of what we mean by eight years of Free and Compulsory Elementary Education. Large proportion of our children have not learnt enough to either go for higher education or trainable for employment in new economy. Merely schooling with a degree in hand is likely to create a huge army of disappointed youth in our country.

While summarising his presentation, he proposed following solutions to address the issues mentioned above:

           1. Clearly stating the learning goals for three stages- at the end of two years of schooling, five years of schooling and eight years of schooling.

           2. Emphasis on ability to read a progressively higher order text with understanding, critical evaluation, ability to apply and draw inference should be the cornerstone of stage-wise goal.

           3. Providing bridging support to those students who do not attain the learning goals for next six months after each stage without detaining the child.

           4. Assessments to ascertain the achievement of learning goals should be textbook independent on the basis of tools created at the district level under the overall guidance of state authority.

Observations made by Shri Janardan Mishra MP, Lok Sabha, He underlined the lack of parental  interest and support in the academics of the child. He highlighted that if parents are aware and have keen interest in the studies of their child then the issues of  negligence and apathy by the Teachers can be addressed. He said that parents should be vigililant enough to not let teachers play with the future of their child.

In response Shri Shailendra Kumar said, Delhi Government has started parent teacher engagement programme in form of Parent Teacher Meetings (PTMs) which enables parents to have a check over their child's performance and supervision at home. He adds initially parents were also trained in sense as to what is expected  of them to make this parent-teacher association work.

Prof K. Ramachandran  while supplementing on the idea said that, there are certain findings which concludes that if parents are engaged in the child's development at the early stage then they continue to engage themselves for rest of the academic life of the child.

Prof. B.B. Kumar, highlighted three forms of educational systems. First form of  education  through socialisation in which family provides the first educational inputs to the child. Second one is the  Traditional system of Education through institutions like Gurukul and tribal youth dormitories. Third one is skill oriented families in which skills of  various  trades were imparted to the child within the  institution of family. He  expressed his concern on the perception of  the society where traditionally literate people are being perceived as illiterates. On being asked for the solution for this situation, he answered that there is a urgent need to improve the quality of textbooks and the matter in them. Such Text books are needed which  acts as a bridge between the child and society.

Justice(Rtd.) Shri V.S. Kokje raised the issue of revisiting the concept of  Constitutionality of Compulsory Education. He said the act itself is not sufficient we have to make people realise the benefits of getting educated. He said, if you give education a practical shape and educate  people according to their needs in their own life, then probably they will understand the importance of education. He also expressed his concerns over teaching now being seen as a job than as a profession. Teaching should be governed by its own peers like Charted Accountants, Doctors, Lawyers.

          While pointing to the issue of apathy of parents in the education of the child in rural areas, he brought the dual paradox of the situation of rural and urban areas to the light. He said while at one hand rural parents have least interest in their wards academics, on the other hand urban parents are interfering too much in their child's academics. Commercialisation of education in urban areas is another issue which needs corrective measures.

          Indicating to the compartmentalisation between Teaching activities and Management of Institutions for the advantage of later, he said in education role of Manager and Academicians needs to be recognised separately. He also raised the issue of  loss of autonomy of Universities at Higher Education Level because of dependency on Council of Universities under the Chairmanship of Governer of State, Financial constraints, service conditions, salary and allowances of the teachers.

Shri  Rahul Dev, Advisor, SRI also raised the issue of "adhocism" in Primary, Secondary and Higher education and its impact on quality of education and learning outcomes students at Primary  and Secondary Education and Unemploybility  at Higher Education.

Prof. K. Ramachandran while answering to the quality of educators in India said that there is a dire need of a kind of professional standards for Teachers, Educators and Teacher Education Institutions. On the issue of contractualisation or adhocism in Educational institutes he said, it was meant as a temporary arrangement which has been carried for years now, it had negatively impacted  and undermined the profession of Teaching.

Intervention by Shri Rahul Dev, Advisor SRI, inquired about the reasons for bad learning outcomes in some States in comparison to others.

Response by Shri Shailendra Sharma: He said that learning outcomes depends on lot of factors like Teacher student ratio, regular teacher training programmes to name a few.

Shri Rahul Dev, Advisor, SRI while concluding said that SRI has conducted three workshops on Education and will be conducting the fourth one in second half of Budget Session 2018. He narrated a quote of Acharya Rama Murti Ji had said, "Education is the last hope for Humanity". He added that we all should remember this while continuing our endeavors for improving Education system in  India.

          The  Meeting then concluded.