India has not paid enough attention to educating its people. For India to develop, this needs to be redressed rapidly. Going through life without being able to read and write severely limits what a person can do. Writes Atanu Dey:
Poverty can be considered to be the result of two gaps: one, the ideas gap, and the other, the objects gap. Poor people have less material goods at their disposal as compared to rich people. Hence the objects gap. The ideas gap arises from the inability of poor people to most effectively and efficiently use the limited material resources they have. For any level of objects gap, an ideas gap amplifies the problem. Knowledge goods, efficiently produced and distributed by ICT (information and communications technologies), can bridge the ideas gap.
Education is a way out of the poverty trap. Education plays a paramount role in the process of economic development. Besides being instrumental in development, it is also an end in itself because it helps people lead better lives.
ICT reduce the cost of creating, distributing, and delivering information. Since information is the bedrock upon which education ultimately rests, ICT is uniquely positioned to revolutionize education. ICT is unique appropriate for providing primary and secondary education, increasing literacy and delivering vocational education.
Primary education is a public good. Therefore, the level of primary education provided by the market can be expected to be lower than the socially optimal level. Therefore it is up to the government to step in and either provide primary education itself or subsidize its provision by the private sector.
The higher income groups living in urban areas have the willingness and the ability to pay for primary education. The low income groups in urban areas and most income groups in rural areas do not have the ability to pay for education (primary or otherwise), although their willingness to acquire education is unquestionable. They are not just income constrained, they are credit-constrained as well.
One way of solving the problem would be for the government to provide credit to the poor so that they could pay for primary education. However, given the small size of the budget allocated for primary education and the immense size of the relevant population, it is a challenge that cannot be addressed without resort to technology induced increase in productivity in the education sector.
There are now schools and colleges in India, but in many of them, little teaching takes place. This is where a change is required. Adds Atanu: Just to provide primary education, India requires seven million teachers if one were to have a 1:50 teacher to student ratio. Not only is that number formidable, the problem is compounded by the fact that these teachers are mainly required in the rural areas where the current number of qualified teachers is extremely low.
So, what is the solution?
Tomorrow: Education (continued)
TECH TALK As India Develops+T