India’s Education Emergency

In Surat, I got talking to Bhavana’s niece on her school. She is in the 8th standard. She begins her day with school from 7 am to 2 pm. She comes back home and then after some time at home doing – what else – homework, she is off for tuition from 4:30-7:30 pm. After returning home, she has dinner, and more homework – this time from the tuition teacher. This is the story everyday.

I looked at her textbooks. She is the ICSE programme. The textbooks couldn’t have been more unexciting – detailed and depressing.  Yes, they had a lot more pictures since the time I used them 30 years ago, but….

There were 45 students in her school class, and 30 in her tuition class. Her comment was that there is more individual attention given in the tuition class than in school. The school teacher just rushes through the lessons, while the tuition teacher makes sure everyone understands it. In her school class, 44 out of 45 take tuitions.

If this is not an emergency in India, I don’t know what is. What kind of childhood are we giving our children? What kind of education are we giving them? What kind of adults will they grow up to be? Even leaving aside the ones we don’t educate, look at what we are doing to the ones we educate.

PS: Also read Atanu’s post on the same topic – he wrote it after I sent him an SMS about my conversation with Bhavana’s niece.

14 thoughts on “India’s Education Emergency

  1. Pingback: India's Education Emergency « Education Blog

  2. Rajesh – The core issue is there is no demand of critical thinking in Indian education system.
    There are two options for the students to become doctors and engineers, which is all parents want their kids to be. Parents are correct as for India this looks to be most safest career bets.

    1. Have great score in your higher secondary.
    This requires to develop photogenic memory and mug up as best as you can. This can be only done by training right from childhood.
    This starts the torture of students.

    2. The other option is to clear a competitive examination like JEE or Medical. This sure requires critical thinking but this is the biggest sham of all. I am not sure if any kid can clear these competitive examinations without enrolling in specialized coaching classes.

    Net Net we need to have a market for all kinds of skills. Till the market is distorted we will see kids going through gruesome schedule, wearing oversize spectacles, studying 10 to 12 hours.

    I still do not think that this is an Indian education emergency. The emergency is the kids who do not study at all.


  3. Rajesh,

    Education perceived by most of our country men scares me.

    When i told my family that i want to put my son in a simple school and I won’t allow him to take tuition until he is 16 and he demands for a tuition … my family members looked at me as if they are seeing some alien.

    I like the way these guys are thinking…hacking the education.

  4. This is a rather vicious circle, one cannot lay the blame exclusively on the teacher or the student. The entire system is at fault and it is too big and too complex to be corrected at one stroke.

    However that does not mean that improvements are impossible. And I think that despite the widespread pessimism in parents and the media some underground retooling of the appartchik is taking place even as we speak. However it is too early for results.

    I guess the key here is intelligent use of technology based solutions to reduce the load on both the teacher and the child, all automatic activities including regular class room activity should be resolved with technology so that the real business of learning can be attended to with greater drive and attention.

    Technology leaders who are concerned with such issues should come up with imaginative (tech based) solutions that correct the system without disturbing it too much in the first place. We also need someone to stand up and speak and channelise solutions to the people who matter.

    If children are diamonds in the rough, so are the teachers and both can be polished with the right tools and environment. The sooner we find the right ways, the better for India as a whole.

  5. I think Vishal has made a good point- and I also feel we are going through this transition phase, when the parents are from a generation where competitive exam was an end by itself and a means to get to the hallowed land- When I joined the NDA in the 70s we were about 32 in my batch who were JEE rank holders, yet decided to join the armed forces- for the past decade that number is a big zero. That tells a lot.

    Yet I see change- increasingly I see parents who are focussed on building an all round exposure for their children , away from tuitions and crash courses. I also see a greater balance amongst many parents in approaching humanities education for their wards.
    With Kapil Sibal at the helm, we hope to see a lot of freshness coming in at policy making.

  6. Rajesh,

    You have made some important observations. However, if I may, I think enough focus is not being given for children to play with their friends after school hours (both by parents and teachers!). I wonder what kind of life an 8 year old has if she can’t hang out with her friends and play or just look up at the sky and admire the stars (city lights permitting). As long as children don’t interact and play I reckon the future is VERY bright for social websites considering that the new generation will lack the necessary social skills to face the real world.


  7. School, College & Higher Education is illumination created by our society. It is very much like copper metal wrapped into golden paper.

    It is fake that I myself wonder, what I learned in school, college and what am I following in real world today. No matter this continues, nobody bothers as long as we make money and achieve fame.

    But yes, some people who skipped their schools, colleges are exceptionally successful and rich.

    School and college can help produce good timid followers, because you know who are the people teaching us at schools/colleges.

    Sincerely I feel parents use their children to achieve name, fame in social sphere by pushing them to get higher grade/marks.

    How can education be so mechanized?
    May be open culture of learning should be provided to children..same like open source software.


  8. – Somehow a very bad culture has developed lately in the guise of tuitions.

    – It is clear that we have accepted the fact that teachers do not teach in Schools while tutors do so in dingy tutorial centres.

    – Schools have become a Social Meeting point for students and there is lack of respect for the teachers.

    – The teachers are more interested in making fast bucks giving tuitions.

    It is a vicious circle and since we encourage students to cram and learn things that would hardly be used in your practical life, we are still nowhere near a true education system.

    Why can’t the students just learn in the schools and come back to do their lessons at home for a limited time of 2 hours?

    I mean, tell me how many of you remember the Civil Rights of an Indian Citizen? I do not remember them, but can easily Google them to know about them.

    We need to work on a smarter and leaner education system. Quality of content always wins over quantity of content.

  9. If educated parents join in a common cause they can first free up their own children from the rot that has set in Indian Education and eventually bring revolution to Indian education.

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