Any guesses on what India, Pakistan and Nigeria have in common. Well, I know it's hard to guess. The answer - these are the only 3 nations having a sad 6+ million out-of-school children. UNESCO has just released a comprehensive mid-term assessment of where the world stands with respect to basic education.  

As per the report, when it comes to adult literacy, India alone accounts for 35% of world's illiterates and is one of the 25 slowest performers. It is regarded to be at serious risk of not achieving the target by 2015. On the gender disparity front, we are far from bridging the gap especially in the secondary education. One report shows that more than half the illustrations in the average primary school textbooks depict only males, and only 6% show just females. On the other hand, teacher absenteeism goes above 50% in some states.

While there are a few positive indicators that India can brag about, on the sum, the country has slipped from a rank of 100 to 105 in its fight against illiteracy. Given this scenario, the inevitable suggestion that comes from many is for the government to pump in more money and improve the delivery mechansim. However, the question remains will this suffice. Today's Times of India editorial opines that the need of the hour is to provide education an industry status and allow private investment, even FDI to get in. Simply put, schools should be allowed to make profits.

While Professor James Tooley claims in his findings that private education is the right horse to back, some of the fundamental questions still remain unanswered in my mind - Is it realistic to expect a private school to remain self-sustainable and provide quality education in the remotest of the villages? Is an aided private school the panacea to the problem of sustainability? What are the probable implications of industrializing education?

~ Santosh

 


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