15th of August, 2017 saw India completing seven full decades as an independent country. These seven decades have witnessed the nation achieving many paradigms of success in many different fields. We have – as against a popular doomsday prediction – not only survived and succeeded as a democracy and as one single political entity in spite of huge poverty and astronomical diversities, but we have also seen many peaceful revolutions. The revolution green in colour has made us self-sufficient in our agricultural needs while the one in white has made us second largest milk producer in the world.
In the field of education, we have increased our literacy rate from a mere 12% at the time of independence to around 74% as of today. However, this is still an area which has not seen a well-deserved revolution. True that the literacy rate has increased by 6 times and an almost universal enrolment has been achieved, but at the same time, it has not been able to convert itself into a meaningful education and this has left our current education system gasping for a lot. There are many problems facing our government schools that cater to 65% of our school-going children, some of which are:
- The schools have become physically accessible almost everywhere but their physical infrastructure reeks of neglect.
- Although the children enrol themselves in schools, they seldom attend the classes in a regular manner.
- The syllabus in the schools itself seems to talk of a world far away from the ground realities and as a result, contributes little to the overall improvement in the well being of the masses.
- Although the children graduate from one class to another, they are not learning much. Half of the fifth-grade pupils (ten-year-olds) still cannot read a story designed for second-graders and just a quarter can do simple division.
- The teachers are unresponsive and in a huge majority of cases are either unwilling or unable to teach. There is a trust deficit between the teachers and the parents/community.
While the problems are many and systemic in nature, we at Prajayatna believe that the lack of community ownership is the key issue. This, in turn, needs to be addressed through a meaningful engagement of the various stakeholders with the education system, for which there need to be suitable structures at various levels to ensure the participation in a systemic framework. It also implies that there have to be linkages between these various structures to allow them to dialogue with each other. This ensures the participation of primary stakeholders at all levels, thereby giving them a platform and space to participate in their own development (education), thereby institutionalising this process of engagement. This democratic process would also ensure accountability and transparency, leading to decentralisation of education governance at all levels. Hence, building capacities of these various structures and creating linkages gains paramount importance, starting from the school, Gram Panchayat, Block, etc…..
Simultaneously, the need to bring about a paradigm shift in the way education is perceived and to go beyond mere literacy and numeracy, have resulted in Prajayatna making efforts to facilitate and support children's learning in a manner that they are able to apply what they learn in school to real-life situations. At a pre-primary stage (Early Childhood Care and Education), where the focus is on the development of all domains, the focus in the primary stage is on 'learning how to learn' which in turn emphasises building the abilities of ‘all’ children. The creation of an ecosystem which supports such a learning process across becomes core to the approach.