263 million of the world’s 650 million primary school children, as per a research published by UNESCO Institute of Statistics, are out of school.
Does this sound shocking? The survey further outlines that over one-third of world’s children can’t read and write, or do basic mathematics. When at least 250 million children of primary school age worldwide are failing to learn the basics, in India alone more than 12 million children are not enrolled in schools. Another pressing issue is 35 per cent of the world’s illiterate population lives in India.
What’s the biggest reason behind the high number of dropouts?
Although the government has been spending enormous resources to make sure kids have access to primary school education, inaccessibility to schools is still one of the key indicators. Furthermore, inequalities in educational access in the country, that is based on caste, religion, and gender is even more glaring in primary and secondary levels, according to National Sample Survey Organisation’s (NSSO) survey on education. Above all these, poverty and social disparity are also behind children’s educational regress and low attainment.
Attaining high attendance and reviving secondary education
After addressing access, to strengthen the education system, especially in impoverished areas, the authorities must focus on promoting more and more secondary school enrolments. A report titled as ‘Challenges faced by the private sector in India’s K-12 education and way forward‘ by Ernst & Young hammer brings home the point that low enrolment across senior classes remains a key challenge in the K-12 education system.
Teachers are the backbone
Teachers are central to a good education. India’s student-teacher ratio has not been improving due to huge unfilled teacher vacancies. A critical report by the United Nations highlights that we will need about 69 million more teachers by 2030 to achieve sustainable development goal of quality education for all.
Besides the shortage, another weak link in the system is the teacher’s absenteeism and inadequate training which is further hurting the quality of education. The only way to solve the learning crisis is through creating opportunities for continuous professional development and robust teacher training modules. Technology can also play a major role in tracking the attendance.
Inclusive education to empower students with special needs
Although the 20th century saw quite a few transformations in education in India, schools’ rejection of students with special needs is still disturbingly common. It requires a significant capital to set up a school for special kids and in a developing country like ours getting the necessary resources such as equipment, infrastructure, and manpower to meet different demands within the classroom has been a challenge.
Just like everyone else, students with special needs also have the equal right to education. To meet this, the authorities must mandate an inclusive education into a mainstream classroom, welcome flexibility in the standard curriculum to cater to all types of students, a practice of bringing more awareness on equal treatment, and right kind of support from the community ensuring better acceptance of them.
Children should be sensitised to safety and security
A ground-breaking survey by an NGO (Save the Children) reveals that “1 in 3 adolescent girls in India expect to be inappropriately touched or stalked when they venture out in public, and about one out of five feel they are at risk of being physically assaulted, including rape.“ Instances of daily harassment, lewd comments, inappropriate touching, and multiple forms of sexual assault are among the key factors contributing to young girls’ dropping out. According to a global perception poll conducted by Thomson Reuters Foundation, India tops the list of the world’s most dangerous countries for women.
Gender-based violence is a global concern preventing girls, exercising their right to a safe, inclusive and quality education, outlines a UNESCO report.
Use of technology, especially Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to implement innovative initiatives moving towards “Blended Learning” will help
These are some of the ways technology can play a much bigger role in brining education to all:
- Eradicating old-style tests and pushing digital methods for the better examination of students’ skillset is a more worthwhile pursuit.
- Bringing broadband connectivity to rural and backward communities and imposing mass e-learning/distance education along with empowering schools to bring about these reforms has been fairly possible.
- Digital tools are already helping bridge the education divide and changing the way students learn concepts in school.
- Child safety and activities a child do can be monitored by using innovative concepts like “Child’s Journey for Today” or “Highlights for Today”.
- The next big matra would be “blended learning” which has the power to reinforce learning and change the way knowledge is attained.
- Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to track the performance of students using a “Personalised Learning Environment” or PLE.
- Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence at the same time can also track the efficacy of teachers and suggest important training and skills be developed.
Despite the strides made to close the education gaps in India, access to quality education is far from ideal. A necessary policy reform in education, fulfillment of basic infrastructure and amenities, child’s safety, technology implementations and more engagement with the community are some of the musts. ML and AI has a big role to play in this.
Note to readers: This article references the statistical facts reported by UNESCO, Thomson Reuters Foundation, an international NGO – Save the Children and, Ernst & Young.
Pragyan Parimita Barik
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