A mass movement is required to arrest the growing educational inequity and falling standards of education in India. Shaheen Mistri, CEO and founder trustee, Teach For India, explains her vision for transforming the educational sector and helping the country achieve its true potential
On 26 January, 1950, the Constitution of India came into effect securing to all its citizens justice, liberty and equality of status and of opportunity. However, even 70 years after this momentous event, we, as a nation, have failed to secure even the most basic commitments that our Constitution guarantees for all citizens.
A child in India today is not part of a forward-thinking education system and is unlikely to get 21st-century content, skills and values imparted by a motivated teacher.
I believe that one fundamental right—the right to good education—is the key to securing the constitutional guarantee of equality of status and opportunity. Many complex factors have led to the failure of the Indian educational system, and this has been a factor in India's growing inequity. A child in India today is not part of a forward-thinking education system and is unlikely to get 21st-century content, skills and values imparted by a motivated teacher.
Reinventing is key
From decades ago, when education was geared towards the holistic development of an individual and the guru served as the medium to achieve secular and spiritual knowledge, the purpose of schooling has now been reduced to merely preparing students for exams and joining the rat race, only to perpetuate a cycle where their children will one day prepare for exams and join a rat race of their own.
There is an urgent need to reinvent the education system to prepare our children for the future. The world is changing rapidly, and about half of the jobs currently available would become redundant by the time kids who are now in school, graduate. Unless the education system teaches them values and skills for the future, our kids are doomed to live in world fraught with exponentially greater struggles.
Quality is critical
While schools for higher income groups are gradually improving in quality, those meant for the underprivileged are falling behind. The challenges are numerous. In addition to outdated content and methods of teaching, there is a severe deficit of good teachers especially in schools meant for the underprivileged; over and above this, there are other problems, such as overcrowding and run-down classrooms.
Our constant search for quick fixes has been partly responsible for our lack of progress in the education sector. While we've made significant progress on access through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, building schools and getting children there, we did not focus on quality and are paying the price for it today.
Building a people's movement
The need of the hour is a broad people's movement that will secure for each child, irrespective of social or financial background, an excellent education, so that we, as a nation, can find our light and our true potential.
The purpose of education itself needs to be made more inspiring.
To ensure the success of a movement for all of our children's education, whole communities will have to get involved and think of ways to improve the education system. Each one of us can join the movement by finding ways to engage by contributing our thoughts, time or resources.
If we succeed in building a critical mass of leaders—from the student community, administrators, bureaucrats, politicians, etc.— who are clear about the vision and mission, and are willing to reinvent themselves to achieve the objective, change is bound to happen.
Channelling more resources into the educational sector and ensuring that these reach the intended beneficiaries is also critical. The purpose of education itself needs to be made more inspiring. There is a compelling need and cogent reason to teach kids about being responsible to others and to nature; education is about holistic development, not just cognitive development.
Collaborate to succeed
However, there is little that organisations can achieve by working alone. Setting aside different goals and philosophies, our children need our organisations to collaborate and learn to work with each other to meet their multitude of needs. The Kids Education Revolution promises to be one such early collective, where a group of organisations will come together to make the dream of transforming the lives of 100 million children through quality education seem distinctly achievable.
Come, let's join hands to power a second freedom movement for India, one that will not only secure the constitutional guarantees for all Indian citizens but also help them achieve their truest potential as human beings. Transforming people through quality education is the only way our country can keep its tryst with destiny.
Take up the challenge to lead change! Apply for the 2017-19 Fellowship program at apply.teachforindia.org before 7 Feb, 2017!