Each year the ASER report is released with detailed inferences from the largest non-governmental household survey on education levels in rural India. The past three years have revealed excellent enrolment numbers, but the results on learning outcomes have been far less promising. The ASER 2013 report shows that barely 47% of children in grade 5 could read a grade 2 level text.
Need for quality pre-primary and primary education
The first step towards universal primary education lies in universal pre-school education. This plays a pivotal role in laying a strong foundation for a child's intellectual, physical, and social development.
Learning reading, writing, and other basic learning skills during primary education is essential for a child's success in higher education and ensures a reduction in drop-out rates.
Limitations and challenges of the RTE Act
In 2010, the Right to Education Act (RTE) was passed by the Indian government, recognizing the importance of education and making it a 'fundamental right' for every child. The RTE made education free and compulsory for all children between 6 and 14 years old.
Though the RTE has increased enrolment rates, its effects on learning are up for debate. The relaxed classroom rigour and no-exam format it encourages may be an obstacle to achieving desirable learning levels. The act also focuses on inputs — infrastructure, teacher qualifications and compensation, standardized textbooks, curricula, etc. — more than on important outcomes such as the quality of education. While the former is certainly required, it is not enough to address the problems within India's education system.
We can applaud some aspects of the RTE, but we must also acknowledge the many limitations that prevent it from being fundamentally effective.
India's demographic future
In addition to the broad problems facing primary education, higher education in India faces its own distinct set of challenges. These include finding the right faculty, building the right infrastructure, encouraging meaningful research and development projects, and having a greater equality of opportunity.
According to UN data, India is home to the largest number of illiterate adults on the planet. With a population of about 1.21 billion, India has 40% of its population below the age of 18 and is estimated to have 55% of its population under 20 by 2015. To secure India's future, providing a better education to India's youth is imperative.