An Appeal to Hon’ble Members of Parliament PDF
Urgently Address the Education Emergency in India
India’s children are living through the twin catastrophes created by the pandemic: the loss of lives and livelihoods of parents and relatives. The third catastrophe, the potential loss of their future due to the lack of education, is still invisible. Their future and that of the country, is at stake, due to 20 months of school closure, one of the longest and harshest in the world. Tens of millions of children of Dalits, Adivasis, the poor, and marginalized sections of society have suffered devastating learning deprivation and are disengaged from school. The youngest children have not seen a school or have no concept of school. This is the biggest blow to social equality since independence.
We recall that the right to education is a fundamental right of children, that must be upheld at all times. The pandemic cannot and should not be an excuse to deny the majority of poor children their rights, while a minority is able to continue with their education. Schools are now re-opening, but the measures being undertaken are wholly insufficient.
Parliament and the state legislatures must discuss the various aspects of the education emergency in detail and regularly. They must take concrete policy and budgetary actions to enable children to learn, particularly those belonging to the disadvantaged groups that have been excluded. These actions must include financial, academic, nutritional and social measures, through a multi-year program. And Parliament and the state legislatures must receive and review reports on the progress made.
Both the Central government and the majority of state governments have REDUCED their public funding for school education in 2020-21, in spite of this devastating crisis. The public expenditure levels, as percentage of GDP, were already low before the pandemic, comparable to levels in sub-Saharan Africa. This trend must not only be reversed, but public funding on school education must be substantially raised in the 2022-23 budget and subsequently.
Evidence from the ground
We highlight the main problems that have been identified by numerous research studies, surveys, ground reports conferences of educators :
- The vast majority of the 250 million children in grades 1-12, comprising the disadvantage children in rural areas and urban areas had NO meaningful structured learning or even contact with their teachers for over 20 months.
- Children entering in grades 1-2 have not seen any school in their lifetime and do not even have the concept of school as they have not seen anyone go to school. Children entering grades 3-5 would have had just one or two years of exposure to formal school. Most children in this age group do not have basic literacy or numeracy skills. The foundations for future learning are completely compromised.
- Older children, especially young adolescents in upper primary and high school, have disengaged from education due to lack of income and support from the school. Child labour and child marriage has increased to alleviate the poverty of parents. Many are victims of domestic abuse and violence.
- Children are suffering from high levels of malnutrition and even hunger, as mid-day meals are not yet available in many schools, and poverty has risen. This affects their physical and mental development and their ability to learn.
- Teachers are also suffering from stress as they cope with personal losses as well as trying to adopt new approaches to teaching with totally inadequate tools and training.
- Even when schools have re-opened, student attendance is as low as 25-35 percent in many schools, according to reports from the grassroots. There is no official, up to date and reliable data on enrollment and attendance.
What we need to do
Urgent measures must be taken by the Central government and all state governments to address this emergency, as outlined in A Future at Stake . Specific actions are highlighted below:
- Substantially increase the public spending on school education in the Central government’s budget and also advocate for such increased in all state governments. Target the spending specially to improving the education for disadvantaged groups/ rural areas.
- Ensure that cooked mid day meals are given to all children in government funded schools, even during periods when schools are closed. Different delivery mechanisms can be used for this. The mid-day meals should be enhanced with high quality protein food, including eggs.
- Re-organize the curriculum for elementary education to focus on foundational learning and priority content. Do not use summative tests, assessments and examinations. Provide additional learning materials, teacher training and additional instructional time to help the children in need.
- Monitor the progress of enrollment, attendance, and implementation of measures through reliable data and report it publicly.
Members of Parliament, please do the right thing by India’s children and for India’s future! Our society will be judged by the actions it takes to open equal opportunities to education for the poor and downtrodden.
This appeal has been prepared by the National Coalition on the Education Emergency and endorsed by eminent advocates for education and child rights.
- Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
- Gulrez Hoda, Ex-Member Bihar Planning Board and Former Director World Bank, Washington DC
- Jean Dreze, Visiting Professor Ranchi University and member of Economic Advisory Council, Tamil Nadu
- K. Subramaniam, Professor, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR
- Krishna Kumar, Director NCERT and Profesor Central Institute of Education (retd.)
- Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
- Niranjan Aradhya, Development Educationist, SDMC-Coordination Forum, Karnataka
- R. Ramanujam, Professor Institute of mathematical sciences (retd.)
- Rishikesh B.S., Teacher Educator and Education Researcher
- Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
- Shantha Sinha, ex-Chairperson National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
- Venita Kaul, Professor Emerita Education, Ambedkar University, Delhi
- Gurumurthy K, National Coalition on the Education Emergency and Director IT for Change
- Sajitha Bashir, National Coalition on the Education Emergency and ex-Senior Education Advisor, World Bank