Naxalism-education linkageThank you for your insightful cover story â€˜Budget 2007-08: Illusory bonanza for Indian educationâ€™ (EW April). You have done a signal public service by exposing the hollow claim of finance minister P.C. Chidambaram that he has made huge outlays for agriculture and education in the Central budget presented recently to Parliament. After reading your cover story it is quite evident that the claim of the minister that he has raised the Centreâ€™s education budget by 34.2 percent is mere rhetoric. As you rightly point out, this 34.2 percent higher outlay doesnâ€™t equal even 1 percent of GDP. Just as any head of household would allocate more than 1 percent of total income to the education of children, it was incumbent upon the finance minister to make a substantially larger provision for education.
I quite agree that by cutting unmerited middle class subsidies and selling off loss-making public sector enterprises, large capital sums can be released for investment in education infrastructure. But quite obviously the will to educate the poor â€” as opposed to the middle classes who get highly subsidised education in the IITs, IIMs and universities â€” is completely lacking in the political class as a whole.
The middle classes seem to be unaware that the neglected poor are demanding, and are equally entitled to a fair share of the rising GDP and buoyant tax revenues of the Central government. The growing popularity of the Naxalite movement across India is an indication of the resentment of the poor for being denied meaningful education.
More than moneyReading the cover story â€˜Illusory bonanza for Indian educationâ€™ (EW April) by Dilip Thakore gives the impression that the only problem ailing Indiaâ€™s school and higher education systems is lack of money. The story argues that doubling, and in some cases quadrupling allocations for education schemes will redeem the countryâ€™s pathetic public school education system. However more money doesnâ€™t necessarily mean improvement in education infrastructure and quality. Particularly in India, where corruption is a way of life and education schemes remain on paper.
Indiaâ€™s abysmal gover- nment school education system requires more than money. It requires a mindset change, tighter control on implemen-tation of schemes, and participation by local communities to ensure the money allocated is actually used for improving the quality of education.
Wrong prioritiesThe special report â€˜Wasted potential of Indiaâ€™s gifted childrenâ€™ (EW April) by Summiya Yasmeen was informative and well analysed. Nurturing the extraordinary talents of our 13 million gifted children could play a major role in determining Indiaâ€™s place in the global order of the 21st century. But the countryâ€™s obsolete education system isnâ€™t remotely aware of ways and means to transform gifted children into innovators and leaders. The initiatives taken by a handful of pioneer private schools are too little, too late.
We fancifully compare ourselves with developed western countries in terms of nuclear capability and number of millionaires (61,000). But we trail way behind in the race to develop our most precious asset â€” our 450 million children. Itâ€™s high time we became aware of the plain truth that the future of the country depends on developing the wasted potential of gifted and talented children.
I read with interest your international news item titled â€˜Internet harassment epidemicâ€™ (EW April). The abuse of academics by students on social networking websites is not exclusive to Britain. In India as well, college and university lecturers are increasingly being targeted for abuse on the internet. Orkut.com, perhaps the most popular social networking website in India, has pages dedicated to teacher abuse. For instance the Which Teacher Would you Like to Sock web community invites students to comment on their teachers. Recently a student had called his teacher a "wig-head" and "stupid lab rat" on this website.
I strongly condemn such low-down activities, which are fraught with dangerous consequences. Thatâ€™s why Indiaâ€™s schools and colleges are facing a grave shortage of qualified teachers, and such harassment will further dissuade youth from entering the teaching profession. I strongly advocate censoring of websites which encourage students to berate their teachers.
Overdue acknowledgement Three cheers for EducationWorld on the path-breaking cover story â€˜25 principals redefining school educationâ€™ (EW March).
At last a publication has focused on the real leaders â€” school principals â€” without whom there canâ€™t be genuine development of Indiaâ€™s abundant human resources. The destiny of a nation is determined in its classrooms, but the destiny of classrooms is determined by school principals.
Indeed the culture, ethos and character of every school is the lengthened shadow of its principal. I heartily appreciate EducationWorld giving school principals overdue acknowledgement. All the 25 profiles are impressive and beneficial to leaders in the education field. My very best wishes to these principals as they pursue their mission to raise standards of education in Indiaâ€™s schools, which are the true nurseries of talent.
V.S. Vidyalaya School