Why Are The Children Not Going To School?

A discussion on scenario of student-teacher atmosphere in villages of Kharagpur written by Khorana-Bose Scholar Ashwini Gupta

“The unsatisfactory quality of elementary education has been a serious concern for India at the least for the last four decades. Many quality improvement programmes have been devised and implemented at State and national levels; but they all left the quality lower than they found it. The access in terms of children attending the schools has certainly improved. But it is mainly due to increased awareness of parents and various incentives given to children.

Kharagpur, an important industrial town in Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal, is a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan town. Even though a large number of industrial plants and the biggest Railway colony in India are located in and around the town, the quality of life in rural areas of Kharagpur is really distressing. In such demanding conditions, the only hope which the community can have is its education system.

People in the villages usually come from poor sections of society and struggle for earning a living. In our surveys in villages, we have found children dropping out of schools to work in small shops and in many cases just to sit at home. Their parents, after somehow arranging money to send them to schools, have finally failed to motivate them. The village-atmosphere is such that children do not see any benefit in going to schools as they lack quality education. It’s quite awful that even students of class 4th and 5th are dropping out.

What is even more distressing is that it being written as description, when it must be asked as a question. Why are the children not going to school? What is the wrong with the present education system in villages?

The quality education

The problems in the village education system are merely the replication of the major problems with the Indian education system as a whole, the distinction being in their affect.

The vital aspect of quality are the twin problems in the education system— one, the plague of rote learning devoid of understanding; two, the disconnect between education and life.

Israel Scheffler, the well-known American philosopher of education while discussing teacher’s control over learning wrote: “It is where his control ends that his fondest hopes for education begin.” The education, as it is implemented in the classrooms today, does not provide scope for creativity and independence. In our zeal for teaching everything as fast as possible we bypass the creative processes of justification that makes confidence and relevance possible.

We have found many young people who left their studies after class 8th and started working for a living.  Their reason was plain and simple— “when we can earn by working at canteens, why to waste time and money”.

The children coming from these villages observe their limited society everyday and realize the lack of strength of their classroom courses in helping them to compete for a livelihood. The conventional bookish knowledge incoherent with their lives is insufficient to bind them to classrooms.

Preparedness of the system

Is the prevalent education system prepared to take forward quality understood in this larger sense? No. Work has to be done towards this preparedness. Some of the most important aspects of this preparedness could be identified as below.

“We have to face the truth that the prevalent educational system in the village does not create an effective learning environment for a child. The educational programmes have never seriously tried to achieve a clear and convincing enough understanding of what one tries to achieve through education. It always has been a rhetoric of larger aims and theoretical knowledge. We are prone to see the failure of the education system in the lack of practical skills. Courses however well taught, usually do not answer the question “why” and, therefore, do not generate conviction and commitment — essential ingredients in good teaching.

In concrete terms, a student has to have a range of activities. This will involve practical activities, the use of materials, and connecting with small experiments. It will also demand an understanding of the subject in terms of its content, epistemology and rationale in the curriculum. And it is very necessary here that students must be realized the potential opportunities available to them through learning.  It will necessarily involve elucidating the aims of education, the need for education in an individual’s life and in social life; a convincing dream of a desirable society and living a satisfactory life.  And situating oneself and the child in this dream to keep that hope alive.

What kind of curricular content and institutional experiences will develop these qualities is what will have to be worked out seriously, with care and in detail. It seems that without these capabilities, education is unlikely to have any effect on the children. We do not just want children to go to school, but to learn; and we want to instill a sense of confidence in the young generation of India.

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