There are crimes and then there are sins, what Naveen Sarkar is doing to our state is gold standard of both of these. Having been pulled of one of the largest heists of 20,000 crore from gullible middle class population of Odisha, it is on a crusade to destroy our future by sucking the soul and purpose out of our primary education system. Isn’t it amusing that Mr Patnaik promises to get rid of all kuchha houses from the state when in the last 14 years of his rule 30% of our schools don’t have required number of classrooms.
Primary education encompasses a vision of education that empower rural Odisha by creating a sustainable future. By promoting primary education we build a foundation for secondary and tertiary education. Majority of primary education providers in rural Odisha are government run schools. But why rural Odisha’s primary education is shocking according to recent research published by ASER? By improving literacy and numeracy during primary education we provide more knowledgeable and productive labor force. According to World Bank studies, this also has a direct and positive impact on future earnings and farmer productivity, and also it bestows significant health and poverty alleviation benefits (IEG, 2006). In a cross-sectional study of 50 developing countries, Gupta et al. (2002) found a positive corelation between increased public spending with educational attainment and health status.
When students leave schools they should have understanding and knowledge to contribute for a sustainable future but an AESR 2013 report said even though number of private schools have gone up in rural Odisha the overall literacy and numeracy rates in kids have been remarkable lower compared to previous years. I think myself why parents prefer private schools? I studied in a remote school where we never had any private school and I think we had best teachers considering I did my schooling in late 80s. I know many of my schoolmates have gone to premier institutes in India and abroad after schooling from rural primary school. I ask myself why 15.9 % of Std 3 kids can’t even read a letter in Odisha? Similarly 15.4 % of Std 3 kids can’t even recognise numbers 1-9 (AESR 2012). Shockingly according to the same report number of students in Std 3 who were able to do substractions were reduced approximately by 50% in just 3 years.
Naveen Sarkar is unable to improve the learning skills of half its primary school children, in the last four years and today it has fallen to alarming lows. Similar deterioration in quality of education is also noted among other standards student.
Recent studies have also reported the increase in number of private schools in rural areas and increasing number of parents are willing to send their kids to private school rather than government run schools. When I asked this question to myself I realized the answer is easy, every parents want their kids to get quality education and do best in future. But can all parents afford private school’s tuition fees?
Recently I visited my school in rural Odisha and I noticed there is no improvement in infrastructure. It’s exactly in the same boat as it was 25 years ago. There are even reduced number of classrooms and the building looks old and unsafe for children. AESR had similar findings where they found nearly 22% of schools in Odisha don’t have drinking water facility. In 2012 less than half (49%) of schools in Odisha had toilet facilities for kids (AESR 2012). I think we should concentrate on these basic amenities first when we speak of “swachha bharat abhiyan”. India is not considered a poor nation anymore but it surprises me when basic amenities like drinking water is not available in schools of Odisha. I was privileged to meet some of my school teachers, most of them are retired now, I was told school is not the same it was before. Number of staff have been reduced and also the number of student has gone down as most parents preferring for private schools.
Under its Right to Education (RTE) Act, passed in 2009, a free and compulsory education is guaranteed for all children aged between six and fourteen, and recent figures for primary school enrollment stand impressive but going to school is one thing and the quality of the education you get is another.
When I tried to find an answer I found several reasons which according to my view possibly contribute to this.
Lack of enough funding: Despite the need for increases in education spending, as a state, Odisha remains a low level spender on education. Recent budget figures show that in terms of expenditure on primary to tertiary education, Odisha sits at lowest level among all other states.An AESR 2013 report finds more than 50% of school kids (aged 5-14) have arrangements for private tuition in Odisha compared to 10-15% in other states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujrat. This shows lack of trust by parents in present primary schools run by Odisha government.In 2014 budget there is a gross provision of 9352 Cr INR for schools and mass education. Comparing other developed states it’s significantly lower proportion of expenditure. Considering Odisha’s present condition of schools government definitely needs to spend lot more than this to catch up with developed states.
Allocation of funds and their management: The proper allocation and management of this fund is also very important. Some of the smaller states like Mizoram are doing lot better than Odisha in primary education with significantly lower expenditure. There are plenty of loopholes in present system of education where revenue is spent in a way where growth of schools and primary education in rural Odisha is difficult.Odisha under Naveen Patnaik is filled with contradictions in almost everything you see. Education of course is no different story. The budget allocation to education has dropped year after year. 80% of teachers in the schools are temporary teachers who are indeed eligible for permanent posting but government in spite of their claims of some mega surplus budget is not able to make them regular or appoint sufficient teachers for our children. Creating unemployment bloat in the present and at the same time planting the seeds to give use a whole majority of unemployable youth in the future.
They say Nero fiddled while Rome burned.