STEPPING STONES :
Enhancing the quality of
primary education in India
Changing what needs to be changed
by: MUTATIS MUTANDIS (Jesus and Mary College, New Delhi)
Why – PRIMARY EDUCATION?
• Education in India has a history stretching back to the ancient urban centres of learning at Takshiila and Nalanda. The
constitution of India supports the right of universal education until age 14 and has had a longstanding goal of free and
compulsory education for all children between the ages of six and 14.
• However, India remains a land of contradictions. Despite a vibrant emerging economy and a string of excellent colleges that
produce high calibre professionals, India has not made the grade yet on primary education.
• Considering the rich history of education in India as well as the existence of fundamental rights around education, we
thought to pick up a topic that is intertwined not just in our present, but our past and future as well.
• A release from CRY said that issues affecting children were always linked. The lack of quality education is directly linked to
child labour. Parents often do not perceive any value in sending their children to school, if they receive only dismal
education. They, instead, prefer their children to learn skills to help them earn a living at an early age.
• The poor state of primary education in India along with its heightened importance is what made us go ahead with this topic.
• The major problems concerning Indian primary education system are:-
i. Flawed Teaching Methodology: In India, rote learning has been institutionalized as a teaching methodology.
ii. Poor infrastructure
iii. Lack of quality human resource in terms of teachers and other staff
iv. Not enough emphasis on ECA
LACK OF INFRASTRUCTURE
• Three years after the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act came into force in the country, children are still
studying in unsafe schools, with no electricity, drinking water or toilets.
A study released by non-governmental organization Child Relief and You, 'Learning Blocks,' reveals that:-
i. 4% schools operate out of buildings not meant for schooling,
ii. 11% schools did not have toilets.
iii. Only 18% schools had separate toilets for girls.
iv. In 34% schools toilets were observed to be in bad condition or unusable
v. 20% schools did not have safe drinking water.
vi. In 18% schools the Mid Day Meal was either not cooked inside a designated kitchen or did not have a kitchen space at all.
vii. 63% schools did not have a playground.
viii. 60% schools did not have a boundary wall, or had a damaged boundary wall or the boundary wall was under construction.
ix. 74% schools did not have a library, and where there are libraries around 80% don't have story books and general knowledge
x. 58% schools overall don’t have separate rooms for head-teacher.
xi. 39% schools don’t have separate rooms for each standard.
xii. 13% schools considered unsafe, with 29% classrooms not being ‘pucca’ rooms.
Proposed solutions to tackle the problem
• Revamping the Scheme of Operation Blackboard (OB)
Recognising the unattractive school environment, unsatisfactory condition of school buildings, inadequate physical facilities,
and insufficiency of instructional materials in primary schools, which function as demotivating factors for enrolment and
retention, a scheme symbolically called Operation Blackboard was introduced in 1987-88 to bring all existing primary schools
in the country to a minimum standard of physical facilities. Under this scheme, each school is provided with: (i) at least two
reasonably large all-weather rooms along with separate toilet facilities for boys and girls; (ii) at least two teachers (one male
and one female); and (iii) essential teaching and learning materials including blackboards, maps, charts, a small library, toys
and games, and some equipment for work experience.
i. It’s suggested that Operation Blackboard should be implemented again, however this time with more rigour and under
constant monitoring by a special committee, in order to ensure timely implementation.
ii. Each school should operate out of it’s own all-weather building.
iii. Each school should be provided with:
a) Separate well-ventilated classrooms for different standards.
b) At least one room designated to co-curricular activities with proper equipment.
c) A playground
d) A separate head teacher room
e) Separate washrooms for boys and girls with running water, electricity, sanitation products and staff for upkeep of the
f) Safe drinking water facility .
g) Separate clean kitchen space with cooks to cook mid-day meals.
• Other solutions:
i. Operate public-private partnerships by focusing especially on cooperation
between the private sector and local end users, such as schools,
educational bureau and NGOs.Public-private partnerships might produce
good results when the state lacks adequate funds to equip schools and
universities with equipment.
ii. Provide increased opportunities for students in rural and semi-urban India
(in form of transparent information dissemination, transparent selection
for fellowship/scholarships and recruitments).
iii. Indian Citizens(& NRI’s) can be partners in education & training. This
partnership can be divided into two parts:-
a. Part 1 – Direct participation to finance tax-free low-interest infrastructure
30-year bonds of interest rates between 3.5% to 4.5 This could be a source
of low-cost long-term funds to be used both by the central as well as the
state governments to fund infrastructure for education and other needs of
the economy. No questions should be asked for the source of funds.
b. Part 2 – Allow Indian Citizens(& NRI’s) to invest in education, as a business
and an enterprise, both for domestic as well as for foreign students, as
explained above. Tax breaks of at least 20 to 25 years, from the year of
commercial start up, should be given as an incentive.
Lack of quality human resource in
terms of teachers and other staff
• There is a lack of quality human resource in terms of teachers and other staff involved in the primary education system of
the country. Teachers are often required to carry out a lot of responsibilities in addition to teaching. For ex. . For Vivekanand
Upadhyay, a seasoned educator and language professor at a leading national University, one reason for the lack of
motivation is that "primary school teachers employed by the government, particularly in rural India, are required to perform
a wide range of duties completely unrelated to imparting education." These duties -- including administering government
programs such as immunization clinics, assisting with data-collection for the national census, and staffing polling stations
during elections -- in addition to their teaching responsibilities, place significant demands on teachers' time.
• There is a need to hire support staff (this would also increase employment) to assist the teachers in order to lower their
work load and so that they can concentrate solely on carrying out their teaching responsibilities. Every school should have at
i. Security guard
ii. Mid-day meal cook
iv. Sweeper (one male and one female)
Restructuring of Teacher
• Teacher performance is the most crucial input in the field of education. In the ultimate analysis, the national policies on
education have to be interpreted and implemented by teachers as much through their personal example as through
• Overhauling of the B.Ed program is needed. The duration of the program must be increased. It should focus on an all round
development of the teachers, including training from senior teachers around the country, internships in schools etc. The
Central Teacher Eligibility Test should test not only the bookish knowledge, but also practical teaching capabilities.
• Performance Appraisal: A systematic assessment of teachers’ and students’ performance in order to assess his training
needs, potential for promotion, eligibility for a merit increment as part of pay or salary review or for management
succession planning. Methods of appraisal include the controlled report, factor rating,etc. by students, teachers and their co-
In India, rote learning has been institutionalized as a teaching methodology. Primary school teachers in rural India often try to educate
students by making them repeat sections of text over and over again. Often they do not explain the meaning of the text, which results
in stunted reading comprehension skills over the course of the children's education. For example, many students in grades two and
three in one particular school struggle to read individual words, but can neatly copy entire paragraphs from their textbooks into their
notebooks as though they were drawing pictures.
The Flawed Teaching Methodology
Correcting the Flawed Teaching Methodology
• Instead of promoting rote learning, government schools should adopt the teaching methodology followed by the programs
uninitiated by the NGO, NIDAN.
• At Nidan, the elementary section is further divided into Shala Arambh (Class I-II or Early Primary) and Shala Madhya
(Classes III- V). The overall emphasis is to groom children for their development as independent learners. At the Shala
Arambh level, the focus is on building early language, literacy and numeracy skills. The aim, as the children move to Shala
Madhya level, is to equip them to perform at comparable levels when they reach class V. Children are encouraged to play
with the alphabets, understand and coin words that they are familiar with. The teaching practices follow the continuum of
developing the related listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. The emphasis on building children’s existing knowledge
and experience and conceptual clarity is equally relevant for other subjects such as Mathematics, Environmental Studies etc.
• Nidan has been engaged in developing and modifying teaching learning materials (TLMs) and other resources based on
cognitive principles and contextual requirements. The emphasis on TLMs stems from the belief that learning should be a
joyful and meaningful exercise. Over the years, a significant pool including games, puzzles, songs, cards, worksheets, charts
etc has been developed. Most of the TLMs are derived from games that children play and use materials that are locally
available. Many of these have also been modified as classroom exercise and feedback from communities revealed their
potential for explaining other/more concepts.
• Examples of some of the most commonly used TLMs are given below:
1. Dus Tiliyon Ka Khel (game of ten sticks) Explains concepts (numbers, place value, simple operations of addition, subtraction
and multiplication) Enhances hand co-ordination/balance and concentration. Enhances strategic thinking and collective
decision making .
2. Khel Board (Game of Dice) Recognizing different geometrical shapes, colours, words and their sounds. Enhances strategic
thinking and collective decision making.
3. Game of Notes (using fake currency notes) Understanding place value, simple operations of addition, subtraction and
multiplication counting from 1 to 100
4. Jali Button (Net and buttons) Understanding concept of numbers and counting Matching colours and also creating different
LACK OF EMPHASIS ON ECA
• Lack of awareness among children and parents regarding
importance of ECA and sports.
• No initiative from the government, teachers or the parents to
encourage students and make them aware about
extracurricular activities as well as sports as there is
overhyped importance of marks and studies.
• Lack of opportunities for kids to show case their talent and
pursue their interests.
• Lack of rooms for ECA and infrastructure like playgrounds for
sports and hardly any equipment for them to practice and
learn new things.
• Government doesn’t feel the need to invest in ECA and sports.
• ‘OPERATION EACH CHILD IS A STAR’
Recognising the unattractive school environment, lack of emphasis on co-curricular activities and
need to promote all round development of children, Operation EACH CHILD IS A STAR introduced
with the primary objective to create awareness amongst the government, parents and teachers and
make them realize the importance of ECA and sports for the overall development of the child.
Under this scheme, each school should provided with:
(i) a playground
(ii) at least one sports teacher and a trainer to train the children in other co-curricular activities like
music or dance
(iii) Essential sports, art, dance and music equipment
• For example. Teach for India (TFI) – A non profit organization recruits qualified Indian college
graduates and working professionals to serve as full-time teachers in low-income schools for two
years. These TFI fellows comes in collaboration with Becoming I foundation by applying as
volunteers to teach their children extracurricular activities and sports, main aim of both these
organizations is to come together and impart wholesome education to these children. People, from
high school and college level on the other hand apply to becoming I for working as its volunteers.
The incentive for the volunteers to work in the NGO is that the certificate they get will help them
build a good CV in future. So both these organizations work together for 12 consecutive Saturdays
to prepare the children for a sports day or a competition in their respective fields for eg, arts,
theatre, dance, music etc. Something similar should be initiated to develop the overall skills of the
children in primary schools across the country.
Proposed solutions to tackle the problem of lack of
emphasis on extra co-curricular activities and sports:-
It is high time the government started
investing in primary public education
Public education does not serve public,
it creates a public. The question is,
” What kind of public does it want?”
- (neil postman)
2. Elementary Education in India-Progress, Setbacks, and
Challenges by A.K. Shiva Kumar and Preet Rustagi
3. Indian Strategies to Achieve Universalisation of Elementary
Education -K. Gopalan