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1739After School What?

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  • Sepel
    Feb 4, 2005

      HI tarun
      The accomanied article is related story to primary education success 
      After school, what?
      Despite stunning enrollment and literacy figures, Himachal Pradesh doesn���t offer the educated a future, argues Diptosh Majumdar
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      Posted online: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 0000 hours IST

      SARASWATI needs Lakshmi to survive. Education, when delinked from livelihood, cannot ensure its own future.

      Having powered its way into record books with nearly 100 per cent enrollment in schools, Himachal Pradesh is facing a crisis. Where are the jobs for the educated? All the encouraging data about reaching education to everybody and applause for the massive government efforts have nothing to do with wealth creation and employment generation in the Himalayan province. Unemployment is mounting. Admitted Sudripto Roy, the state���s former education secretary and now its resident commissioner in Delhi, ������At present, the jobless total around 15 per cent of the population.������

      It has indeed been an extraordinary effort over the past two decades, a massive governmental exercise carried out with great sensitivity and innovation, which has almost eradicated the scourge of illiteracy.

      Himachal Pradesh was carved out of Punjab in the early 1970s. A separate state called for a separate administration and thousands of government jobs; not just in Shimla, but also in every sub-division and tehsil. Suddenly, there was a great demand for school and college education. Successive governments, irrespective of political leanings, did their best to meet that challenge. The result is one of the finest enrollment figures in the country.

      An example of the state���s commitment to education for all is the way it resolved the problem of teaching the children from nomadic Gujjar and Gaddi tribes: by ���embedding��� a travelling teacher with every group of nomads. Today, only a few itinerant Gaddi families throw up a small number of children who are not going to school.

      The state has created too many graduates and postgraduates in
      the liberal arts and the general sciences who are simply unemployable.
      It would have done better to set up a JNU or an IIT or IIM
      Himachal Pradesh has also had its share of luck with bureaucratic talent, with some excellent academic administrators taking charge as secretaries of its education department. More than 15 years ago, M M Kaw, who later went on to become the Education Secretary of the country, was the one who really planned out the state���s education perspective. In the last decade, C Balakrishnan���currently joint secretary (planning) in Arjun Singh���s HRD team���introduced key administrative changes as the state���s education secretary. Sudripto Roy carried on with the good work till late last year.

      AT first blush, there was no confusion till literacy and enrolment targets had to be met: The first objective was to ensure everybody went to school. But gradually there was talk of quality. At present, questions are being asked why education is not really changing the living standards in the hill province.

      Now that there are no vacancies in government jobs, the dynamics of the education movement have suddenly been considerably weakened. In retrospect, education planners say that probably the Himachal experience was not really an ideal one; it should not be replicated elsewhere. Cosy government jobs should never be the focus of an education boom.

      As Shimla-based bureaucrats point out, Himachal would have done better to create centres of academic excellence like a Jawaharlal Nehru University or proper professional institutions like an IIT or an IIM or at least a couple of medical and engineering colleges. The state has created too many graduates and even postgraduates in the liberal arts and the general sciences who are unemployable. ������There are simply no jobs,������ said a HP bureaucrat.

      He felt there should be better political vision on linking education to the two major industries in the state: tourism and food/fruit processing. ������First generation graduates prefer to be pen-pushers, rather than self-employed entrepreneurs. They will not sweat it out in the open.������ It explains why Himachal has been importing labour from other states not just for construction sites but even for its private sector agro-processing farms.

      Education has definitely gone a long way in improving the human development and social indices in Himachal Pradesh, but as long as it is not regarded as the first stepping stone towards wealth generation, there will always be the fear of the most backward slipping back to illiteracy. ������We have to find a use for education,������ Roy agreed.

      Some bureaucrats felt that at the plus two level itself there should be more interaction between students and industry. The students would know what are the options before them and decide whether they should go in for an ordinary degree or train themselves in a skill that they could apply to make a living.

      Another area where the lack of foresight shows is education in English. Since the quality leaves much to be desired, it explains why the BPO trade has not spread to Himachal. The non-existent computer infrastructure and lack of government interest did nothing to woo the BPO business.

      A Himachal civil servant agreed, ������Himachal has to move on to the more advanced stage of education, which will generate a greater degree of creativity and wealth creation.������

      But a way has to be found for Himachal to move into next gear. It will be a shame if some much effort comes to naught and Himachal Pradesh remains immersed in its educated mediocrity.

      Building blocks

      Manraj Grewal

      Figures for 2004
      IT was the Public Report on Basic Education in India (PROBE) by Anuradha De and Jean Dreze, a honorary professor in the Delhi School of Economics, in 1999 that first brought to light the spectacular success of schooling in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh.

      The HP Human Development Report 2002 records how the state, which had one of the lowest literacy levels (4.8 per cent) in the 1950s, emerged as the fifth most literate state of India in 1991, and now stands next only to Kerala in this field.

      But when it comes to universalising education at the level of primary schools, the state is arguably the tops in the country with an enrollment rate of 98.7 per cent, and an unmatched access to primary schools despite its hilly terrain.

      The dropout rate, too, is one of the lowest in the country, at two per cent, while the student: teacher ratio stands at a handsome 23:1.

      Now the state, whose primary schooling is oft-quoted as a success story by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, is determined to achieve cent per cent enrollment by the end of 2005 with the Education Guarantee Scheme, under which it is setting up mobile and cluster schools, the former for the itinerant communities and the latter for students of construction workers, labourers, et al.

      Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh says the schooling revolution in the state has taken place mainly due to the missionary zeal with which every successive state government has pursued primary education. The state spends around 16 to 17 per cent of its Plan budget on education. At Rs 215, its per capita expenditure on education, according to 1995-96 data, is also much higher than Punjab (153), Haryana (127), Uttar Pradesh (71) and the national average of 137.

      In his report, Dreze attributes the success to a combination of factors, including state initiatives taken to promote schooling, the egalitarian, gender bias-free society in the hills, and a community that sets great store by education.

      With these factors remaining constant, it���s one revolution that shows no signs of flagging.


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