eJournal | Call for rural schools in tune with local needs: Achieving Unesco’s goal of “integrated education”

By Dr. Boro Baski

Enrolment rates have improved in India, but especially in rural areas, the quality of primary education remains too poor. Our assessment was written by a member of the Santal community, one of India’s many Adivasi tribes. […]

Experience tells us that the mid-day meals and other schemes that serve retention at the lower level do not address the problems of more advanced kids. They worry about their future after school, and they are under pressure to earn money, not least because they want to buy mobile phones and trendy clothes. […]

An alarming trend is that ever more children are shifting from government schools to private-sector schools (see D+C/E+Z contribution by Roli Mahajan). According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) of 2014, almost one third of those six to 14 year old went to private schools in 2013. In 2006, their share had been not quite a quarter. In Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, two states in northern India, the share of private schools was even more than half. This trend proves that parents do not trust government schools and are willing to pay tuition, which poor people can hardly afford.

It is deeply irritating that even poor families now spend substantial amounts on sending their children to private schools. Bimol Baski, father of two daughters from our village Bishnubati in West Bengal, sends his children to a private school where classes are held in English. In his eyes, the midday meals in governments schools are a problem because teachers are now busy distributing lunch instead of focusing properly on classes.

Bimol hopes his daughters will learn good English. It is, however, a serious problem that the vast majority of children who belong to linguistic minorities cannot get education in their mother tongue. […]

For the success of village schools, the local community is very important. Family and school managing committees are essential for monitoring the performance of teachers. Unfortunately, however, many people believe that schools are the government’s responsibility, so they do not get involved. Moreover, the school managing committees are often dominated by leaders who are affiliated to political parties and prioritise other policy issues than education. Especially in rural areas, the governmental school sector would benefit from better coordination among teachers, parents and committee members. […]

I personally know several other NGO schools all over India, since I have visited them in the past few years (see box). Typically, they have been operating for more than two decades, so they are time tested. They are all “non-formal”. In India, this term means that a school does not make its pupils memorise the government syllabus by rote. Rather, non-formal schools take into account children’s needs and interests, and they apply a broad range of didactical methods and resemble government schools in rich nations in this respect. Experience shows that India’s non-formal schools deliver better results, even in formal terms, than the government schools do. This is especially true among disadvantaged communities.

It is profoundly irritating that many non-formal schools are now being put under pressure to conform with formal rules of the Right to Education Act of 2009, though regulations concerning the size of windows, appropriate clothing or teachers’ salaries do not make much sense in the context of non-formal rural schools. Some NGOs are plainly overburdened. […]


At the primary level, formal education must be treated as an isolated issue. Rural communities certainly need education, but their life is interwoven with many social and cultural issues that must all be taken into account. UNESCO is right to argue that an integrated approach with a holistic view is appropriate.

India is still facing huge challenges. Non-formal approaches should not be repressed. They are appropriate for the multi-language and multi-cultural fabric of the nation. The experience of non-governmental schools should serve as the basis for drafting future education policies.

Money is not the problem, by the way. In the financial year of 2011/12, the SSA only spent 43 % of the funds it was allocated. More than 50 % remained unspent. Such sums should be used prudently. What India really needs is well-trained, motivated and sensitive teachers who have the passion and zeal to serve the people.

Boro Baski works for the community-based organisation Ghosaldanga Adibasi Seva Sangha in West Bengal. The NGO is supported by the German NGO Freundeskreis Ghosaldanga und Bishnubati.

D+C Development and Cooperation e-Paper >>
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Source: India’s rural primary schools still have room for improvement | D+C – Development + Cooperation
Address: https://www.dandc.eu/en/article/indias-rural-primary-schools-still-have-room-improvement
Date Visited: 12 September 2020

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

For the success of village schools, the local community is very important. India has made substantial progress in primary education since a UN conference in Dakar in 2000 set the goal of Education for All (EFA) by 2015. […] An alarming trend is that ever more children are shifting from government schools to private-sector schools.” – Dr. Boro Baski in India is facing huge challenges: India’s rural primary schools still have room for improvement (D+C June 2016, pp. 36-37)

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