The Illusion Of Education – literacy in rural India

What if I tell you that India has the world’s largest youth population? What if I also tell you that less than half of our students in class 8th can solve a class four division problem and barely 47% of children in grade 5 can read a grade 2 level text? Our students have been caught in the clutches of our government’s ignorance. Someone once rightly said that most ignorance is “vincible ignorance”. We don’t know because we don’t want to know and people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed. To secure India’s future, providing a better education to India’s youth is imperative.

I believe only education fundamentally can change our current scenario. It can help make people independent because all the wealth in the world cannot help our people unless they are not taught to help themselves. All they need is moral and intellectual support to stand on their own feet. However, all efforts seem to remain futile. India’s adult literacy rate has only gone up from 61% to 69.3% in 10 years from 2001 to 2011. Gross Enrollment Ratio is a measure used in the education sector to determine the number of students enrolled in school at different grades and is the ratio of the number of students who live in that country to those who qualify for the particular grade level.



(The GER can be over 100% as it includes students who may be older or younger than the official age group. For instance, the GER includes students who are repeating a grade)

The GER up to elementary level is appreciable, but why is it that 27% children in class 8th cannot read a class two level text and 57% cannot do simple division that is taught in class four? How is a child unable to read and do simple arithmetic supposed to traverse the curriculum of class 8th that includes algebra, science, and geography? Whether at school level or college, we have many institutions. But often institutions don’t deliver what they are supposed to. It can also be observed that GER is consistently decreasing with the increase in grades, dropping to a low 24.3% .This means that only 24.3% of the total no. of students eligible for college are actually attending college. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 guarantees free elementary schooling to all children in the age group of 6-14 years. Simultaneously, the government also launched the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) in 2009 to enhance access to secondary education. All this is well and good, but the reality is that many young persons do not progress to higher schooling after completing elementary school possibly because they come out of the shade of the RTE act. The transition from elementary to secondary school happens during these years and if a youth drops out at the end of class 8th or 10th ,it is more than likely that he/ she will not return to complete their studies. A large proportion of youth who are not studying have joined the labor force. Most of them – 71.8% – work in the farm sector. 50% of boys who had left school said the reason was either lack of interest (34%) or because they had failed in school (16%). Among girls, the predominant reason for leaving school was family constraints (32.5%). Apart from socio-economic factors, a large proportion of youth also cited “lack of interest” as a reason for leaving school. Why is school not interesting?

The first possible reason could be the quality of education. As the government would never directly comment on the quality of education in their own schools, the only method to justify this is through the performance of students.

This is the overall mean achievement score in the subject of science of class 10th students in 2015.


Through this information we can deduce that students in rural areas have been consistently outperformed by their urban counterparts. Considering that majority of students in rural areas study in government and government- aided schools, this indeed propels us to raise questions. Is the curriculum followed in these schools not feasible or if the curriculum though feasible is not followed effectively? Does the government have any checks in its system to monitor its teachers? From my perspective, all these concerns together form the larger problem. Another issue is the absence of an effective method to check teacher absenteeism in government schools. A recent news report illustrates how ridiculous the problem has become: a teacher from Madhya Pradesh has been absent for 23 years of the last 24 years in her long “career”. The fiscal loss due to such teacher absence is more than $1.5 billion (100 crore) every year. Regular checking of what students are being taught in schools also does not take place. Cases where teachers are themselves not qualified enough to teach students aren’t unheard of. However, in my opinion the curriculum is poorly designed and doesn’t focus on what is required to be taught to students in a rural setting. Another important issue is that there is no mechanism within our school system to effectively address the needs of children who have fallen behind. The help these children need has to come from home. Therefore, the learning deficits of children who don’t have these advantages – affluent and/or educated parents – are not addressed either in school or at home. In our current system, a child can progress up to class 8th without anyone figuring out that she needs help.

Why does India fall back on literacy and education when compared to other countries with a considerably larger literate population? One cause for this problem can be attributed to India’s low budget advocated for education.



The government hasn’t entrusted an enormous percentage of its GDP on education, and its repercussions are coherent. Its effect can be confirmed through India’s low literacy rate and high Pupil- Teacher Ratio. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has ensured that most schools now have separate washrooms for boys and girls.

2013-2014 91.3%
2014-2015 93.08%
2015-2016 97.52%

However, according to government statistics a great deal of development cannot be observed in the percentage of schools with electricity.

2013-2014 56.78%
2014-2015 60.01%
2015-2016 62.81%

Technology is now considered to be an important aspect of keeping up with modern times. Despite our governments’ claims of building a modern India, the increase in the percentage of schools with computers is not very drastic.

2013-2014 24.08%
2014-2015 26.42%
2015-2016 27.31%

I feel designing a specific curriculum can help teachers and schools achieve certain goals more satisfactorily and simultaneously, students can enjoy the learning process. This specific curriculum should not be entirely ‘new’, but should contain courses that can supplement the holistic development of students. Considering our rural set up, agricultural and veterinary courses can provide students an innovative way to support their parents by spreading awareness of the new techniques they learn at school.

According to me, a well-planned teacher training program should be devised and during the recruitment process government should ensure that teachers are well aware of the unavoidable challenges and lack of support they may face later on. The problem of teacher absenteeism has plagued the Indian education system; still certain potent methods can be utilized to tackle this issue. Research suggests that improving school infrastructure, increasing the frequency of inspections, providing daily incentive to work (i.e. cash)  and conducting frequent PTA’s (Parent- Teacher Associations) are the best ways to get teachers to attend schools regularly. This problem can also be solved by a direct approach as conceived by the Madhya Pradesh Government where they have introduced a GPS-based Android mobile phone application to check attendance of teachers in schools across the state by taking e-attendance.

The most important thing to revolutionize our rural education system is through proper introduction, implementation and execution of incentives. Mid-day meal scheme is a great incentive for students from impoverished backgrounds to go to school. The government has introduced some very thoughtful schemes targeting various sections of students; but most of them get lost mid-way either due to improper management or due to unceasing corruption. In fact, the execution of the most prominent scheme–the mid-day meal scheme itself has turned out to be faulty, where only 10 million out of 13.1 million students eligible for the scheme have been covered by it. Not just this, cases of mid-day meal tragedies are not unheard of.  In a major boost for the girl child, the government of Rajasthan has decided to provide cash benefits for those studying in government schools. The scheme will transfer money directly into the accounts of beneficiaries. In a nutshell, a girl who enrolls in Class one at a government school will receive a total cash benefit of Rs. 51,000 by the time she clears Class twelve. Another scheme known as The Scheme of Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage (IEDSS) aims to enable all students with disabilities to pursue four years of secondary education in an inclusive and enabling environment, after completing eight years of elementary schooling. Even such a well thought scheme has been afflicted by scams where Rs.5.16 crore was allegedly siphoned off during 2008-13 by some government officials. Some other prudent schemes such as SWAYAM which is an online learning project and PM Kaushal Vikas Yojana ( PMKVY) scheme aimed at producing skilled labour can only achieve considerable progress when they are enforced appropriately. I believe it’s high time we consider conquering our ignorance and embracing change because we cannot become what we want by remaining what we are. It is vital we realize that education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom and democracy.

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
~ Kofi Annan

Thank you 🙂


44 thoughts on “The Illusion Of Education – literacy in rural India

  1. This post is clearly well-read and researched, and I think you’ve articulated a really complex and intricate topic well.

    I completely agree that the education system needs a refresh, and that there should be a greater focus on the holistic development of children. Neurologists have also found that incorporating fun into activities increases levels of dopamine, endorphins, and oxygen – all of which promotes learning, to your point about a lack of interest being a key reason children leave school. If we want to achieve international development, the conversation really needs to start at education. Amazing post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on anitaelise and commented:
    A lot of children in Navi Mumbai who attend English-medium schools have difficult with English language comprehension and with thinking. I recently wrote a post about my piano lessons ( to highlight this issue. Here’s a post with detailed information about the quality of education in India and real issues that need to be addressed.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This snapshot is a mirror of American education, as well. I admire the effort being put into the education of girls, while noting that uneducated boys are indeed a menace, in any given country. The effort has to be as across-the-board as possible.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Nice and very well articulated article Sanchi !
    I am amazed by the amount of research you did to come up with your conclusions and back up your statements.
    Keep it up 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Great article. Like you I believe education and its role in the development of human society. I like the analysis you make. I am not Indian but I think Indian Education authorities need to pay attention to the brilliant views you so brilliantly express.

    Liked by 5 people

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