Buried under figures
Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi April 15, 2007
When many of our elders walked to school four or five kilometres away
barefoot, there was no Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA). Nor was there a
District Information System for Education (DISE), enumerating data on
enrolment and infrastructure at the village level and feeding it to New
No one knew how many enrolled and how many dropped out on a monthly
basis. What one knew was that whoever went to school came back changed.
Even if they did not go beyond Intermediate or did a rare BA Honours.
So what is the difference between 60 years ago or even 40 years ago and
Shobha Bajpayi is a school headmistress in a village near Devas in
Madhya Pradesh. Her heart sank as her former chief minister Arjun Singh,
now in the incarnation of the country’s education minister, presided
over a meeting of state education ministers in Delhi this week.
There was no talk on the plight of teachers or the falling standards of
teaching. There were teachers from Puducherry and Orissa and all were
Bajpayi said what her minister didn’t say. The government is obsessed
with SSA and it has meant a mad chase after statistics.
Teachers are being forever asked to dig out data to prepare reports on
SSA and this affects their classes. When it is not the SSA data, then it
is the BPL survey, says Bajpayi. “How can we teach?” Bajpayi asks.
So the difference between then and now is not only SSA, but its
obsession with statistics, rather than an obsession with education.
Check what a government website says about the 10-year-old District
Information System of Education. “The system collects and computerises
detailed data on school location, management, teachers, school buildings
and equipment, enrolment by gender and age, incentives and the number of
disabled children in various grades.”
The DISE, which prepares detailed report cards for every district in the
country on the government’s success or failure in increasing or
maintaining enrolment rates has been designed by the National Institute
of Educational Planning and Authority, New Delhi, in collaboration with
the Directorate of Elementary Education and Literacy, Government of
Supervisions under SSA are about mid-day meals or the water pipes but
seldom about the ability of the children to read, say activists of
Pratham, an NGO working in many states, trying to train teachers to
Come Monday, the education secretary will give away district report
cards. It may be a report card that reassures the Centre about how its
funds are spent in each district. But it is hardly on the children going
to school. Not certainly the result of supervisions of the kind fabled
from the time of Gandhiji and even recent times which reminded teachers
that their only duty was to teach.
The difference is that those supervisions were done by the states to
gauge their own development and not ordered by the Centre, which wants
to count every penny it gives.
Today, education is just an excuse under which states get some of their
legitimate funds in bulk. Is education still a state subject?