Thursday, 4 April 2013

Students on yatra to force Centre to hike education spending

CHENNAI: Nine children who are on a nine-day rail yatra from Kanyakumari to New Delhi reached Chennai on Sunday. They are travelling across the country to put pressure on the central government to keep its promise of setting aside 9% of the GDP for education and health.
“The central government has promised 6% for education and 3% for health. The yatra is to force the government to deliver its promise,” saidJainab Hartoon, a class 11 student from a village in Meerut.
Around 3.1% of the GDP goes to education and less than 2% to health. Around Rs 21,000 crore was spent for primary education last year. “Even 9% may not be enough for a country like India, but it’s a start,” said national convener of the rail yatra Thomas Pallithanam.
In Tamil Nadu, access to school, enrollment rate and teacher absenteeism are not problems. The problem is what they do after they reach the classroom. “The teacher is just sitting in the classroom doing nothing,” said Sarguna Pandian, a class 9 student from a village in Salem. This is reflected in a survey done in November 2010 by a non-governmental organization, ASER Centre. About 69% of class 5 students cannot read a story in Tamil, their first language. About 40% of class 5 and 58% of class 4 children cannot subtract two digit numbers. AID India director Balaji Sampath said the government has no mechanism to find out how well students do. “They only look at enrolment rate, teacher absenteeism and drop out levels. On all these counts, our state has been doing pretty well. It doesn’t reflect the quality of education,” he said.

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