The Indian education system has gradually accepted a new entrant in its age-old five stages of learning.
The Indian education system has evolved a lot in the last few decades. Currently, more than 95 percent of children attend primary school. However, only 40 percent of these are able to attend secondary school (Class 9-12).
Early Childhood Education
Over the last decade, preschool and pre-primary education has taken prominence as the early years of education of children in India. Like in the west, pre-primary education in India is also known as Kindergarten; a term coined by Friedrich Frobel in 1837. Kindergarten in German refers to a ‘children's garden’. Government caters to kindergarten through traditional anganwadis.
Today, pre-primary education is given utmost importance. And even before the pre-primary stage, parents are now opting for preschool education. Here, learning caters to children from birth to five years of age. This is also known as stage of Early Childhood Care and Education. The importance of playschools has been recognized in India, as much as in the West, as the foundation years of lifelong learning for children. That is the reason that the knowledge base about teaching and learning content at the preschool level has also grown to a great extent. It has been found that the child develops significantly in physical, cognitive, social and emotional aspects in the early years, and its experiences deeply influence its disposition for learning.
Once, this learning milestone is met, at the pre-primary stage, children naturally have become more independent and confident that leads to an all round development of such learners.
Primary and Middle school
It is here that education is primarily structured and formalized and comes under the purview of Ministry of Education. There is a dearth of qualified teachers at this level. This is a stage where a child tends to form a bond with a teacher over the five to seven years of schooling, till they reach the secondary level. Children develop sense of belonging, self expression, confidence, writing and cognitive skills besides discovering the world of dance, art and culture.
At the rural level, many children drop out after finishing primary education. Once the parent feels a child know elementary Math, Hindi and if lucky English, they don’t see the need for further educating their children. Sadly, inadequate levels of reading material, lack of motivation are also factors that deter these children from receiving what has been guaranteed by the Constitution as compulsory education.
While primary level comprises Classes 1-5, middle school is Class6-8.
Secondary and Senior Secondary education
This is another very crucial learning stage for children. This is a time when you are entering your teen years, a time of great emotional turmoil. It is a stage which needs careful and patient handling by skilled and mature teachers, a shortcoming of many schools in India. Catering to children between the age group of 14 and 18 years, it is the stage where students start making choices and discovering the future course of action. Unfortunately, at this stage as well, there is a huge gap in the existing population and those who really go to school. Of an estimated 96.6 million since 1996/9, the enrollment figures are just a mere 27 million. This means that almost two thirds of an eligible population isn’t a part of the secondary school system.
Challenges are one and the same- curriculum isn’t at par with the changing landscape of the world economy depriving children of access to be better informed, the learning methodoly does not equip them with relevant skills like reasoning, problem solving, ability to self-learn, critical and independent thinking, etc. Additionally, synergy between public-private partnerships is still missing that could possibly offer 60 percent more access to secondary education, bridging the deprivation divide between the haves and have-nots.