Despite government lead focused attention on Digital India and education in India, reform at secondary level of education remains snail-paced.
Government schools are enrolling approximately 59 percent of its students at primary level. Of these, merely 35 percent survive the rut to make it to the secondary level of education. According to Data Information System for Education (DISE), formed under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the only positive conversation is about the virtues of high enrollment and retention of students up to Class IX. This would be the obvious reality.
But seldom do we come to know as to why crossing the torrential waters at secondary level of education has become literally impossible for the children.
The sad reality of the education system is that focus vis-a-vie education in India, since the adoption of the Constitution of India (in 1950), has primarily been on elementary education. This comprised of primary education as well. Secondary education never got its worth.
This was the time that four important educational reform bodies had already shown serious concern over ironing out the problems being faced in the secondary level of education. One of these was the well-known Tara Chand Committee (1948) which advocated for reform at this level of education that had existed status quo so far.
Those days, the University Education Commission 1948-49, which was appointed under the chairmanship of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan had already made a statement that ‘the standard of admission to university courses should correspond to that of the present intermediate examination, i.e. after twelve years of study at school and intermediate college, he remarked, “our secondary education remains the weakest link in our educational machinery and needs urgent reform.”
Till this time, children were not given the option to choose their subjects. Curriculum was rigid, with no aptitude for creativity. There was simply no exposure to technical side of learning, a huge drawback that affected absorption at university levels.
The Narendra Deo Committee (1952) also suggested reform for the sake of economic development of the country. Both the committees were of the opinion that multilateral system of secondary education was most desirable. This did not mean that the unilateral secondary schools were to be neglected. It just meant that the latter went one step ahead and also recommended multi-disciplinary infrastructure and psychological examination of students followed by requisite guidance.
The concept of multilateral schools that came from England, in particular, Wales in the early 20th century was pushed for in India, for a comprehensive state secondary school that would serve as the common school for an area.
Multilateral schools came to be of paramount importance, looking at the growing divide amongst children passing out of their 10+2 and at university level. Educationally, multilateral schools had many advantages. For one, they would now concentrate on facilitating training suited to talents. This was in tandem with Tara Chand Committee’s recommendation of offering children a choice of any of the four broad classification to develop knowledge of the subjects of his or her liking These comprised (a) literary (b) scientific (c) constructive and (d) aesthetic.
Also, examinations would be conducted according to the stream chosen, without any intervention of primary school examination system.
Secondary education today
With the ushering of an international schooling system, private school secondary education is going through a sea change. International system of assessments like the International Baccalaureate Programme and/or the Cambridge International Examinations has pushed education to a top notch position. These are in addition to schools affiliated under the CBSE and ICSE Board. Children (especially in Delhi) who can afford private schooling are also at a vantage point due to Delhi High Court’s ruling that no child who has appeared in Class X exams will be refused admission to 10+2, on the pretext of a low score. A child may choose a different stream, but will not be shown the door.
At the government level, secondary education still isn’t the best projection of reform. Launched in 1994, even, the coverage of District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) has been sadly limited to the primary level of education only. They have now extended their reach to the upper primary level. This is an initial step in phase one for 52 districts only. Even the Bihar Education Project and the World Bank Uttar Pradesh Basic Education Project were till date, considering, the entire elementary education as one unit.
But the good news is that the Bihar Government has now constituted a task force on secondary education.