How can foundation of innovation in education be laid at the primary level?
Education at the primary level deals with children who are in their formative years. They need a school environment that is supportive, warm and sensitive. It is very important that the entire school learning experience at the primary level provides room for innovative methodologies to ensure that students find the atmosphere engaging and inviting. The World Bank along with other development partners has been partnering with the Government of India in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), and we are glad to share that the innovations and experimental ideas that the program has generated has made the school space very vibrant. SSA, which aimed at bridging gender and social gaps and providing quality education until at least grade eight to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), has done remarkably well on basic parameters. Universal access is almost achieved, with 99% of habitations now having physical access to a primary school and 93% to an upper primary school, the gender gap continues to shrink, with 94 girls enrolled for every 100 boys in primary school in 2009, compared to 90 in the early 2000s. Such successes could be achieved through a conscious effort of generating interesting community owned and home grown ideas. Under SSA, there is a norm for innovations that encourages out-of-the-box thinking and strategies for hard to reach groups. It also emphasises use of computer aided learning. Our last challenge is to ensure that quality of education is addressed and learning levels of children go up. For this, newer ways of teaching, learning, teacher development and assessment systems are needed, where the focus is on children and their needs. The National Curriculum Framework (2005) of India has strongly brought these ideas to the forefront of the educational discourse. Its effective integration in the system is happening and should address this issue substantively.
Fund, faculty, or infrastructure—what needs more emphasis to make the present learning process more inclusive?
All of the above are critical determinants of the educational experience of the child. With good financial and program management systems under SSA, fund shortage does not seem to be an issue. Learning can be made inclusive through creation of a school infrastructure that is child friendly, having teachers who understand the needs of a child and become facilitative agents of change by evolving a teaching system that enhances educational experience of a child.
Will the ambitious Right to Education Bill 2010, contribute in improving Gross Enrolment Ratio at secondary and senior secondary level of education?
RTE emphasises that each child in the country will have access to quality elementary education. As each child is expected to complete a cycle of elementary education, it is very natural to assume that it will improve the GER at the secondary level too.
How can focus of higher education be shifted from urban to rural areas?
The GOI has launched its ambitious program for universalisation of secondary education called the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, which will address the educational needs of urban as well as rural children. This will automatically shift focus to the rural areas.