In the context in which this term was coined, India and Bharat were not meant to mean two separate geographical entities but two different notional ones. `India’ is that notional entity, largely Anglicised and relatively better-off, that had obtained the succession of colonial exploitation from the British; while `Bharat’ is largely rural, agricultural, poor and backward that was being subjected to colonial-like exploitation even after the end of the Raj.[1] The narrative which gradually emerged as a rural-urban divide missed the nuances and the deep division even within cities and villages. Even within India’s cities, entire worlds have become detached from each other between the gated, upscale colonies and the squalid, back alleys of them. In the larger original context of the India v. Bharat divide, bridging the gap has become a fundamental way for inclusive growth and to move the country forward.

The best way to bridge this divide is to start from its inception: the children. If the gap between the children raised in these two different entities could be bridged through education, equal opportunity, scholarships and government intervention, it would have a cascading effect and that would go a long way in inching Bharat to India.

Though India’s efforts at reducing the education gap between India and Bharat has been lauded[2], especially in access to education, a lot remains to be done. According to a 2014 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) report by Pratham, a non-government organisation (NGO) working in the field of education[3], only a fourth of all children in class III can read a class II text fluently and  almost a quarter of children in class III could not recognise numbers between 10 and 99. The same report states that in the last ten years while governments spent money on building schools and hiring teachers by the lakhs, and also provided free textbooks, uniforms, and mid-day meals, the net enrolment in government schools went down and enrolment in private schools went up sharply, especially in the primary stage. While this reflects a shifting of public faith in government schools, the growing preference for private schools is also indicative of a willingness to invest in a child’s education by parents who very often are themselves illiterate[4]. But most children are still enrolled in public schools and it is this lot that the government needs to pay attention to in order to bridge the gap between India and Bharat. The Economic Survey for 2015-16 also stated that there is a need to improve the quality of education provided in schools to arrest and reverse the decline in enrolment in government schools and improve the educational outcomes in both public and private schools.

Teacher training is one of the most important aspects which to be looked at in order to improve the quality of education in schools. The 4-year integrated B.A B.Ed and B.Sc B.Ed teacher programmes introduced by the National Council of Teacher Education is a step in the right direction but needs to be popularized to attract the attention of interested people who believe in quality education.

The boom in internet services and Digital India Initiative needs to be utilised more effectively in classrooms to provide students with world class course materials to spark their interest. Various online courses can be designed by the Government and distributed for free to government classrooms accompanied by adequate infrastructure. Initiatives like Shaala Sidhdhi under the ICT Initiatives of the MHRD are a step in the right direction, but a lot remains to be done to ensure its implementation.

Additionally, it is not only enough to have regular assessments and exams, but there must be fair evaluation and feedback on the performance.  The Government’s initiation of the National Assessment Survey provide schools an opportunity to understand their student’s performance against the bench marked learning goals. Based on the results, schools will develop a school level plan to improve the learning levels.

Indian schools and education are infamous for their emphasis on rote learning and memorising over innovation and creative thinking. This needs to change in order to create entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, writers who think out of the box and take our country forward as it has been said, that the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination. Teacher training, workshops, use of technology can help to reward creative students over crammers. Such a change in teaching methods needs to take place urgently in public schools to bridge the divide.

Both India’s and Bharat’s hope rests in its young minds and their capabilities. Everything must be done to help them realise their potential.

By: Rukmini Mukherjee

References

[1] Sharad Joshi, “ The Great India- Bharat Divide”, The Hindu Business Line,  Feb 12, 2003

[2] UNESCO New Delhi Office, “Education for All 2000-2015: India is first in the race to reduce out of school children”, available at http://www.unesco.org/new/en/newdelhi/about-this-office/single-view/news/education_for_all_2000_2015_india_is_first_in_the_race_to_reduce_out_of_school_children/#.V9JNmih97IU

[3] http://img.asercentre.org/docs/Publications/ASER%20Reports/ASER%202014/fullaser2014mainreport_1.pdf

[4] Anita Joshua, “Over a quarter of enrolments in rural India are in private schools”, January 16, 2014, The Hindu, available at http://www.thehindu.com/features/education/school/over-a-quarter-of-enrolments-in-rural-india-are-in-private-schools/article5580441.ece