Objectives of the study:
To examine the current status of education of SC children through secondary data.
To assess the facilities available in schools were SC children are studying.
To assess the condition of schools were SC children are studying.
To know the experiences and perceptions of students studying in school, and their parents and community members.
To find out the experiences and perceptions of those children who have discontinued their education and compare them with children of other social categories.
To examine the awareness and extent of utilization of facilities at various levels by children and find out reasons for non-utilization of these facilities, if any.
To identify those factors which influence the perceptions of the SC children and orient education to those needs and reduce the gap between SC and non- SC categories.
What is the educational status of SC children vis-a-vis others with reference to enrollment and retention up to elementary level?
What are the educational facilities available in their location and the basic facilities available in their location and the basic facilities available in the schools?
What were the schooling experiences/perceptions of students and of those who have discontinued their education?
What are the perceptions of parents from SC category about the relevance of education to their children and about the environment and infrastructural facilities in schools and to find out if they vary as compared to the perception of other socio-economic groups?
Are the parents and community aware of the various facilities provided to the SC children at different levels of education?
What are the facilities being availed by the children and, in case of non-utilization, the reason for the same?
What is the role of socio-cultural milieu on the education of children from SC categories?
Three districts of Uttar Pradhesh were selected through field survey. These districts are Sitapur, Kaushambi and Jhansi and represent the Central, Eastern and Bundelkhand regions of the State all have SC population above the state average.
From each district nine villages were identified. Three villages were those where the SC population was 75 percent or more of the total population of the district. The next three villages had SC populations ranging between 50-75 percent while in remaining three villages SC population was below 50 percent to the total population of the village. In this way a total of 27 villages were selected for the study.
Once the villages were identified a household survey was conducted and the criterion had opted for sample selection was as follows:
In villages where total number of households was up to 100, a census was conducted.
In villages where total number of households ranged between 100-300, every alternate household was to be selected.
It was decided to covered from our three selected districts was 2375.
Schedule for Parents
Schedule for School Going Children
Schedule for Drop-Outs
Schedule for Completers of Education.
The study amply highlights the fact that the efforts of the Government have paid rich dividends in terms of creating awareness among parents about the significance of education and the high enrollment rates bear testimony to it. Under the DPEP and now under SSA every effort is being made to improve the infrastructure of the primary and junior basic schools and almost all habitations are now covered by the norms laid down for the construction of primary and upper primary schools. The incentives which are being given by the government are also proving useful in achieving universalization of elementary education in the state. The parents are aware of these incentives and are taking maximum benefits of these provisions.
Yet another positive which has emerged is that except for stray cases here and there the children belonging to the SC families are not facing any discrimination either from the teachers or the students belonging to other communities. Thus the atmosphere from this angle is conducive for education.
However, there are some areas of concern which need to be understood and analyzed so that they may be effectively tackled.
If we look at teaching in the schools run by the state government then in many schools the quality of teaching is not satisfactory despite the fact that the schools run by Basic Shiksha Parisha of the State Government have adequate infrastructure and trained teachers who are also provided training regularly at the DIET or BRC in order to familiarize them wit the latest teaching techniques. There are various factors which are adversely affecting the quality of education.
The first problem is regarding the strength of teachers. The number of regular teachers are below the total sanctioned posts. Thus, the problem of a single regular teacher prevails in a number of schools. As an alternative, the Government has appointed Shiksha Mitra who are less qualified and getting lower salaries. Moreover, the process of their appointment is cumbersome and so they are usually not appointed before the academic session begins. That is the time when they are needed urgently. Moreover, in many instances the Shiksha Mitra is only a poor substitute of a regular teacher. The backlog of regular teachers gets accentuated by the fact that each year new schools are being sanctioned and this, therefore, means requirement of additional teachers. Thus, the rate of recruitment is not being met with the demand for teachers. This problem is more acute in subjects like Maths and Science. The reservation policy at time adds to the problem when teachers from the reserve category are not found.
Even many teachers are not regular in coming to school and in teaching. There were hardly any schools visited by us where teachers gave homework and then verified whether the child had completed the work assigned to him. The teacher’s union is a very strong body with people having very strong political links. Thus even the BSA at times is unable to control the teachers despite being their administrative head. It is, therefore, highly desirable that the teacher should be made more accountable. All schools are expected to have teaching kits and teachers are to make maximum use of these kits while teaching the children. Unfortunately, the percentage of teachers who use them is rather low. All these factors automatically affect the quality of teaching which is being imparted in these schools.
Yet another area of concern is that teachers are also involved in non-teaching activities such as election duty, during Census operations, pulse-polio drive, etc. These activities act as an impediment in their teaching work. Moreover, there is also a provision under which the Basic Shiksha Adhikari at the district level can attach some teachers with him and while the teachers is attached to the BSA office he is fully relieved of his teaching responsibilities. However, the number of such teachers is limited and so only those schools get affected where they are posted.
While the engagement of teachers in the duties mentioned above may be taken as work which is significant from the point of view of the government and therefore essential as the teachers can provide the requisite manpower to cater to the needs of a particular programme, there are some other activities also in which teachers are being involved and this causes much more hindrance in their teaching work. This is something which is not desirable as it definitely hampers the teaching work. Not only is the Head Master unable to teach, he can not even maintain proper discipline in school.
Yet another involvement of teachers is in mid-day meal. Although on paper the teachers have nothing to do with preparation of mid-day meal but the fact is that many have to supervise this work as well.
To meet these problems the strength of teachers has to be increased . There is, of course, the constraint of adequate resources to fill the gap fully but with increased allocations for the SSA programme it should be possible to cover the backlog soon. The teachers must not be involved in the construction of schools or additional classrooms. And to ensure regularity in teaching and improvement in the quality of teaching the teachers may be provided some suitable incentive.
The government also has to be more strict with respect to its transfer policy to ensure that schools have adequate teachers in tune with the requirements of the strength of the students. At present the teachers try their best to get posted in schools which are located conveniently. As a result there are schools where the total strength of teachers is very high while in some of the schools located in remote areas there may be only one regular teacher.
As a result of the quality of teaching not being up to the desired level in government schools a trend which has emerged over the years has been the rapid growth of privately run educational institutions. These institutions have started attracting the attention of the village community because the teachers are regular, they teach regularly and maintain proper discipline among children. Added to it is the fact that they claim to be English Medium schools which is a further incentive. Parents are, therefore, sending their children in these schools despite the fact that there is a considerable difference in the cost of educating children here as compared to the government schools. In fact some parents have adopted the policy of enrolling their children in government and private schools simultaneously. The child attends the private school for education and enjoys the benefit of a government school as well such as scholarship and free books,etc.
If we look at the parents and the children then at the very outset we must be appreciate of the fact that the socio-economic background of parents is itself such that it affects their behavior pattern with respect to the education of their children. Our survey have brought out quite clearly that the parents come from a poor economic background and that a majority of them are either illiterate or semi-literate. Consequently, although they are quite aware of the benefits of education, they are constrained by their low incomes and so accord a relatively higher priority to income generation in comparison to attainment of education. The other equally serious problem faced by the illiterate and semi-literate parents is their incapability to be able to assist the child in his studies. These factors have resulted in the low levels of aspiration among the parents as to the level of education which they want their children to attain.
The mind-set of the children too is influenced by the environment of the household. We, therefore, are finding a situation in which although primary schools at least are conveniently located and children admit that going to school is not a problem and also that they like going to school the actual attendance that was observed during our school visits was low. This was confirmed by children themselves in their admission that they do not attend school regularly. The strength of the school is maximum during the time when mid-day meal is being served. A number of teachers in fact, fill their attendance registers during this period. The pre-occupation of the girls in household work and of the boys in other work further affects their regularity. Irregularity is further left unchecked because the teachers themselves are irregular. Consequently the levels of learning among children remain below the desired level.
To ensure regularity among children some basic measures could be taken. To begin with scholarship money should be disbursed towards the end of the teaching session and should be linked with the attendance of the child. This will have one more benefit. At present the names of children entitled to scholarship are sent in two separate lists. It, therefore, happens that some children have to wait for a long period before their scholarship money is released. At times some are even deprived of their scholarship amount. This problem itself can be overcome if only one list is sent after all children have been enrolled in the school. Then the amount of all children will be received in one installment.
Yet another aspect which needs serious reconsideration is the government policy of not failing children in the lower classes. The child as well as their parents are confident of getting promoted to the next class irrespective of their irregularity and the willingness to learn. As a result attendance level are low and so is the level of learning below the desired level. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has laid emphasis on raising the quality of education but the policy of not failing children is quite contrary to it. The actual impact of this policy is felt once the child moves from the primary to the upper primary level. By Class VI the syllabus increases considerably and so does the workload on the students. However, if the basic foundation of a child has remained weak up to the primary level it becomes excecdingly difficult for the child to keep pace with what is being taught in class. In fact, in some villages the parents who are aware of the fact that the child, despite having been promoted, has not gained the required knowledge and make the child repeat the class. Some might argue that sitting in the same class while your classmates have moved up could adversely affect the child's psychology but then merely pushing him up the next class is even more undesirable because the child is bound to develop a complex in the higher class when he finds himself among children who are more knowledgeable than him. Such children also invite the wrath of the teachers.
In the case of some children, however, irregularity comes by way of compulsion. The typical case is that of parents who work in brick-kilns or such other units where employment is seasonal in nature. Normally when schools reopen in July the kilns are closed and parents enroll their children in school. But once the brick-kilns resume manufacturing after the monsoon season the parents move with their family to the unit. Consequently, the studies of the child who was going to school regularly upto now suddenly gets disrupted. There may or may not be another school in the vicinity of the brick-kiln where this child may seek admission.
Change in the mind-set of the parents to ensure regularity of children can be effectively tackled by making the Village Education Committee more vibrant. At present this Committee meets on a monthly basis primarily to look into the financial matters. Although at times even academic issues are discussed they are not properly followed up to ensure the desired results. Just as the schemes have been able to spread awareness among parents regarding enrollment of children in the school going age group the VEC can also influence parents to pay more attention towards the regularity of children as well as exert the requisite pressure on teachers to ensure their regularity in teaching. The Parents-Teachers Meetings is yet another forum where the teachers can impress upon the parents regarding this crucial aspect. Unfortunately our field experience has pointed out that the proportion of parents attending these meetings is far from satisfactory. The VEC can, therefore, be beneficial in this context as well as it is headed by the Village Pradhan who exerts considerable influence on the village community.
To increase the interest of the child in education it could be a good idea if vocational training is also included in the curriculum of the school particularly from the junior basic level. Our survey had revealed that many individuals do not feel they have benefited after completing their education because a majority of them had studied only up to the upper primary level. In their opinion they remain deprived because they have not been able to enhance their skills and so have little option but to work as agricultural or non-agricultural wage earners. Thus if the syllabus also includes vocational training it will be useful in upgrading their skills and to pave the way for better employment opportunities.
For those who had either given up studies before completing even before attaining elementary education or even after attaining barely up to upper primary level or the High School level the provision of vocational training in the syllabus could provide the desired impetus to continue their studies. While at present the educated are able to get some jobs of their choice but their numbers are quite low because in our entire sample those with a minimum education up to the Graduate level was extremely low. Thus the gains of employment among those with low level of education primarily get restricted to the point where they feel that their social status has improved.
If the various employment programmes of the Government are implemented effectively, it could lead to improvement in the economic condition of the households and so the pressure on the young to choose working in favor of continuing with their education may become a reality. However, till such a time that this is not possible one aspect could be considered is to have night schools for those who are working but want to pursue their studies. In our survey however, the percentage of those wanting to study further has not been very encouraging but a change in school timings could produce the desired change in the attitude of even those who are at present not interested in studying further.
For children whose foundations are weak, especially among the first generation learners, the schools could introduce the provision of remedial classes. The additional classes may be utilized in bringing the weak children also at par with the rest of the class. This should prove to be a much better alternative than the one presently opted by the Government of automatic promotion to the next class even if it is at the cost of inadequate levels of learning among children.
There are sufficient funds available under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan project to incorporate some of the suggestions which have been made. In fact there are times when the State Government is not able to spend the entire amount allocated. Moreover, every year the need to construct additional schools will go down successfully as the number of un-served areas gets eliminated. These funds can then be diverted towards the implementation of schemes such as introduction of vocational training, setting up of evening schools for those who can not attend school during regular timings, provision of remedial classes. Besides this since many individuals are forced to discontinue their studies or wish to study beyond the level to which they actually have done so. so as to be able to earn and contribute towards the family income such persons cold be provided employment under the National Rural Employment Generation Scheme during the summer vacations as well as during the winter recess. In this way even a student will be able to obtain employment for 100 days each year without adversely affecting his education and at the same time contribute towards the income of his family as well.
The efforts made so far by the government have definitely proved useful so far. It is, therefore, quite possible to fill the few gaps which are found presently with the help of some of the policy measures which can be introduced without any difficulty as indicated above.
The present study of factors affecting the participation of SC children will be able to help us identify the various problems, which are being faced by the SC children in pursuing their education. It will enable us to find out whether and the extent to which measures taken by the Government to improve the educational opportunities for those children have been successful. This will provide the much desired inputs to the policy makers to take the desired steps for making the education need based. Once the factors are identified which are adversely affecting the participation of SC children then the policies may be re-oriented in order to reduce the gap between SC and non-SC categories. Moreover, the study of the perception of parents and community members belonging to the SC category about the relevance of education will help curriculum planners to bring about necessary changes in curriculum development and educational planning.
Keyword(s): Scheduled caste, Elementary Education