Rural India forms the backbone of our country. It is where the farmers plough their fields to produce food for our consumption. Rural India was that imagination where life is full of hardship, scarce electricity, poor infrastructure, elders glued into a discussion with no real objective, naked children running here & there and women trapped within the boundaries of their households. Some of the above description used to be a part of our write-ups whenever we sat down under the shade of the sun in our schools vying for a prize in an essay writing competition. Naive minds think naively is what I can say as I look back at my childhood.
Before I further dwell into how raw my imagination of rural life was, let’s look at some of the rural India statistics and where do we stand in terms of the literacy levels. 72.2% of India’s population resides in rural areas. My excel sheet gives a figure of about 939 million number of heads present in the rural areas. This figure constitutes roughly 14% of the current world’s population. I & probably you would also agree that this 14% has a much larger role to play in the overall dynamics of the world game. But since the game begins with education, let’s have a look at the literacy numbers.
We have roughly 300 million students at different levels enrolled across our country with over 6.46 million teachers. Every year our finance budget allocates a sizable chunk of money to the education sector. For the year 2010-2011, this figure is roughly 3% of our GDP. Owing to the greater intervention of the central/state governments coupled with various other organisations/NGOs, the literacy levels have improved considerably. They now stand at around 75% from about 73% 2 years ago. 75% literacy rate though looks not that bad, but the flipside is that there is a sizable difference in the rates when we make a comparison between variables as mentioned below
- Male & Female literacy level
- Scheduled castes, scheduled tribes & tribal population literacy rates
- Rural & urban literacy levels
- Rich & poor literacy levels
Though we could compare on a range of other aspects but the above mentioned ones broadly gives you the level of disparity that exists. Government interventions such as the “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan” & other interventions on the public-private mode are moving in the direction of taming the enrolment numbers but at the same time the quality of education being provided and the drop-out rate of students is also giving a dim picture. Roughly 2% of the students in the country at present have access to some form of technical education. Vocational education constitutes 0.3% in it. The government run Industrial Training Institute popularly known as the ITIs are doing a commendable job in terms of churning our technicians but their low numbers and quality still puts forward a lot of questions to be answered. As per the Directorate General of Employment & Training’s website (www.dget.nic.in), number of affiliated ITIs currently stands at 8755 across the country.
There is an additional requirement of 240 million people over the next 10 years. Further, a sizable proportion of the current workforce is undertrained and hence needs to be equipped with quality skills. Let’s not forget that close to 90% of the total jobs in India are skills based. National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) set-up under the ministry of finance has a target to provide skills/upgrade skills of 500 million people by 2022. NSDC is tying up with NGOs, private training institutes such as talentsprint by providing them with interest-free loans which in turn helps them to train people in vocational skills. NSDC has so far approved 36 projects with various partners committing 45 million skilled workers by 2020.Pratham; an NGO working in the field of education has also stepped in this vocational skilling arena. Through its program called Education for Education (EFE) which is working in 16 states across the country, Pratham is providing basic digital Literacy & English skills to people in the rural areas at no cost. Private initiatives such as ‘IITians for ITIs’ & Basix’s B-able are also contributing their bit in improving vocational skilling in the country. ‘IITians for ITIs’ is a PanIIT program which aims to drive excellence in the vocational field by engaging with the ITIs(Industrial Training Institutes).Basix’s B-able also focuses on vocational skilling in sectors such as automobile, mobile repairing, food processing & Insurance.
April 1, 2010 brought the right to education act into force which aims to provide free & compulsory education for children in the age group of 6-14 years. If the act gets implemented well across the states, this would go a long way in the development of the country and would also somewhat help narrow down the demand supply gap of skilled labour in 20-30 age group bracket. Though the government’s focus largely remains in primary education but every year there is a slight growth in the budget allocation for technical education as well. This year 6330 crores have been allocated to the enhancement in technical education. National skill development mission has been allocated 500 crores in this financial year for its focus on vocational skilling.
‘Inclusive growth’ has been one of the most talked about words in the current scenario. I firmly believe that with government and private initiatives like the ones mentioned above, we can certainly leapfrog into the next league, maintaining the socio-economic prosperity in due course.