Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Cautious Hope" and Education

This is my second blog post on "cautious hope", triggered by some articles that I read recently in the papers. In my last post I mentioned three things that I think are symptomatic of "cautious hope". One, a willingness to face, with our eyes wide open, our mixed record in addressing the basic problems of development. Two, an in-depth understanding of how who you are, and where you live, influences the ways in, and degrees to which you experience these problems. And three, advocating a solution that is sensitive to these differences, and is based on this understanding.

The first article that I wrote about was an interview with Melinda Gates on her work on child mortality. The second article appeared in The Mint on February 24th, and is by Vimala Ramachandran. I first heard of Vimala in relation to school education around 2002, and her continued commitment to this area of development inspires me.

In school education, as in child mortality, our record is mixed. At the primary level (classes I-V), India has achieved almost universal enrollment. However, ASER, an annual sample survey, found that at least 50% of children who reach class V are not able to read a simple class II-level text.

There is a debate amongst educationists on whether we need a common school system where all children attend the neighborhood school, or whether the answer lies in funding education, and not schools, through vouchers. Instead of being caught between these two extreme positions, Vimala advocates that a group of people look at ground realities and work out strategies that make sense in such a diverse society. For her, these strategies would be to augment the supply of different kinds of schools (local bodies, private, not-for-profit), and to enforce the accountability of all players.

The last article that I have is on higher education. In my next post, I will begin by talking about why higher education is relevant to the development sector, and then return to the subject of "cautious hope".

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