The future of 200 million Children: Right to Education

Dear All,

India has around 230 million children currently in age group 6-16. In the next decade, all these would cross 16 years of age, and reach a stage where more formal education is practically impossible. 

Of these, around 30 million would get a chance to study in reasonable to good to excellent quality schools, some in a few good Govt. schools, but mostly private fee charging schools, including those for upper income and elite groups. 

Remaining 200 odd million, if ASER and other such official and non-official reports are correct, would receive very poor quality education in the bulk of average government schools or low cost private schools. With RTE provisions and criterion coming in force, it would not be legally feasible for low cost private schools to exist as recognized schools, so the bulk of responsibility of educating these 200 million children will be of Government Schools.

Most of us know, and agree, that average quality of education in most Government Schools is very bad, which means that 200 million of today's children will become adult without receiving a minimum quality school education, which will not only keep them poor and under-developed, but also lead to poor development of the country.

The only solution is to significantly improve the quality of Government schools, with 3-5 years. 

I request and invite forum readers to give no more than 5 suggestions that would improve the quality of education in a time bound 3-5 years, so the improvements in learning levels of children can be measured in concrete manner, by ASER or NCERT studies. 

I hope this exercise of sifting through various actionable ideas would not only show a way to move forward, it will also make "Improvements in Govt. Schools within 3-5 years', a declared and formal policy agenda of the Government. 

Pankaj Jain
Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

Response to this mail (Right To Education):
1. All kids in a particular locality must attend the public school in that locality [Like you collect your ration from a PDS outlet in your area].

2. This will ensure children of MLA, MP, Collector and every other influential person enroll in the neighbourhood school only.

3. Standard of this school will improve overnight.

4. Last but not least.

What type of education we are imparting in the so called best schools?

Glorified Macaulay's clerks and herd to work as coolies and slaves to monied masters in alien lands and in Indian cities.

The whole system of education is irrelevent to the people at large.

Can a civil engg graduate from the IIT lay a single brick?

Can the agri graduate from any best agri college produce one grain of paddy?

Proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Sankara Narayanan

Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:


none of your suggestions/ ideas is implementable in 3-5 years time. 

it may be an ideal worth pursuing, but does not outline an agenda for action that will produce results in 3-5 years time, so the life of 200 million children of today will not be affected by this.

kindly address the specific problem of CURRENT CHILDREN.
Pankaj Jain 
Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

i view that we should think more seriously about the education our children

Compulsory Character Building- Right To Education (RTE)

Right To Education (RTE) ensures compulsory and free education? Does it also ensure quality education? If yes does quality would mean to give first importance to bookish knowledge or first priority to character development?

In Hind Swaraj, Mahatma Gandhi categorically prescribed that character building is of utmost importance for a meaningful process of education. He quotes Professor Huxley who asserts that a man is an educated man whose body is the ready servant of his will and does with ease and pleasure all the work that as a mechanism it is capable of; whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine with all its parts of equal strength and in smooth working order…whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the fundamental truths of nature . . . whose passions are trained to come to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience, who has learnt to hate all vileness and to respect others as himself. Such a one and no other, I conceive, has had a liberal education, for he is in harmony with nature.

From the above we do infer that body, mind and character building are the primary goals of education. Bookish knowledge could be a mere tool. In a further deterioration some of us are satisfied by mere literacy. Some others say that the development of 3Rs is enough. Some parents get satisfaction from the achievement of admission of their children into desired courses. Some teachers are just contented with the achieving of required criterion of pass percentages of their students. Some managements are proud of the academic results of their students in their schools in the Board examinations. Many employers look for those candidates who are skilled in their work areas. It is all painful. In this neo-liberal environment, some of these stakeholders give token importance to character building of their students. To put it strongly our nation is being cheated by these so-called well wishers.

There is no need to tell you the current stories of malpractices, cheating, deceptions, and frauds played by these so-called educated employees. We must create a new kind of man by seeking directions from our cultural roots where character building was given the most important component of life and hence, that of education too. Accordingly, we need not give importance to mere knowledge scores aiming for a knowledge society but rather we must give importance to the development of character aiming to develop a humane society. We must be careful to recognise that mere literacy skills and pure knowledge marks are harmful for the development of a humane society.

For the process of building a humane society, give importance to all the four pillars of education as enunciated by the Education Reform Commission chaired by Jacques Delors. The four pillars are: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be. We wish to reiterate that all four pillars are important otherwise the structure will surely fall. It is like taking a jump with full set of needed requirements to cross a stream; half-step jump over the stream is surely going to be disastrous. Let us understand the message from a letter[1] sent by an American Principal to his teaching staff on the first day of every academic year which illustrates this point.
Dear Teachers, “I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness: Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education. My request is that teachers help students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane”.

The RTE 2010 has ensured Right to Education, but we must ensure that it is real quality education with full emphasis on character development. The often lop-sided available left brain education must become whole brain education.
Let us look what is happening around us in a majority of cases. Inside schools parents need not push their children. They must stop solo-development of learning of academic subjects. Teachers must go beyond book oriented environments.
School employers should support their teachers on the basis of the requirements of National Curriculum Framework 2005. Higher education institutions like universities, IITs, IIMs, etc., must look into their admission criterion. Employers must give importance to character development.
Let us take care of our education system in a systemic manner.

Prof. B.K.Passi
Former UNESCO Chair
139 Indrapuri Colony, Indore, INDIA 452 001
Patron AIAER:

Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

The most cost effective solution is at Rs 10 per child per day we can help them all become members of what we may call the moedrn times and explore their own potential.

The leadership in India has no track record of thinking beyond a 5 year plan. This requires thinking for the nation in at least 15 to 20 year cycle.

Try the One Laptop per Child approach and you would transformed a nation and all its children for the most affordable amount.
Satish Jha 
Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

So, what should Govt. do with Rs. 3650/- (365* 10) earmarked for each child.

Give the money to each parent to be spent on (?) food, health, education??? How do you ensure that it will be spent on child, and not on the drinking habit of father? 

Give it as payment to any agency that guarantees assured quality education up to high school? (Practical examples exist, but you will be shouted down since this would be seen as privatization of education.)

You might have noted that Mumbai Municipal Corporation spends more than Rs. 40000/- on each child that is enrolled in its school, Ahmedabad Corporation spends around Rs. 20000/. 

Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

Mr Jain,

My suggestions are as follows:

For the past 63 years we have tried several remedies to make India literate- universally. And have the success that we see. Nearly 96% are not "educated". They are merely literate. They do not contribute to the level of thinking this group engages in. They do not have the skills to be able to "office work" at any given level of benchmark. They live life differently. They have little skills that are valued by others beyond simply using their physical skills.

To change that requires a transformational change.
To be able to "learn how to learn" or "learning learning".
To be able to acquire skills as needed.
To be able to think about the world they live in.

The literacy campaign is about giving them one skill: an ability to read the alphabets, add a few simple numbers and may be put a signature that we cannot read.

The education campaign may be about going through a curriculum, as dated as CBSE or what have you.

But learning is a little different. Its an ability to undersatnd and know how to find out what is to be learnt and know how to reach there.

Today, technologies have made it possible to do so cheaply, a bit like cell phone. Just like 15 years ago it was incomprehensible to think that India could take the phones to villages and cell phones changed all that, today its not possible to think of "educating" everyone but OLPC has changed all that.

Now, if we use the OLPC approach, Rs 10 helps a child have a laptop, 230 applications, 100 digital books, a laptop they can maintain, that is connected even if there is no internet, can become the foundation on which education and learning can be built and the teachers begin to learn with the children at a pace they never did before.

Of course there will be individual variations that is natural no matter where one goes.

But this approach allows a child in a village with no electricity and usually no quality teachers to start learning a bit like they would in a privileged environment, of course without the benefit of sociology that privileges and affluence with bring them.

However, in acquiring skills, understating the world around them, in being curious and learning in a way that excites rather than as a regimented activity, OLPC has raised the bar and is making a couple million children explore the world like was unthinkable before its advent.

You may want to take a look at and let us discuss on this forum how we can improve things.

Thanks so much
Satish Jha
Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

dear satish ji

i fully agree with you u and want to add that along with literacy skills, thinking skills, work skills .. we must give not only equal but a much more importance to character building [it is difficult to define but important to do this work]


Somehow our NRI's have arrogated to themselves the power to rundown everyone in India as "leadership in India has no track record of thinking". With sone humility I submit that simplistic solutions are not the answer. We are dealing with 120 million children (more than the population of many countries).

Those seriously interested in the subject may write and request for some analysis. Also pl. visit the site of Right to Food campaign.

Ashok Rao
Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

Dear friends

i find it difficult to find right answers —- some random thoughts in favor of plurality and decentralization

1= i hope and believe that Sarvodya Model for identifying management issues and for creating local solutions [not finding solutions] to the locally identified problems will work– solutions should evolve through acceptable group dynamics
2= withdraw all the current uniform rules of bureaucracy
3= must introduce diversity / flexibility in management by and from parents
4= flexible procedures may be tried out but these must be based on local unanimity of decision making
5= on-going inclusive involvement of all parents alone is a must in all matters of schools [private or govt]
6= bring back autonomy like that of gurukul system, and have in teachers let our must country mature toward that goal
7= give reasonable financial advances to parents body [gram sabhahs, mohalla sabhahs]

Dr. B.K.Passi
Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

Dear Pankaj
let all goernment schools be developed to the comparable level of central schools.

ramesh patnaik
Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

Dear Naaz,

The effective and decentralized decision making at the level of even Taluka Panchayat, leave alone any lower level, is incompatibe with our current Government School system, which is designed as an integrated State level monopoly. Teachers are currently recruited by State system, and only posted at local body level. State level bodies take all critical decisions about the curriculum and resource-budget use.

Transferring effective control over education to Panchayat body would require major restructuring that would be fierecely opposed by teachers' unions, and frankly, it would end up promoting PPP school model, which is easy to control by a local body. I am not sure, many forum members really want that.

The brass-track of performance linked budget can vary, but in essence the budget would be approved for agencies with track record of qualiy performance, and renewal of budget over years, would be conditional to children attaining specified learning norms.


Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:
My suggestions are:

1. All teachers' vacancies should be filled as soon as possible. All contract teachers should be replaced by permanent teachers.

2. In schools where the student-teacher ratio is good, naturally the quality is better. Instead of having a school in every km, the rule should be a classroom for every 30 underprivileged children in the locality.

3. The government should set up a department in each panchayat/municipality that would do quarter-yearly door-to-door surveys to determine the status of children in the society. This department will identify out-of-school children and dropouts.

4. Class 1 should be dedicated to teaching children their mother tongue. 

5. The syllabus in all schools – CBSE, ICSE or state – should be unified. If members of all these boards participate in the making of the syllabus, the resultant syllabus will be good. Teachers may be used to rot learning techniques. They should be trained to do their jobs without rot learning. 

There are more things that need to be done. Hygiene, for example, is invariably terrible in all schools. Then the training of teachers – the SET exam syllabus. I have no idea how to change anything here. But they should consult experts in education and train teachers for their job.

I do not have the mail id to forward this to anyone. Can you do it for me? Also, should i ask others to participate?

Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

this is the most importatn and fundamental suggestion [ i agree with it totally]
Class 1 should be dedicated to teaching children their mother tongue.[through mother tongue]
Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

Yes I would add that this must be done apto atleast 7th class. Other langauages can be taught but Hindi should not be imposed on children at the expense of their mother tongue.

The problem of India is language and caste


Kalluri Subba Rao., Ph.D., D.Sc.(IISc),FAS-AP, FAMS., FNASc.,FNA.Hon.Professor & INSA-Senior Scientist,Center for Biotechnology, Institute of Science and Technology (IST) , Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Kukatpally, Hyderabad-500085.
Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

Dear All,

I have just returned from a long travel and eversince I have been mulling over this. I have read all the suggestions made so far. They are good.

Yes, high time we worked with a sense of purpose and met a deadline of minimum good quality education for 200 million children by 2020. As Pankaj says this is all the time we have before these children today in the age-group of 6-16 years reach a stage where more formal education is practically impossible. 

If we fail to meet this deadline, we violate the fundamental right to education of as many as 200 million children and counting. Add to it the far reaching consequences the Country will have to face on the development front!

And, I hope, once a set of solutions is in sight, the media will play its part and prove itself for the children of India by actively tracking government pace and efforts to meet the dealine, just as it did for Delhi in case of the Common Wealth Games.

Now getting to the point, I humbly submit the following as the way to go in the next 3-5 years:

1. Put a cap on teacher transfers- a minimum of so many per state and no more. Transfers to be approved by the Chief Minister. The CMO to monitor teacher absenteeism and teacher punctuality, empowering SMC and Panchayat sub-committee on education for the purpose.

2. Give the same management autonomy as Kendriya Vidyalaya to the regular government schools.

3. Prestigious awards for best teacher in a cluster (CRC), best school, best SMC, best Panchayat, best block, best district and best state!

4. Plumbers (like electricity linesmen) to ensure proper working of drinking water facility in schools at all times. A sweeper per school to keep school premises and toilets clean. SMC to ensure consumables needed for maintenance and use are provided in case of both drinking water and toilets.

5. A children's group (a group for children that is their own i.e. one which is not formed and led by teachers but facilitated by them) in each school to discuss and share a range of issues affecting them within and outside the school. Regular formal opportunities for children through this group to present proposals to SMC and the government for implementation.

6. Education and related departments to ensure school facilities as mandated by the RTE is in place immediately – school library, computer room, playground etc.

Thank you and regards,

Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

Sir/ Madam,

Most suggestions made for improving quality are good and in the right direction, but I am afraid that most of these may/ will not produce results in a time bound manner, so we shall keep loosing the future of those who keep crossing schooling threshold. 

May be, a policy that links, say 5-10%, of budget to 'learning outcome', will have higher chance of success. When faced with the choice of not having money in the absence of success, mind and body will really concentrate to get the results. It simply means that a section will have to be set up in each State Government's education department to handle 5-10% of education budget that can be spent only when assured gains in children's learning takes place, assessed by an independent agency appointed by the Government. 

Pankaj Jain
Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

Quote: "Assessed by an independent agency appointed by the Government". 

Unquote: Sure way to kill the issue. Why the govt and its independent [?] agency?
We know how the govt selects the agencies.

PRI and civil society are not competent to verify the performance of schools in their locality!

British were telling us that we were incompetent to rule ourselves. Now educated pundits tell us
that the centralised govt, its corrupt bureaucracy and the 'independent' agencies [all the three are sucking aliens]
only know what is good for the people.

Lesser the govt and bureaucracy and least of the alien parasitical experts will ensure better life for the people.

Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

Dear Pankaj,

Let me also try delving into your suggestion and in the process also seek a few clarifications. Do you mean linking 5-10% of the teacher and education officials 'Salary' budget to 'learning outcome'? Are you pointing towards a policy of performance based salaries? If this is the case, may be raise the percentage higher? Going by your understanding that money is short and results are poor, the need is to apply more pressure to get everyone on their feet.

And, I should think, the 'Assessment' can be done by an independent agency appointed by an all party parliamentary committee advised by non-governmental education experts/practitioners of the Country. NGO partners of the government would also like to stay out of this to make the whole enquiry impartial.

I agree with all the issues raised by members following your response to my mail.

Thank you and regards,


Dear Naaz,

My suggestion has some nuances, though broadly, you get the drift of thinking. 

I mean performance linked budget. It is difficult to link salary to performance, because the performance is produced by too many interacting people, some of whom perform well and some do not. Further, it is possible to show that apparently each has performed minimally well, still the minimum desired results are not produced. Knowing a bit about the way system function, I feel that accountability has to be pitched at the level of head of a system-group of people, who will take responsibility to deliver agreed results for a given budget. 

My feeling is that linking more than 5-10% budget to outcome will not be politically feasible, so let us keep it realistic. 

Regarding assessment, your way of thinking is absolutely right.


Education is a state subject. What is the role of a Parliamentary Committee here?

It is a great injustice that education has been included in the concurrent list.
It must be set right at once.

Even state ministers and secys do not understand the dist-wise educational needs.
How can a Kapil Sibal and a few ivory tower secys in Delhi understand what type of education is
needed by my village, taluk and dist?

India is a sub-continent. You can't have a uniform syllabus from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Education is for creative living. Definitely not to create rank slaves and cyber coolies to serve
alien banias within and without.

Our educational system only can produce a Vice Chancellor [Anna University] who has the audacity
to defend the donation collected from Dow Chemicals.

You need such education?


Dear All,

I would rather that Education is a Panchayat/Local bodies subject, which it actually is, under the 73rd/74th Amendment of the Constitution of India, but is not (in implementation), because States and the Centre oppose the idea tooth and nail. States reverse any effort aimed at panchayat meaningfully assuming charge of primary education. In the process the educational needs of economically and socially marginalised communities remain un-addressed. Just now we have Centre, State and Local Bodies run schools and they are all at different levels, in my experience the Centre run schools in high priority compared to the State and Local Bodies run schools.

But on the issue of performance linked budget, Pankaj, please explain the brass-tacks of the whole thing. How do you visualise it could happen? What would it involve?



Dear Naaz,

The effective and decentralized decision making at the level of even Taluka Panchayat, leave alone any lower level, is incompatibe with our current Government School system, which is designed as an integrated State level monopoly. Teachers are currently recruited by State system, and only posted at local body level. State level bodies take all critical decisions about the curriculum and resource-budget use.

Transferring effective control over education to Panchayat body would require major restructuring that would be fierecely opposed by teachers' unions, and frankly, it would end up promoting PPP school model, which is easy to control by a local body. I am not sure, many forum members really want that.

The brass-track of performance linked budget can vary, but in essence the budget would be approved for agencies with track record of qualiy performance, and renewal of budget over years, would be conditional to children attaining specified learning norms.


Dear Prof Rao,

I beg to disagree with your statement. Our languages are not problems. They are our proud heritage.

Caste is our worst curse. Imposing English and Hindi is equally a curse.

A Polish scholar who extensively toured our countryside decalared, "English is a Cross on Indian children". Definitely not our languages. 

Sankara Narayanan

Dear Sir,

I agree in toto with Mr. Sankara Narayanan that caste is our worst curse – a virus for which there is no medicine and prescription. In the morning when you switch on the TV you find great Pandits teaching: feed a dog, give milk to a cat and to a snake, throw oil somewhere, wear this or that color outside and a different inside …. are the ones responsible for such a mess in this country. 

You may soon see some articles written by me on this subject in some news papers. We are sick minded people and are breeding sickness of the highest order in the minds of our generations and we call them as future of this country. Today,Bharat Mata is in tears when she is seeing the phenomenon of 'Honor Killings' which is solely driven by casteism and communalisation of the socieities. Who is responsible for all this? A question to be answered by over 1 Billion people of this country.

My regards


Dear Pankaj,

I am unable to understand the rationale of asking others for suggestions, when you proceed to ignore everything others suggest. However, since you seem to have an idea of investing a tenth of the budget on “learning outcomes” measured by “standardized testing”, it would be useful to understand what sort of activities would you intend those to be- that is apart from the hiring of trained teachers, strengthening teacher training, strengthening decentralization and accountability mechanisms and ensuring availability of learning materials (and overall school infrastructure) in the classroom. All of these have been suggested by multiple posters on this forum and have been rejected by you as inadequate and/or impractical.

However, while you go on to describe your agenda, a quick comment on the use of standardized testing to measure quality. It is arguably the most highly opposed policy in the west (googling for costs of high stakes testing gives 120,000 hits in 0.17 seconds). These include, discrimination against schools with minority (read dalit) populations (which would start with lower test scores), discrimination against minority (read dalit and adivasi) pupils who potentially may pull the school result down, promotion of cheating and corruption (to ensure that the result is maintained), pulling precious resources from teaching (which improves performance) to testing (which only measures it), and has negative impact on the child’s morale (having low performance drilled into you every time), impacting the ability of teachers to innovate (since they have to teach for the “test”) and has converted the process of education into merely achieving marketable basic competencies (in contrast to holistic child development). Thing is, apart from all this- it is also questionable if the learning levels are actually improving across the board. Consequently, it would be essential to take the current enthusiasm about “testing”, “outcomes” and other related issues with a pinch of salt learning from the countries where this practice was started first.
Anjela R V Taneja 
Program Officer, Education Theme, 
ActionAid India Country Office 
Mobile: 09958087043

Dear Anjela and All,

I do not have a solution to this big problem, I only have a concern which, I think, is shared by large many.

I tried to initiate the discussion to stimulate each other's thinking, and some of us might also act on these thoughts.

Regarding the specific idea of outcome assessment, it is only one systemic way to hold people accountable for their claims, whatever these are. If you have a better way to ensure accountability, which goes beyound unverifiable claims, please do share that with us all. Otherwise, the exercise would just remain empty slogans and claims. It alsoi brings into operation the concern to achieve the goal in a time-bound fashion. 

Source: Shaheen Ansari, Right to Education, Arkitect India:

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