Education is important for development,
but it doesn’t become an election issue (Indian Express)
Mains Paper 5: Education
Prelims level: RTE Act
Mains level: Amendments related to RTE Act
- Consider the recent decision taken with genuine political
consensus — about diluting the no-detention policy of the Right to Education
- Politicians of just about every hue supported it. In the media,
too, there was little criticism.
- Though it is a retrograde step, it looks as if it was the right
thing to do. People find it obviously correct in light of their own
childhood memories. One recalls being scared in childhood of failing in
- This popular memory reinforces the commonsense logic that we all
worked hard because we were afraid of failing.
- This logic is a shortcut to the conclusion that children will stop
working hard if the fear of failing is erased.
So, now one can happily take the final step:
- Learning standards are low (as dubious surveys have repeatedly
proved) because the no-detention policy has taken the fear factor off
- These quick conclusions become axiomatic if you are deliberating
on children of the poor.
- Old, nicely entrenched middle-class images of the poor suggest
that their children will take learning seriously only if the school injects
into their minds a hefty, preferably daily, dose of fear.
- There are several reasons, and we have sampled just one of them.
Let us turn to the others. Education presents an elusive terrain to voters.
- They respond to chronic shortages of electricity or bad roads.
Urban voters feel good about a party during whose regime the water supply
- This kind of reaction does not happen in the case of
poorly-maintained schools or high failure rate in examination.
- You can’t think of an election in which an education-related
demand brought voters together. Nor can you think of an election in which
the neglect or mismanagement of education led to a party’s defeat.
- In election after election, one gets the impression that schools
and colleges, no matter how badly they are maintained, just do not matter in
- The status of education as an election issue is far, far lower
than that of bijli, sadak, pani and naukri (electricity, road, water and
Political adversity on education
- The political parties seldom fail to include education in their
- The promises made are often grandiose, offering a new national
policy on education, increase in expenditure, improved infrastructure,
accountability among teachers, and so on.
- But when these promises are not fulfilled, no one seems to use the
vote as a means to punish a party or candidate.
- Apparently, people don’t expect much change or improvement in
education. There is widespread acceptance of the state’s failure on the
- Acceptance is also reflected in the general willingness to turn to
privately-run institutions when state institutions fail to satisfy.
- This point looks a lot sharper as a statement than it is in social
reality. Search for private alternatives is part of a long unfolding of
common distrust in state institutions and the legitimate feeling that no
individual can have a say in how these are run.
- Another reason why education carries little value as an election issue
lies in its nature as a long-range area of governance.
- Improvement in any component of education calls for sustained,
long-term effort. The fruit takes many years certainly more than five to
come into view. By then, public memory phases out the origin of these
- The media doesn’t help either. The din of election has little room
for analysing a ruling party’s performance in education because it is hard
to sift older continuities from recently taken steps.
Education seldom figures in an election debate
- The “concurrent” status education holds between the two is not
new. Most people find the distribution and overlap of responsibilities quite
- In reality, too, the responsibilities of the two sides are far
from clearly divided. Even on radical measures like the RTE, the roles of
the Centre and the states remain unclear.
- Who, exactly, is responsible for the slowing down of the RTE
momentum is hard to pin down and explain to voters, especially in the Hindi
- It given the nature of election-time ethos in our country,
anything that sounds complex loses out.
- That alone may suffice to disqualify education as an election
- It offers unlimited scope for confusion and obfuscation.
- Little is known outside about what is happening inside schools and
- Tall claims can be made without much fear of contestation. The
fact that governments have chosen to ignore basic issues afflicting the
system of education is nicely concealed in the glamour of technology-based
- In the secondary education slab, the division between Centre and
states conceals the class divide.
- The higher income groups are served by a Central Board of
Examination (CBSE) while the rest of society sends its children to schools
affiliated to state boards, Delhi being a major exception to this pattern.
- Pass percentage differs quite sharply between the CBSE and state
- Millions fail in the latter boards, arousing little interest in
Delhi and the national media. As for higher education, it remains both
opaque and irrelevant for the majority of children never make it to a
- So, if a regime has actively damaged institutions of higher
learning, the matter cannot bring much political loss.
- Moreover, higher education is perceived primarily in terms of its
degree-dispensing role. To be told that it has an intellectual purpose, too,
makes little sense to an average parent-voter.
Q.1) With reference to the tribal uprisings in India, consider the
1. Santhal Rebellion
2. Khasi Uprising
3. Chuar Uprising
What is the correct chronological sequence of the above events?
(b) 2-1 -3
(d) 3-1 -2
Q.1) If education is so important for development, why doesn’t it make a
difference to the outcome of elections?
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