A National Agenda for Education - Primary Education

Primary Education

4.

Primary Education:

Vision, Objectives, Problems and

Recommendations

I

In India, we have been striving to increase allocations to primary education, and we notice that sixty-five per cent of the plan allocation for the year 1999-2000 has been earmarked for elementary education. A new initiative has been envisaged for participation of the girl child. Allocation to operation black board has been enhanced from Rs. 304 crores to Rs. 400 crores and allocation to DPEP has been increased from Rs. 727 crores to Rs. 754 crores. A sum of Rs 160 crores has been assigned to the national strategy for participation of girls and there has been an upward revision of the existing schemes and also for upgrading infrastructural facilities. Out of the plan allocation for education for the ninth five-year plan, which amounts to Rs. 20381 crores, Rs. 7937 crores is allotted to primary education alone, and the programme for universalisation of elementary education has received the allocation of Rs. 3035 crores. These are significant figures, and it is also significant that to non-formal education, which is indispensable for effective primary education in our country, Rs. 350 crores have been allocated.

But we all know that mere financial allocations cannot deliver the goods. Central factors that determine the success of educational programmes are related to the quality of teachers, the quality of teaching-learning materials, and the quality of the strategies of addressing varieties of target groups which present specific needs and require specific solutions.

In India, like many other developing countries, we find that a large number of children are first-generation learners and the usual teaching-learning materials, which have been standardized

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for urban children or for third or fourth generation learners, are simply irrelevant. Again, we have problem of retaining children in the school system, and we have as yet no ready solution for this and allied problems. It is the painful fact that out of about twenty one crore children in India, only five or six crores complete elementary education, and a very large number of others drop out at earlier stages of primary education. In many countries of the world, this kind of problem does not exist, but still wherever it exists, it is imperative that effective solutions are suggested and effective strategies are evolved and implemented. This is where researches in school effectiveness at primary stage occupy central significance.

II

It is often argued that our immediate problems are so pressing that we need to take urgent steps to meet them and that in the context of this urgent need we should follow the established and orthodox means and methods of education. In other words, it is implied that radical researches, discoveries and inventions should not be allowed to distract us from following the beaten path. We are, therefore, counselled that what we need to do is to multiply the usual classroom teaching, and that if research is to be conducted, we should limit our research programmes only to augment effectiveness of the usual classroom teaching.

Fortunately, this view is no more shared by those who are engaged in research at the frontline of education. As a result, it is possible for us to feel free to be liberated from the beaten tracks of education, and many researches in the new path may enable us to design new strategies that will ultimately be found to be more practicable and more favourable to the fulfilment of the goals that we have in view, including those of universalisation of primary and elementary education.

In India, we have been thinking of non-formal education at the primary level, and although we do not have as yet a nationwide and extensive major programme of non-formal education, we have developed a programme during the last few decades on the basis of which a new strategy can be evolved and proposed so

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as to meet the needs of primary education of large masses of children who live in remote villages, hamlets and even in towns where access to formal education if not easy or adequate. In fact, it appears that non-formal education could ultimately prove to be the real effective answer, and it is also to be seen that it is through non-formal education that we can introduce more dynamic methods of education. And this opens up a vast area of research.

In the ultimate analysis, it seems that we shall have to create a large scheme of non-formal education in the country so that we can meet at least four or five requirements that are central to effectiveness of primary education. One of these requirements is related to wide variations among target-groups, which cannot all be given uniform pattern of curriculum, teaching-learning materials and orthodox timings of attendance and mechanical methods of teaching and learning. The second requirement arises from those teachers who are directly suitable to the conditions and environments in which they have to teach. Stereotype training of teachers here would be irrelevant, and special courses of training have to be designed, which could be useful to the programmes of non-formal education. The third requirement arises from the fact that children at the primary level get interested in education by means of pressures of environmental influences, and it is noticed that urban influences, which strengthen motivation for primary education are not available in rural and remote areas. The fourth requirement is related to the formal system of education, since even where it is widespread, it has not prevented large dropout rates. This means that the formal system of education needs to undergo a great change so as to make it more non-formal and even informal. Promotion of interest in studies is the heart of effectiveness of primary education, and it cannot be said that this interest is created or sustained through the orthodox and conservative system of education. Finally ,it may be argued that not only at the higher levels of education, but even at the lower levels of education, the open system of education will be found to be more and more effective. Futurists can see quite clearly that a huge revolution is waiting to break in the field of education all over the world, and in the tide of that revolution, we shall all be

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the child, —are more; commonly present in the natural composition of the children than what is normally suspected or expected. The more we ourselves tune to these qualities, the more we shall be able to detect them in our children; and this will give us great opportunity to create circumstances, — formal, non-formal and informal, — through which these qualities can be strengthened and developed towards their higher and higher peaks of excellence.

These and similar insights into the psychology of child development are indispensable, if we want to make a process of children's development effective.

There should be massive movement in the country and in the world, which should declare three important messages: 1) Please understand your children; 2) Do not scold children for the faults which you yourself commit; 3) Establish in your life and in the life of the society the sovereignty of the child to such an extent that nothing is done by adults at home or in society, which will injure child's trust, child's enthusiasm and child's appreciation of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

But all this needs to be supported by research and experimentation.

VI

It can also be suggested that we need to institute fresh research relating to pre-service and in-service programmes of teachers' training. And the very first idea that presents itself is that if the development of integral personality is the basic aim of all education, it should be the first requisite of the system that all teachers themselves have some essential orientation in respect of integral development personality. If this idea is inquired into by competent researchers, we shall be able to come up with valuable suggestions that would revolutionise our teachers' training programmes.

We shall, of course, be confronted with a number of resistances, but considering that a well-trained army of teachers is indispensable, we shall be able to overcome these resistances. Every teacher, for instance, will need to have sound physical fit

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ness and adequate stamina to take part in various activities of physical education. If example is the most effective means of education, there is no better way to inspire children to undertake physical education seriously than to have teachers who are themselves strong and healthy in their bodies and who have interest and capacity to play games with their children.

Similarly, teachers' training programmes should also have provision for adequate training in value-oriented education. This is a very vast subject, but when one studies it, one feels convinced that this aspect of education cannot be developed meaningfully unless we develop important projects of research. Moreover this programme of research should be conducted with the help of the best teachers of the country. Unfortunately, it is not sufficiently realised that child education is the most difficult area of education, and that the development of this area will require inputs from the best and the wisest teachers and leaders of the society

Again, teachers' training should have an important component of mental development. What has happened in the past is that we have encouraged research into how to teach various subjects of studies, but we have not paid adequate attention to research in how mental faculties develop, particularly during the childhood. We speak of Piaget with great admiration, but we have not taken enough lead from his work. In our teachers' training programmes we should bring to the teachers' attention both Indian and Western studies in respect of the development of faculties of observation logical and methodical thinking, imagination, inspiration perception, discrimination, normative thought and action, and creative appreciation and enjoyment. We should collect dialogues of eminent educationists of these studies, and they could constitute a very interesting programme of training of teachers.

The art of telling stories is also a very important subject of research, and considering that stories play a dominant role in primary education, we should provide adequate training to teachers in the art of telling stories, which could include various aspects of accent, pronunciation, various modes of intonation recitation play of words, play of ideas, and various gestures for delineating characters.

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The teacher at the primary level is not a specialist, but he needs to have such all-round training that he or she can deal with various aspects of education competently. Our attention should be focussed upon those elements of education which have so far remained neglected but which are of central significance. It is in this context that we need to underline themes of research relating to integral development of personality, value-orientation and artistic abilities, physical fitness, and skills to organise exhibitions, presentation of pictorial books and recitation and art of telling stories, etc.

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