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Education Policy- Part XXI Adult Education

The policy report in its chapter 21 on Adult Education is very affirmative. It says – ‘achieve 100% youth and adult literacy rates by 2030 and significantly expand adult and continuing education programmes.’

It is no doubt a noble thought to try to achieve 100% literacy with the adults- that too by 2030 i.e. in 11 years from now. It is a very tall order and we would have to work tirelessly on a war footing to be able to reach the goal. Having said this, we must really appreciate the Committee for having spared a space for adult education and for having suggested many plans for the immediate future. 

The figures given do not leave much to cheer. ‘According to data from the last census, India still had over 3.26 crore youth non-literates (15-24 years of age) and a total of 26.5 adult non-literates (15 years and above)- a number comparable to entire population of students in the school and higher education sectors taken together –and representing one-third of the world’s non-literate people.’

In this regard, the draft report is just right when it says – ‘we require commitment from the whole nation and vast community volunteerism and mobilisation, with solid commitment and support from the government.’ 

It is absolutely true. And there is another truth that has not been revealed. It is about the apathy, the indifference of almost every section of the society in honestly addressing the issue and doing something about it. The teachers, the social activists, the educationists and the media have contributed nothing literally in improving the level of literacy among the adults. Are ‘they’ not ‘we’?

When we see more and more of ‘awareness’ programmes on higher education and various other examinations, when it comes to adult education, the government stands all alone with nobody by its side to carry the burden along.  The media, particularly the tv chanels, may turn their cameras to the adults who, for some reason or the other,  had not been able to pursue their studies earlier but are still willing to have some education in some form. These are large in numbers and yet, nothing is said about it. Why so?

We must not single out the media for negligence. We have 265 million people who are non-literates and the government is fighting to tide over the crisis with what little resources it has at its command. Not a single ‘fighter’ or an ‘activist’ who does shamelessly pour out all the venom and hatred in public against the government has anything to say or do about it.

Here, we have to give credit all the successive governments for all the good work done so far. It is the government and, the government alone that has been doing everything that it can to change the situation for the better.

The policy report narrates ‘an outstanding curriculum framework for adult education’(P375) and lists out at least 5 types of programmes – Foundational literacy and numeracy; critical life skills; vocational skills development; basic education and continuing education.

It is really so heartening to note that the committee has been so thoughtful and has presented a highly purposeful policy report in the field of adult education. See for example- critical life skills would include financial literacy, health care and awareness, child care and education and family welfare among other things.

Similarly, continuing education is to include liberal education courses as well as topics of interest or use to local learners. How many of us are able to appreciate the use of the term ‘use to local learners’ in continuing education?

Have we ever heard of anybody talking about a curriculum framework for adult education? Why no serious thought or deliberation takes place on the need for adult education, the ‘demands’ of the adult learners and about providing adequate facilities and infrastructure for this purpose?

Is it meant for the elite or the so called upper classes? Do we not know who will be the beneficiaries of this plan? Has anyone come forward to congratulate the committee for its commitment to improve the adult literacy rate? We lose our right to comment or condemn if we fail in our duty to praise and support the good moves.

‘What can be done to make adult education effective and widely accessible?’ The report offers a few ideas. ‘Community volunteers will be encouraged – each literate member of the community to teach at least one person to read’,  ‘Building and making use of shared infrastructure’, ‘effectively training instructors’, ‘ensuring participation’ and ‘mobilising the community’ are some of the measures recommended.

It is quite understandable and acceptable too that mobilising has to be a part of education. We cannot help it so long as we are not bothered to look around and see what is happening to fellow adults who were deprived of or discarded education in their student days. It is all left to the government and so, naturally, the plan is taking its own time to gather pace. The report gives us hope for better days ahead.

Continuing education is again an area that has never ‘caught’ the attention of anyone of any reckoning ever. But sadly, even the policy report has not said much about the Open or Distance Education.

We need to devise a comprehensive plan to carry the message of open education to every door step. The false notion that education ‘ends’ with a graduation or even much before on getting an employment has to change. The urge or the need for education in India ceases when someone finds away for living. This perception does not seem to be different even with the so called elite and the rich.

It is high time a policy is drafted for spreading the open education system to every nook and corner of the country and every citizen is made to realise that education is a continuing process that need not be abandoned just because one is employed or married.

Education post-marriage remains a ‘dream’ to many young girls and in many families to men as well. Why should it be? What have done to change this unhealthy equation? The policy report may be suitably amended laying the much needed emphasis on Open and Distance Education. Scholarships, free schemes and all other facilities of a regular course should be extended to Open Education candidates of all ages. Due recognition should be accorded to all the courses of distance education in matters of public and private employments. The stigma and suspicion attached to this method should be erased and should be the automatic choice of all those who cannot afford yet want to study.

Chapter 22 on Promotion of Indian Languages aims to ensure preservation, growth, and vibrancy of all Indian languages. A very meaningful proposal is given here. Indian Languages, as we all know by our experience, are shrinking everyday with more and more of English words being used in the day-to-day affairs. Many of the words in native languages have lost their existence due to non-usage or lack of knowledge about them. To enhance the vocabulary power, each of the regional bodies will publish the comprehensive updated dictionary of their respective languages every 3 years. (P22.5)This would be a great step towards keeping the native words alive. It is a good initiative that has not been widely reported for reasons best known to the scholars of vernacular languages.

Part IV of the report talks about ‘Transforming Education’ – to deliver equity and quality at all levels. A new apex body the Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog or National Education Commission will be constituted. It will be headed by the Prime Minister. And, this body ‘will be responsible for developing, articulating, implementing and evaluating and revising the vision of education in the country’.

The report contains Addendums 0n ‘Making it happen’, on ‘Financing’ and on ‘Way forward’. It is more like re-emphasising the points already described in the report in various chapters and on allocation of funds for various purposes that calls for nothing much to say.

This brings us to the end of the review. As we have reached the concluding part of the series, let us now present our suggestions / submissions!

( to continue…

Baskaran Krishnamurthy

– mail: [email protected]

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