If we rely on the claims made by mouthpieces of state and central government, then Indian education system will soon realize the hitherto unrealized dream of achieving cent percent literacy. Unfortunately, the reality is in stark contrast to these claims. It is a sign of deep decay in the system that governments not only ignore the educational sector’s importance but also viciously fudge data to paint a pretty picture when the picture is anything but pretty.

The importance of primary schooling with respect to the overall development of a child and careers in future cannot be understated. In fact it would not be wrong to say that the quality and quantity of primary education that a child receives plays an important role in determining his future standard of living. The lack of quality primary education particularly in small villages of the country which houses more than 70% of Indian rural population is worrying in so far as such a situation will lead to more inequality and widening of gap between rural India and Urban India.

Intermittent attendances, poor teaching quality, no study material, unavailability of teachers are some common features of millions of government primary schools in India. As per District Information System for Education (DISE) 2014-15 report Government primary schools are short of basic amenities like electricity, as only 44.8% of schools have electricity supply. Open schooling is interpreted literally as millions of schools are without buildings, especially in tribal and hilly zones. Further complicating matters are issues of poverty which drain the motivation of the rural masses to acquire primary education in view of more compelling concerns such as the availability of 3 square meals a day.

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 published by Pratham NGO, the overall picture of basic reading is worrying. In 2014, only a quarter in standard III, only a half in standard V and around 75% in standard VIII, of all children respectively could read a standard II text accurately. Rural India figures for arithmetic have remained almost same over the last few years. In 2012, only 26.3% of standard III children were able to do two-digit subtraction and which went down to 25.3% in 2014. Another worrying trend from findings shows that children in standard II who cannot recognize numbers up to 9 has increased from 11.3% in 2009 to 19.5% in 2014.

Statistics of English reading aptness is no better. In 2014 only 25% of standard V children could read simple English sentences, the same figure since 2009. In 2014, only 60% of those capable of reading words (irrespective of grade) could explain its meaning, and only 62.2% of standard V could narrate a sentence’s meaning.

Attendance remains a pervasive concern. ASER statistics shows that in 2014 only 71.4% of primary children enrolled were present on the day of the visit which is almost same as 70.7% of 2013 visit. Reports show that there is a decline in attendance from 2009 to 2014; in 2009 attendance recorded was 74.3%. There is a drop in the Teacher’s attendance rates from 89.1% in 2009 to 85% in 2014 on the day of the visit.

The abysmal condition of primary schools in the country is causing a flight of students from Government schools to private schools. This is evident from the fact that, in 2014, 30.8% of all 6-14-year-old children in rural India were enrolled in private schools as opposed to 29% in 2013. As a result, of the pathetic functioning of primary schooling, prominent states like U.P. and Bihar are suffering from the dropout phenomenon. According to DISE 2014-15 statistics 20.94% primary school children in U.P. and 16.75% in Bihar drop out after standard V.

An important question to ask at this juncture is; what explains the wide divergence between standards of operation of Government colleges such as IIM’s and IIT’s and primary Government schooling? The answer to this question lies in the fact that governments only motive in providing education is to produce ‘technically literate’ force for the Nation via big institutions like IIT’s, and IIM’s. Therefore, the Government’s thinking seems to be that given that there are some schools which provide quality primary education, the larger issue of below standard primary education is a problem not worthy enough to be dealt with.

As per UNESCO Institute for Statistics, value of government expenditure on primary education constantly declined from 30.05 in 1999 to 26.76 in 2012. To get rid of the problems of the present system its root problems must be fixed. Poverty has a debilitating impact on access to education and therefore widening access to education and poverty alleviation programs must go hand in hand. The government instead of enticing children through mid-day meal scheme should provide some rural employment to their parents to make them self-reliant so that they stop dragging their children into work. There should also be an effective check on government primary school functioning. Instead of different state boards one All India Government School Board should be constituted like CBSE and ICSE/ISC. To weed out corruption in the teacher’s selection process, an All India Online Exam should be conducted with standard eligibility criteria. After the recruitment, their performance should be assessed in a training period of two years by education ministry official assigned specifically for this purpose, and the performance report should be the basis for a full-fledged job.

Teacher’s dedication to their job is pivotal for ensuring the success of the education system. To ensure flawless operation through quality teaching and standard facilities, random look-over by senior government officials every month must be ensured through statutory laws. All government employees, politicians, judges and everyone who draws a salary from the government funds should be mandated to send compulsorily their ward to primary schools only. Allahabad High Court in a case ordered the same proposal in August 2015. This proposal seems too extreme and absurd but is mightily efficacious. Problems like quality education, teacher’s attendance, and infrastructure will automatically get straighten out as every government official will personally pour attention because doing so will be in their own interest.

The dream of our country being a superpower in the near future cannot be achieved without revamping our dysfunctional education system. The importance of quality primary education cannot be underestimated as it prepares the ground for social-economic and political development of the country. Remember what Benjamin Disraeli said, “Upon the education of the people of country the fate of this country depends.”

(The writer is a student at NALSAR, Hyderabad).