Commissions and committees in India, whenever they talk about education, suffer from a seven-month itch. Granted that this phrase may be a little exaggerated, but how else can the restless changes in decision be explained? The Planning Commission has proposed that children should have one year of pre-school before joining class I. Children now have two years of anganwadi with focus on health and nutrition. The education offered is informal, its quality depending largely on the abilities and interests of those who run the anganwadi in a particular area. Presumably, the second year of the anganwadi is to be transformed into a year of pre-school. Why does the Planning Commission feel that children will gain by this change?
According to statistics, 40 per cent of the enrolled children drop out of school after class V. The Planning Commission has reportedly found the solution to this by increasing a year of school at the lower level, so that children who feel ‘uncomfortable’ in class may grow used to it. The reasoning is so clouded as to be incredible. No one can believe that children who drop out after five years of schooling do so because they are “not comfortable”. Numerous studies have shown where the problems lie. Many schools do not have bathrooms for girls, and this becomes a problem as a child grows older. Teachers are not trained enough to adjust their teaching to children who come from diverse population and socio-economic groups. Older children feel more easily humiliated when they cannot follow what is being said because of hurdles of language, and feel insulted when they sense class or caste disdain. So they learn little, lose interest and would rather help their parents earn. They drop out for any number of reasons, but many would have stayed if they felt included and could follow the lessons. It is time policy-makers responded to the reports of experts instead of trying another experiment.