india the ‘knowledge superpower’
as part of the propaganda about India’s ’emerging’ as a ‘global power’, we are told ad nauseam that
India is a ‘knowledge economy’, an ‘information technology (IT) superpower’, and the like. The truth is that adult literacy in India is just 61 per cent; on this score, it ranks 146th out of 177 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index (that is, many countries with much lower per capita income had much higher literacy levels than India – for example, much of desperately poor sub-Saharan Africa). In recent years, on the recommendation of the World Bank, the Indian government has focussed its meagre education expenditures increasingly on primary education, largely abandoning secondary and higher education (as if they were a luxury). Yet official data tell us that 42 per cent of children enrolled drop out before completing primary education (I-V) Another 19 per cent, according to official data, drop out before completing upper primary education (VI-VIII). These data in fact understate the problem. Survey-based data, which are more reliable, put the figure of drop-outs at the primary level at around 50 per centnt. And according to Census data, 43.5 per cent of the children between the ages of five and nine are not in school.Moreover, the quality of education imparted in government schools is so dismal that “half the children in Class IV in government schools in Mumbai cannot do the arithmetic calculations required of a Class I student. When put to the test, 18 per cent of students attending Classes II to V in Andhra Pradesh couldn’t do single-digit additions while only 12 per cent managed single-digit subtractions. In a spot-the-object quiz, only 54 per cent got the results right.”.
Higher education, which the Government has increasingly abandoned to a rapacious private sector, is out of the reach of all but a small section. At any rate, the infrastructure and staff of many of the new private institutions are appalling, and thus the degrees imparted to a large percentage of graduates may not be worth the paper they are printed on
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