“ At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance”
-Tryst with Destiny (Pandit Jwahar Lal Nehru)
We can safely agree that much like the aspirations of a new India mentioned by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in this freedom speech, India has been substantially making its voice heard on the international stage. 74 glorious years of independence that testify for innumerable achievements and the efforts of many generations of leaders and citizens in enabling this country to recover from the after effects of a not-so-brief colonial rule. But as we enter the 75th year of Independence, there is a need for authentic evaluation of how far we have come and how far we could go as a nation. In reference to this, there are a few numbers we shall now take a look at:
50% of adolescents do not complete secondary education
20 million children are not attending pre-school
50 million children are not achieving grade appropriate learning levels
School readiness at age 5 is far below expected standards
Source – UNICEF/india
As we glance at these statistics, they seem to scream one big question at all of us –
Are we truly free until every child of this nation has access to an uninterrupted education, enriching learning environment and hence a chance at a flourishing career?
Education is a lifelong pursuit and the skills and mindsets acquired through quality education are foundations for a lifetime, not only for the particular individual but for the nation that consists of such well educated citizens.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”
We couldn’t help but agree that the Mantra for true independence is nothing but – “Education”. Let’s see how this can be broken down into solutions.
Mantras for true Independence
Access to elementary education – with 29% of children dropping out before completing their elementary schooling, a crucial question arises – What happened to them later? There is nearly no data available to indicate the future pathways chosen by these children and their holistic development. Undoubtedly rigorous campaigns for enrollment and completion of elementary schooling seems to be a key game changer. This could also be coupled with in depth data collection and research on challenges in achieving the same.
Bringing back out-of-school children – Surely there are huge gaps in enrollments and completion rates for both elementary and secondary education, but there is another key factor that could change the course of future for these children – “Re-enrollments”. Identifying challenges and supporting out of school children in completing their education through various channels can make a lot of difference in their future pursuits.
Quality teacher-training – 50 million children are not achieving their grade appropriate learning outcomes. 50 million children also mean 50 million contexts, learning styles and challenges. Continuous training and development to strengthen the teaching force seems to be an important area in this whole solution scheme.
Strengthening Leadership in Education – These numbers are not merely numbers but a prediction of what next 10 years of national development could look like for us. It took leaders and fighters to drive our country towards independence. Improving the quality of education is a mission we cannot complete without empowering leaders in the system. We need leadership in education with a strong muscle in problem-solving and hence reducing the dependency on external support. In order to create a continuously improving system, it is important to place a strong emphasis on identifying and strengthening leaders who drive change at various levels of the educational ecosystem.
Forming Extraordinary Partnerships – There is no doubt that, together- we achieve more. Having said that, it is crucial to re-evaluate the objectives of the educational ecosystem and identify strong collaborations that can accelerate the process. There are a gazillion number of people and organizations working towards developmental goals for education. Forming a strong network of their strengths could speed up bridging the gaps in education and help in creating contextual solutions. An extended outcome of focusing on partnerships could be inclusivity of the voices of different stakeholders. Co-creating solutions with each layer of stakeholders ensures sustainability of various interventions.
Projects at Mantra4Change amplifying these solutions
Mantra4Change has been working closely with various stakeholders in the system to engage with the aforementioned solutions. A series of programs at Mantra4Change are creating and amplifying this impact. These programs are specific to school transformation, cluster transformation and systemic transformation in state education departments.
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Mantra also believes in building contextual solutions and to achieve this, CoLab, the research and development wing of Mantra does in depth work to understand the ground reality and devise solutions accordingly.
“I set off alone towards my goal, but people came along and it began to turn into a caravan!” – Majrooh Sultanpuri
There have been forces at work all throughout these years of independence like the Ministry of Education, state education departments, Non-Governmental Organisations, Tech Industry etc who have done extraordinary work at building bridges between where we were as a nation and where we are today. The centre of a truly independent nation is a well educated workforce and striving for excellence would mean asking ourselves –
“ What is my Mantra for truly independent India?”