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India etc. emerges as anti-education zone

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    India etc. emerges as anti-education zone

    Indian subcontinent emerges as anti-education zone

    NEW DELHI- South Asia's ''anti-education societies'' stand in sharp contrast to the pro-education culture which has benefited other Asian countries.

    Political will has been lacking in overcoming the interests of local elites in the vast rural expanses of the sub-continent where feudal and patriarchal attitudes have served as a damper to achieving universal primary education, various studies have said.

    The consequence is that South Asia, with the exception of Sri Lanka, has emerged as the most illiterate region in the world with 400 million adults in the region accounting for half the world's unlettered.

    India, the largest country in the region, is poised to be, in the next millennium, home to the largest group of illiterate people in the world despite constitutional commitments and pious statements and lamentations in Parliament. Says Jandhyala Tilak, fellow at the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration: ''India has not been sincere to the UNESCO and International Labor Organization declarations on human rights and the rights of the child in spite of ratifying them.'' After allowing a constitutional mandate on free and compulsory education for all under-14 children to languish for decades, it was left to India's Supreme Court to declare education a fundamental right in 1992 - but implementation is still a far cry.

    Similar lack of political will is evident in Pakistan and Bangladesh, although the latter has been making great strides in recent years. These three countries together contain over 97 percent of South Asia's illiterate adult population. ''There has been no political will . . . education will bring about a change at the grassroots level in the rural areas and the feudal ruling elite never wanted to break the status quo,'' says an official in Pakistan's Directorate of Schools.

    Huge differences exist in the quality of education imparted in private schools patronized by the rich and the government schools where standards are low. ''There should be an end to class-based education,'' the official said.

    The Human Development Report-1998, published by the Human Development Center in Karachi, Pakistan, traces the historical roots of educational disparities in South Asia. According to the report, the neglect of widespread education in caste-stratified northern India may be linked to conservative upper-caste notions that knowledge is not appropriate for lower castes.

    British colonization of the sub-continent only served to worsen educational inequalities. ''A distorted, dualistic education system was created where high-quality English-medium education was provided to a select group of nobles and chieftains.'' While imitations of the English public school system appeared for the elite, the rest of society languished in sub-standard educational institutions providing instruction in the local vernacular - devalued by being invalid for worthwhile employment.

    According to the report, the dualistic education structure allowed pre- and post-independence ruling cliques to monopolize government and commerce while poor people with low-quality government-funded education were denied upward social mobility.

    Even the phenomenal gender disparities seem to stem from such traditional beliefs as widowhood resulting from women being educated.

    Gender disparities interact strongly with other factors such as rural-urban differences. Net enrolment rates for male children in urban Pakistan are 20 percent higher than in rural areas while for young girls they are 60 percent higher. ''Being born a girl in a rural area raises the risk of dropping out of primary school by a factor of three in relation to urban boys,'' notes Education Now a report released this year by Oxfam International, the UK-based voluntary organization. The report notes that the average six-year-old girl in South Asia can expect to spend about six years in school - three years less than an average boy of the same age.

    Some of the developing world's widest educational disparities exist among Indian states. In southern Kerala nearly all children in the 10-14 age group are literate while a third of the boys and two thirds of the girls in northern Uttar Pradesh are illiterate. According to Oxfam's Education Performance Index (EPI), which takes into account net enrolment, gender equity and school completion rate, Kerala ranks alongside South Korea while Uttar Pradesh ranks below Nepal.

    The education system in Nepal is characterized by low and inequitable distribution of services, poor quality of education insufficient funding and high drop-out rates. Two-thirds of students who enroll do not continue into lower secondary.

    Educational deprivation is one of the main causes of poverty and inequality. But these two factors are also among the main causes of educational deprivation. Poor countries can be expected to have particular problems in providing basic education, but South Asian countries are under-performing far more than others in spite of having similar income levels, according to Oxfam.

    For example, China has a slightly higher average income than Pakistan but its citizens are three times as likely to enroll in school and almost twice as likely to complete school. The gender gap in enrolment for China is six times lower than that of Pakistan.

    India and Pakistan spend more than three times as much on arms as they do on primary education, according to the Oxfam report.

    And then up to 90 percent of budgets for primary education in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh gets swallowed up in salaries for teachers and administration. ''School teachers already belong to the top decile of the income scale in rural India,'' points out Jean Dreze, professor of Economics at Delhi University who has co-authored books with Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen.

    Sri Lanka, which has 90 percent literacy, stands out in South Asia for having the smallest disparities in literacy rates between urban and rural areas or that in terms of gender.

    South Asian countries need to spend more of their education budgets on primary education. India, for example, allocates 54 percent of funds to higher education when 40 students can go to school for the cost of sending one to university.

    97%? thats too much


      well, 97% considering perhaps, Srilanka has 90% literacy. So other three countries, ind., Pak, BD together have 97% of total illiterate population.

      As article points out, it is not lack of money, it is lack of political will.