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Rohit Dhankar

As a nation India is committed to universalisation of elementary education[1] (EE), at the least on paper, even if the action encourages scepticism about this commitment. There is also a push to extend this commitment to secondary[2] level. There is an act called “The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009”, in short RTE Act, to guarantee universalisation of quality education. There is a national consensus on this, stamped by the parliament.

We might feel comfortable about this national consensus and may think the matter settled. But there are debates on ways of achieving universalisation of EE, on whether the private schools should be forced to admit 25% at fee decided by the government, on what constitutes quality, whether no-examination and no detention is a good policy, what continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) happens to be, and so on. We are trying to construct generally acceptable answers to these and a host of other such questions. In this context I want to pose a few old and baring questions yet again. First of them being: why do we want universalisation of elementary education?

This issue is considered debated enough and settled finally, which means we have a generally acceptable and accepted answer to it. That might be true. The policy makers and administrators might have an answer to this, the educationalists and university professors also might have an answer to this. But one wonder if every worker in education does. Does the community worker trying to mobilize local support for school improvement have an adequate answer to this question? Do the teachers have such an answer? Do most of the teacher educators have one? If they all do, are their answers coherent with each other? I am not sure.

Usually the kinds of answers we provide for the basic questions have a great influence on the further questions we raise and on their acceptable answers. There is good reason to believe that the kind of answer we construct and accept for “Why UEE?” will influence all our further questions like whether 25% quota should be mandatory, whether no detention policy is good, how do we define quality of education and so on. If all his be acceptable, the question “Why do we want universalisation of elementary education?” seems to be worth engaging with.

Therefore, I request those who happen to read this post to give their answers to this question in comments or any other way they like. I also request to please keep your answers within 1000 word and out of those 1000 do not in quotations more than 250 words.

So, why do we want universalisation of elementary education?

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11th August 2013


[1] Elementary Education means education for eight years, officially defined as from 6 to 14 years of age; in common parlance education up to 8th grade.

[2] Secondary Education is supposed to be from 9th year to 12th year of schooling; or 9th grade to 12th grade. 9th and 10th grades are referred to as lower secondary and 10th and 11th as higher secondary.