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A Persistent Concern

Saumen Chattopadhyay

By Rashmi Sharma and Vimala Ramachandran
Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 321 without index, Rs. 795.00


The book under review seeks to address an issue which has ever remained an area of great concern, how to improve the governance structure of the elementary education system in India. Despite expansion albeit mostly in terms of statistics, the poor delivery mechanism of the elementary education system in India has been the most crucial factor behind our failure to ensure good quality education to all. Quality of education is not only a function of inputs including resources but more importantly, of institutional arrangement. The process of fragmentation of the society continues resulting in a growth process which can best be described as exclusive rather than inclusive. Various dimensions of deprivations and discriminations with respect to caste, gender and location have had adverse effects on the system. Even small villages and small habitations suffer more as the larger ones can exercise more clout to ensure better facilities in terms of teachers and infrastructure. The progress in terms of various indicators such as literacy rates, gender gaps, drop-out rates, enrolment rates has continued to be tardy particularly in some of the low-income states. In general, high-income states and Kerala have been able to put in place better governance structures. Education being in the nature of service, the quality of education imparted depends much on the teaching-learning process that takes place inside the classroom, and how the important actors, like the teachers and the education administrators at various layers conduct themselves in their respective spheres of operation. This requires an understanding of the context, a very complex process where socio-economic, political and cultural factors interact and impinge on the functioning of the institutions. The book seeks to argue that an attempt to understand the system focusing merely on the stated rules and procedures would only reveal a partial picture as the informal system is not only entwined with the formal system, it creates a new dynamic. The book covers a vast swathe of issues through eight essays. In the Introduction the editors provide a broad panoramic view of the elementary system of education in India in terms of the oft-quoted indicators to set the stage for the arguments that the book develops. The book is essentially based on an in-depth field study of the institutions, the schools and the various layers in the range of education administration comprising administrative, academic and community based, their internal organizations and their interface with the society ...

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