You can contribute to primary education in India
Pratham is an Indian NGO that has done some commendable work in this area. They are working on the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) that aims to measure progress against the government's goal of universalizing primary education by 2010. Please check out Pratham's website on how you (and I) can help.
Annual Status of Education Report or ASER – is a process by which citizens (especially urban professionals) can measure and keep track of how their money is being spent to impact primary education in India. It will go on till 2010 – the year by when government has promised to unilversalize quality primary education in India. We have missed earlier goals to universalize primary education for all children – but this time its achievable !! Pratham is launching and facilitating ASER to keep track of the progress in primary education - across every state in India to cover more than 80% of all districts. We are doing this along with more than 200 grassroot organizations across India to create a citizens initiative to measure and monitor work on primary education. Government of India has promised universalization of quality primary education in India by 2010 – something that we believe is quite doable. Towards this end, over and above other taxes – 2% education cess has also been levied by government to finance this aspiration. Large progress has been made – especially with regards to enrollment of children in schools and access to school – even in the most under-developed parts of rural India. But the drop out rate continues to be very high – more than 70% children are not completing schools. Primary reason for this appears to be that learning in schools is dismal (with more than 50% children in the primary schools not being able to read, write or do basic arithmetic). Across the country, in the school educational domain, there is a need for the following: 1. To measure and track progress 2. To motivate the entire government machinery towards outcome focus and not just allocating more funds. 3. There is a need to talk about what children are learning in schools and not just how many are enrolled. We need to understand what these numbers mean. 4. There is a need to talk about factors which influence a child’s learning viz., teacher attendance, student teacher ratio, teaching learning material, teacher training, basic infrastructure, toilets, drinking water, working of village education committees etc. 5. For urban India and professionals there is a need to go beyond paying education cess and taxes – there is a need to know numbers and need to ask questions to government/s at various levels. Against this backdrop, ASER has been launched as citizens initiative to track and measure progress. The final report will be presented to the highest level of government (the report will be presented before January 26 – efforts are on to invite the Prime Minister to accept the report. Planning Commission and Ministry of HRD have agreed to accept the report – which will be presented by 600 representatives from 600 districts who will share their findings across the country). We will also go back to the district collectors, MPs, MLAs, zilla parishads, panchayats asking them about the progress in their districts and how they compare with other districts and asking them to give us plans on how they want to move forward and how they want to spend the allocated budgets (all the communication will happen before the budget in February 2006.). We will provoke gram sabhas and panchayats to discuss the state of affairs in their district and how that compares with other districts. We believe that measuring, tracking and asking questions creates its own motivation (whats gets measured.. tends to get done).