‘Sustainable rural development not possible without education’

Identifying education as a key to sustainable rural development, Director-)General of National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (NIRDPR) W.R. Reddy emphasised the need for improving quality of education imparted in government schools to pull the next generation above poverty lines.

Delivering the keynote address at a national conference on ‘Issues and Challenges of Teachers and Teacher Educators Working in Rural, Remote and Tribal Areas’, Dr. Reddy said education was the path for rural development.

“We need to weave connect between education and rural development. Sustainable rural development is not possible without education,” he said.

While the new generation schemes such as MNREGA, empowerment of women through SHGs, skill development programmes for youth and infrastructure creation in rural areas are aimed at uplifting the present generation of poor, who account for roughly 23% of the country’s population, there is a need to draw up a plan to ensure that the next generation – those born after 2010 – come out of the poverty line.

To achieve this, Dr. Reddy said there was a need to improve the quality of government schools, where the number of students is dwindling on account of the mushrooming of private and corporate schools. Sharing the information he collected during a stop-over at a gram panchayat while he was coming from Bengaluru to Mysuru, Dr. Reddy said the panchayat officials told him that the strength in government schools was merely around 20 to 40 students while the nearby private schools had attracted about 300 students.

“By sending their children to private schools, paying fees to the tune of Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,500, these rural poor are becoming further impoverished,” Dr. Reddy said. Their expenditure on education and health was the main reason preventing the rural poor from emerging out of poverty.

Though it was a challenge for the government to identify teachers with a passion to prepare the rural students studying in government schools, Dr. Reddy wondered how the standard of education in private schools could be better when their faculty in most institutions compared poorly with their government school counterparts.

The recruitment process for government schools was way better than the manner in which teachers are hired in private schools, he said.

Earlier, principal of Regional Institute of Education, NCERT, Mysuru, Y. Sreekanth, said the recommendations of the three-day conference will be submitted to the Union Ministry for Human Resource Development.

Reading out the recommendations, he said rural and urban areas should not be seen in isolation to each other, but as a continuum.

The conference also recommended that diverse and varied models of academic transaction should be adopted instead of using “one-size fits all” model.

Also, the disparities in the service conditions of teachers and teacher educators need to be looked into and addressed for qualitative improvement in education.

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