The government has made rapid strides in the field of education since India's independence in 1947. The expenditure on education has increased to 3.2% of GDP in the year 2011 -12 compared to less than 1% in the year 1951-52. Commensurate with the efforts, the literacy rates in India have gone up from 16% in 1950-51 to 74% in 2011. However there is an imbalance - for the urban population it was 85% and for the rural population it was 69% in 2011.
The biggest challenge for the government in its efforts to educate India's rural masses is the lack of qualified teachers willing to deploy to rural areas. In their pursuit for better quality of life, the trend is to move to urban areas. The teachers in the cities rarely want to move to a village. Therefore, while most of the villages have the government mandated infrastructure, the education system in the rural areas is plagued by lack of qualified teachers. The government acknowledges this fact and has taken remedial measures by starting a para-teacher scheme (www.upefa.com/shiksha).
The role of SVV is to supplement the system already in place at Chanchli. The primary focus is to build a strong foundation for elementary school students by helping them become proficient in English and Hindi, Mathematics and develop their presentation skills. "Show and tell' is an integral part of the daily schedule. It will be relevant to mention here that the Indian educational system is very different than the systems found in most other countries. Its emphasis on English as the language of higher education (i.e. engineering, medicine and management, to name a few) means that a lack of knowledge of English can severely limit opportunities for growth in life. Also, English is the language of corporate India.
Attendance is voluntary and the classes are held in the afternoon to enable the children to attend the program after their regular day at school. All of the classes are free of charge and open to all village children. No incentive is provided for attending the program. However, the program is administered along the lines of any other school. The children are grouped by age, an attendance register is maintained and their progress is monitored through regular testing. The teaching staff consists of three teachers to ensure age- relevant instruction.
Another aspect of the program is to bring awareness about government programs available specifically for children from rural area. Under one such program, Navodaya Vidyalaya System , the government runs over 500 schools that offer free education to talented children from Class-VI to XII. Each Navodaya Vidyalaya is a co-educational residential institution providing free boarding and lodging, uniforms, text books, stationery, to and fro rail and bus fare. These schools are located in the district headquarters. The nearest such school for the children of Chanchli is about 65 kilometers (40 miles) away. Although Chanchli is only 2 hours away from New Delhi, there is very little awareness of such opportunities. The Navodaya program was started in 1985 but it was only in 2012 that a batch of students from Chanchli took the entrance exam. Upon a review of their performance, it was found necessary to focus on developing their skills to take standardized tests and make it an integral part of curriculum at SVV. The teachers provide extra help to children who plan to take this entrance exam. This is to ensure that serious students have an opportunity of entering a program that will allow them to focus solely on schoolwork.
The program was started in the village community center in 2007 with the help of one teacher. As it gained popularity, with a steady attendance of about 40 children, it was decided to have our own building to house the school. The land was purchased in 2009 adjacent to the community center and the construction started soon thereafter. The building has been completed and the classes are due to start in the new school in the month September.
The new building has a dedicated room for a visiting doctor and the second floor has a one bed room suite for visitors. It is planned to have a trained teacher from New Delhi visit the school on a weekly basis and act as mentor to the teachers at SVV.
Other programs planned for the future are -
1. Sewing classes
2. Typing classes
3. Computer classes