HEADING TOWARDS UNIVERSALIZING ELEMENTARY EDUCATION IN INDIA, TRANSCENDING THE BARRIERS OF ETHNICITY, AGE AND PSYCHOSOCIAL FACTORS
Education was one of the Fundamental rights guaranteed in the Indian Constitrution sixty years back. Today inspite of the fact that the country is moving ahead by leaps and bounds in terms of development in Information and Technology, or in terns of notable contribution to medical research it has not yet reached the target of universal elementary education. The reasons are varied. The vast economic divide here which separates the rich and the poor is one of the main constraints, While the rich can afford the best and can compete with the rest of the world in terms of academic advancement a greater number of the people are deprived of this privilege for economic reasons. India is marked by the uniqueness where there are schools of international level with all the modern amenities that one can think of and yet there are schools with a single classroom and not even the basic facilities of safe drinking water and sanitation.In some of the remote areas specially in the hills students have to travel long distances by foot to access the nearest schools.While the elite schools in the urban area have teams of qualified teachers some of the schools in the villages have only one teacher and the method of teaching followed is the typical "talk and chalk"
The diversity of the Indian population in terms of language, culture and ethnicity is also an important factor to be reckoned with. It is difficult to cover all the diversities by a uniform curriculum or method. It calls for a lot more research and innovation to make learning appealing to the students hailing from a cross section of the population. If out of school children are to be brought effectively into the folds of formal education then age also becomes an important factor. This makes it necessary to form learning groups rather than following the usual grade system. Gender too remains a barrier in education. The enrollment of the girl children is poor as compared to the boys. In the villages or among tribals girls still remain the water fetchers and the baby sitters for the family and are kept away from school.
Caste distinction is one of the major psychosocial barriers in education. Inspite of a number of advantages extended by the government to the backward classes or castes, the social distinction often plays a vital role in keeping students away from the school,
But it is education that brings awareness and awareness in its turn brings progress. therefore in order to ensure healthy progress for the country and to bring order out of chaos and confusion in a fast changing socio economic scenario what India requires today above everything is to universalize elementary education. The task has been seriously taken up by the Sarva Siksha Abhijan There has been developments in infrastructural facilities , a lot of brainstorming has gone into methods of teaching But yet there are out of school children and a steady flow of drop outs. .. The priorities have to be specifically marked in making the mission a success. The focus of this paper is to analyse the barriers of age, ethnicity and psychosocial factors as they exist and to identify the methods by which such barriers may be overcome..in the light of international research and the ethos of the country. Though the paper is case specific, having taken the Indian scenario into consideration it is introspective in nature and the observations may apply to any country with a diverse linguistic, socio economic and cultural background.