Why illiteracy is not a big deal in India

The literacy rate of our country is 74 percent according to the 2011 census. Some states have had a good increase in the last decade while many others’ record has been poor. One alarming statistic says that India will have 50% of the world’s illiterates by the year 2020.

Despite the efforts of the government and various NGOs to spread literacy and bring education to the masses, one wonders why the poorer sections of the society are not interested in education per se, caste, gender and other disparities notwithstanding? And mind you, education is free for children between the ages of 6-14. Of course, many urban poor send their children to school, some of them making huge sacrifices to even send them to ‘English medium’ schools but how many are interested in seeing their children go for higher education? A basic degree today is worthless. A professional degree or at least an MBA with computer literacy is required for any entry-level white collar job. Gone are the days when a degree and an exam got you a job as a probationary officer in a bank. Most of them are interested only in white collar jobs, being ‘educated’ means to work in an office! The reason is that we don’t have dignity of labour in our country, frowning on those who honestly work with their hands.

The presswala in our society has a boy and a girl, and both go to school. But when the work load is heavy or if the father, who keeps poor health is absent, they take off to help their mother. They earn handsomely and own a two-wheeler and a ‘house’ in a slum colony. The girl is very intelligent but has little interest in studying. I have seen another presswala’s son, who, from ‘helping’ his parents has gone on to have his own press ‘station’ in an adjoining locality. As far as I know he has not completed school but drives a motorbike, owns a smartphone and wears the best clothes.

Boys like him wouldn’t be drop-outs, had compulsory schooling been enforced strictly or if the government schools were a little better. Would it be so hard to implement this if the government puts its mind to it and allocated funds to train teachers and invest in infrastructure? Many states have done it, chief of them being Kerala and the North-Eastern states.

How many of them would drop out of school?

But the most important reason for illiteracy is probably the fact that keeping the electorate largely illiterate is in the best interests of the politicians. Is there any wonder that there is little will to enforce literacy? They have a readymade vote bank which they nurture by giving sops and sometimes largesses, regularizing slum colonies and promising the earth. The poor and illiterate electorate in turn falls hook, line and sinker to these sops too. So isn’t it is beneficial to both parties if the latter remains illiterate? So why bother with formal education, spending crores of rupees? The RTE is just another sop, because unless it is implemented with iron will, it will fall flat or be partially successful at best.

One field where education scarcely matters, at least in our country,  is politics. Also, there are lakhs of people who are making a living without education, professional qualifications or even literacy. There are many professions that can be easily practised by learning hands-on on the job and and honed with experience. Plumbing, tailoring, carpentry, farming, gardening – the list is long. And if we go by affluence as a measure of success, we have any number of people who have made it big without the benefit of a college degree. For instance, I don’t see any difference between the presswala’s son above and the boys of rich parents;  what is more, he has all that they do without even a school certificate!

So does it make education and literacy redundant? Far from it. Some education or at least literacy is necessary to get through our daily lives. When one can’t read and write, it is a major handicap and can compromise on safety if they are employed in such jobs that require at least some basic qualification and formal technical training. So also with those professions involving the lives of others, like healthcare. But again,  it is easy to get past with a fake certificate and bribes because there is rampant corruption and no checks and controls.

We once had a driver – a young boy of about 20, who drove very well, did not speed or overtake dangerously. But he could never follow the road names on the road signs. He would miss the road if you asked him to turn on say, Pandara Road and end up going round India Gate. This went on for some time till one day I suddenly asked him whether he had completed school. There was no reply. After much prodding, I got the shocking reply, ‘Jee, main school nahin gaya.’ (I didn’t go to school). Then I asked him the inevitable question: Did he know to read and write? He didn’t. Needless to say, he lost his job the same day. There are others who are barely literate and are drivers. Ask the next driver you meet and you will be surprised.

It goes to show how carefully the RTO tests drivers before issuing them licences to drive (or kill

My maid’s younger daughter has completed school and is learning computers. But she is also ‘learning’ the work in a pathological lab near her slum colony. I was aghast at the information and told her that one has to be qualified to be a lab technician and it is not possible to ‘learn’ the job. Moreover, it is also illegal. ‘But I have learnt so much from the bhaiyya running the place,’ she remonstrated, making me wonder if he himself was qualified or had ‘learnt’ it from someone. It is appalling to know that many such labs operate clandestinely in the most unhygienic conditions with illiterate people and unscrupulous doctors making use of them. If any proof is needed that life is cheap in our country, it is here.

I am not aware of the laws in other countries about allowing electricians to work without formal qualifications. But in our country, the electrician who comes to attend to complaints in our houses has often learnt about electricity by sheer observation and working as the apprentice of a senior, who, in turn had learnt the work the same way. Many of them have not completed high school are even illiterate. They might be very good at their jobs, better than someone with a professional qualification. But they also botch up big time, when it needs some complicated work to be done; one electrician blew up my inverter when he plugged it in the wrong socket, because he couldn’t understand the instructions. ‘Sabhi electrical cheesain ek jaise hote hain,‘ (all electrical items are the same) he had said flippantly. But by and large they get by and earn handsomely too.

Tell me honestly, would you let your blood sample be taken by someone who has no idea about arteries and veins, but has learnt how to do it ‘on the job’? Would we trust our health to some ‘Doctor’ who was just a compounder with a real one before opening his own clinic? Would you hire a driver who can’t read road signs just because he is a good driver?

Is the government going to wake up to the problem of illiteracy any time soon? More importantly, are we condemned to be at the mercy of untrained technicians because there are no regulatory bodies to monitor these professions — even sectors like healthcare? We are facing a double-edged sword indeed.

What do you think?

 

Pic on Homepage: Swati Maheshwari

This page: http://opportunityindia.org

93 comments

  1. Atul Agarwal · · Reply

    heyy,
    i just gone through your article today itself.it was realy very catchy.
    I agree with the point u want to say. But don`t u think that if they even get a degree, will that really matter. Actually we have to improve the education system to improve the base of the society. Btw in starting u related illiteracy with politicians, that was really very interesting point to debate upon.
    Actually onreday i was going through my friend’s profile and i saw your page nd now see I am a big fan of “cybernag”

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Atul Agarwal. You are right about improving our educational system. But is that about to happen any time soon?

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  2. Very valid points raised. But then we know all the problems but not the solution. We often have ideas on what government should do. But it is often the case that the government is part of the problem that part of the solution. So if people do something on their own also, it has to be against stiff resistance from the government.

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    1. Education or for that matter, literacy is not something that NGOs can do successfully in a country as large and populous as ours, TF. And the half-hearted attempts of the government are pathetic. The cosmetic changes that are brought about are even less practical or useful.

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      1. So nothing is going to happen because as you have rightly pointed out government is not interested in doing anything. So unless Arvind Kejriwal wins or something, nothing’s going to happen. Strangely the same people who keep yapping about middle class needing to vote, are now calling Arvind Kejriwal opportunistic. If such people are not supposed to enter politics, then who are middle class supposed to go and vote for?

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  3. very visible exprssive words..

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    1. thank you Ruchi. Glad you liked it.

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  4. You are right, it is beneficial to both the parties if the population remains illiterate! A few conscientious citizens volunteer in the field of education, but they seem like a few drops in the ocean!

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  5. I believe in learning. Learning in school, learning on the job, some kind of learning has to be there. This was what was happening in the previous generations. But in the current generation there is absolutely no scope of learning on the job for young people so it becomes imperative that they go through a formal education.

    A lot of People might have different things to say, but any day it is the words of an Educated person that would be reverberated and remembered.

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    1. True, Ashwini. The words of an educated person does carry weight in all situations and in any gathering. But today the word educated itself has become a moot point. However, basic education or at least a measure of literacy is imperative in today’s world but unfortunately neither the populace nor the government seem to think so.

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  6. Because if given a choice between a full stomach and literacy, most will end up choosing the former.

    If we can implement the Right to food and healthcare, I don’t see why anyone would prefer remaining uneducated.

    Education emancipates and lets you choose the life you want to live.

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    1. The biggest word is ‘IF’. If all sensible schemes like those were implemented honestly instead of just being poll promises or populist measures, India would have been leading from the front and not lagging so far behind that no one even remembers it. And as you have pointed out, a full stomach scores over literacy any day, whether earned or got free.

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  7. Our attitude towards education, literacy or illiteracy, and professional qualification is a reflection of the complexities of Indian society.

    One of the reasons why untrained and uncertified technicians are able to ‘practice’ is economics. Are we ready to pay the high rates that is inevitable with having trained and certified technicians. I don’t think we are.

    Whether we like to admit it or not, we still remain a society where 90% of the jobs and career choices are determined by which caste or community you belong to. Electricians, drivers, automobile mechanics usually start off by getting apprenticed to an uncle or older brother or a cousin where they learn on the job. This type of learning is valued more than a formal diploma or degree. Also, why spend on it, when you can learn it for free from a family member. Besides, certifying boards are corrupt and demand a bribe for certification.

    We also don’t value learning at all; a degree is only a vehicle to a well paying job. I have managed stalls on behalf of the university where I work, and have had to field questions by aggressive parents if their child will get a job in so and so company with XYZ salary and ABC perks. The question of whether their children have the aptitude for the subject or whether they will even make the cut to join my University never occurs to them.

    There are certain professions where not having a formal degree is not a hindrance in performing well, and sometimes even excelling in it. I am an editor by profession, but do not have a degree or a diploma in either copy-editing, or proof-reading, or printing or publishing. But I have picked up all of it along the way, on the job with some costly mistakes made, big hurdles crossed and important victories as well. My formal degree in Geology can at best be today summed up a hobby and something that helps me during my travels.

    On a lighter note, I do wish there is some kind of a qualifying exam for wannabe published authors. In the absence of one, the quality of books coming out is abysmal. 😉

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    1. The jobs you have listed are not caste based — I have electricians of all castes and communities coming home to attend the complaints as also the chemist and the technicians. I do agree about paying more for a qualified person and our reluctance to pay their inflated charges. But if by hiring them, we have some guarantee of our appliances being covered, we would. Everything is a matter of getting used to — even paying for such services.

      There are jobs that can be learnt while doing it but without an aptitude for it, it is not possible. which is why such jobs suffer when we have the paper degree holders who can only take care of technicalities at best and make a mess at worst. Writing is one such thing, which is why the last line of the comment is makes so much sense 😀 But you also know from personal experience how such quality control measures are dealt with 😉

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  8. I could not imagine and I could not imagine anything scarier. I feel for you and this country and I DO hope someone wakes up. 😥

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  9. Another worrisome subject , giving more questions than answers. The ones who have to answer are lining their pockets. No clue where the country is heading.

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    1. One look at he news will tell us why: the officials and leaders are busy defending the indefensible and digging up muck about their detractors. We have paper solutions for everything, no implementation of any good scheme.

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  10. You make such valid points, Zephyr! As a matter of fact, I feel that encouraging diplomas and certified vocational courses will be much better in imparting a skill set that is useful in getting a job. Getting a graduate degree is quite hopeless in terms of getting a job. And even an MBA from a lesser-known institute is quite hopeless. Our educational system really is in a mess and is just not imparting any valuable skills.

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    1. Paper degrees impart neither practical knowledge nor wisdom. Today there are no on-the-job training in many engineering colleges, which offer the choice of either getting that or studying in the college. And there are many more that don’t offer even that choice and have no such provision for practical training. So when such graduates get out of college, they have no working knowledge. The mushrooming of teaching shops has added to the chaos further.

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  11. Just for your interest : http://www.bibb.de/en/

    Look at the wide ranging activities and vision of the german governing body for vocational education and training

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  12. Vocational education and training in Germany (and perhaps neighbouring countries like Austria) is an integral part of their education system, regulated by a single governing body for almost 600 years and was crucial in ushering in the era of german middle class. Plumbers, electricians, factory workers, construction workers etc. (believe me there are hundreds of categories in there) undergo training that combines classes and apprenticeship under a ‘master’ craftsman, the final certification is highly valued. This system is so old and sturdy here, it is responsible for the high quality of german manufacturing industry and the base of its economy.

    Even small things like screw sizes, sockets, parts to fix your door/window are standardized by this regulating body, so germans are known to carry over their entire home and kitchen fittings away with them when they move (which for younger people is quite often). These small things make your day to day life much easier while ensuring people can take pride in their skilled profession with a good income.

    I think in India, the polytechnics were supposed to provide vocational training. I know for certain that they offer electrician, construction assistants, plumbing type of courses. In what condition they are now is something I am unaware of.. but I guess failing as all other govt. enterprises. I do have one gripe though, Indian people often tend to choose the cheaper price worker over the more skilled but expensive one. The tendency of Doctors in my small town was to hire several ‘aayas’ and one trained nurse (if at all) and let them learn ‘on the job’ as you said because they would have to pay the nurse many times more.

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    1. Welcome here and thanks for the very informative comment, Vasantika. Now I can understand why German workmanship is world-class. We might never reach the standards of Germany in imparting vocational training or their method of standardising fittings and fixtures. In a sprawling country with so many states having their own methods of doing things, it would be a gargantuan task. Our ITIs are doing a good job of training people in various disciplines and are open for anyone who has completed 10th. But we need hundreds more and we need to educate people about taking the courses there to better themselves and not just ‘make do’ with their acquired knowledge. We need the National Skills commission to wake up, as Srini has pointed out in his comment.

      The scariest of all is the situation in the field of healthcare. Utter disregard for human life is appalling to see in this sector, which explains the tendency to hire attendants in place of a nurse. No wonder trained nurses fly to the Gulf.

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      1. Thank you for the warm welcome Zephyr. In my enthusiasm to comment I forgot to compliment your wonderful post. I maybe commenting now but I am an old reader of yours, actually a fan of your and Ugich’s blogs 🙂

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        1. It is a great compliment to be compared with Suranga. She is a league unto herself 🙂 Thank you for liking my blog and post. Come again!

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  13. A complicated problem for sure and the government surely does a wonderful job of complicating it further as you rightly pointed out. But I feel, WE are also to blame – The Consumer. We have got this ‘chalta hai’ attitude so much ingrained in the very system of our lives that we are happy to turn a blind eye towards things like these, even if we might be aware of them. To see the same work being done by anyone with a little discount in money is what defines the satisfaction for many of us today – not the qualification of the person doing the work or the quality of the job done.

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    1. We would do anything to save a few bucks, as Bikram has said too 🙂 You are right about not demanding the best for the money we pay. We never take someone who has spoilt our stuff, to task. The electrician who blew my inverter blamed the manufacturer! But I ended up paying for a new one 😦 There is no accountability, even in the medical profession.

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  14. Hi Zephyr, this is an interesting topic, for sure. And as always, eloquently and passionately argued.

    My thoughts –
    Literacy is about knowing how to read, write and count. Education is about developing an independent mind and knowing to how to solve problems. Training is about how to do a specific set of tasks effectively. These are three different things.

    Jobs can be divided into those which emphasize one or more of the three over others.

    Literacy is important for the fundamental reason that information is transmitted in today’s society more over printed and digital matter than word of mouth. Hence illiterate people who can’t read newspapers often miss out on important information that helps make them better decisions (like who to vote for, for example). This is a far bigger down side of illiteracy than (say) not knowing how to read electrical manuals or socket signs.

    Education allows those who have it, to aspire to a better standard of life. Enough said.

    In India, we’ve managed to convert education into training programs. Degrees have become useful to find jobs which are rote by nature and don’t emphasize problem solving and creativity.

    Having said all this, I agree that literacy is important for the population for more reasons than one. However, *affordable and ubiquitous availability* of training is possibly more important than literacy for ‘vocational’ disciplines such as lab technicians, welders and electricians. Though the national skills commission has been talking about this for a while, there has not been tangible movement towards delivering this. Instead of NREGA (guaranteed employment), there should have first been a national skills training program – free to all citizens. Instead, we’re giving them jobs and asking them to learn on them.

    Cheers.

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    1. Trust an expert to come up with such precise definitions of the terms I have tried unsuccessfully to illustrate 🙂 Thank you. I had sort of planned on this — filling gaps in the post with comments from my knowledgeable readers 😉

      I had not heard of the National skills commission, what with so many other commissions probing so many scams and stuff. What you say makes perfect sense — impart skill training and make it free to everyone. I guess they should also reduce the required educational qualification to the minimum, which would make it attractive to the poor, who want to begin earning at the earliest. True too that degrees don’t guarantee knowledge and sometimes not even education.

      Where does one begin then? no one seems to be interested in implementing anything that will improve the situation in any way 😦

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  15. You have dwelt upon very vital issues and needs to be addressed. But our leaders, young or old lack that vision and will to do. They are more interested in Politics rather than betterment of society specially the poor.They are still debating whether there are more number of temples or toilets in our country!!

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    1. It is so scary to see that no politician or government is interested in the common man and his concerns. Literacy is the least of them for the politicians because they get their votes and come to power. Vision? It is more like myopia — as far as the next election 🙂

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  16. I feel it’s at least better than not having them do anything. We have so many of those who have a degree but not a job that justifies the degree. The education system is faulty, we all know that. But India also suffers from the problem of looking down upon certain professions. Being a driver or a plumber is considered to be ‘below average status’ while that may not be the case elsewhere. There is lack of respect for work. Hence, acquiring a formal education for a profession which is not respected by the society may not make any sense. It would more be like “educated and yet a plumber’. That’s the mindset. So the problem is not just the education system or implementation of the right to education.

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    1. My question, Swati, is that when there are so many professions open for people to earn their living, where would they find the motivation to get an education, or even become literate? And when there is no control or regulations to monitor some of the sectors like healthcare, and we have untrained and uneducated workers playing with lives, who is paying for the lapses of the government that is happy to keep its votebank of illiterate voters? I fully agree about dignity of labour. That deserves another post 🙂

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  17. As per rule, they should finish at least 10th Std. to get a licence. But as you have quoted, we see many illiterate drivers on the road. Reason: Corruption in getting license.

    Our doctor once said that he relies on mechanised labs, for the reason you have written here!

    Our AC mechanic comes home once in three months. Sometimes he sends his boy to do the job. Once when I asked him about his schooling, he said, ‘8th std.’. I can’t send him back because then I have to wait for the mechanic to turn up, don’t know when! And he is a good mechanic.

    Experience counts a lot in manual work, I have noticed. Our gardener is an all-rounder. He does plumbing work, electrical work and what not. He has studied upto 6th std.

    Manual work is somewhat OK for illiterate people, but not jobs like lab tests! I can’t imagine going to them!

    Even my maid knows that just a B.A. is not enough. She is planning to send her sons to ITI after 10th. That much awareness has come to urban working class.

    My maid had built a hut in her small piece of land the Govt. had given her. Her husband gave the land papers to the area leader because he said that he would get the power connection for them and he needed the papers to show to the authorities who give the power! This man gave the papers to him. After a month or so, the papers were returned but no power was given. He had some problem it seems. Both husband and wife are illiterates. Now, after a few months somebody else offered help for the same power connection and took the papers. They were fake papers. Now, this woman is not able to do anything. She regrets for not going to school! Her husband is a carpenter without education!

    The education scenario is improving now. If our CM Jayalalitha makes up her mind, she can improve the situation. She was strict while implementing rain water harvesting. Everybody followed her order because they knew that they would face problem if they didn’t comply with her order! Only a sort of dictatorship works her in these matters.

    Huh, enjoyed reading your post and in return wrote a comment post, Zephyr!

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    1. And I enjoyed the comment post, Sandhya! You have added so much insight to the post, thank you so much 🙂 The story of your maid’s land papers was shocking! Just imagine, if only they had been a little literate or known what to look for in the papers, they might have spotted it being a fake. And you are right about manual labourers being very good. The boy who serviced your AC is fine, as long as he didn’t have to repair something. Models of appliances are constantly being upgraded and unless he has the fundamental knowledge of the thing, he wouldn’t be able to do a good job. Awareness about a lot of things is much more in TN compared to many other states and as you have rightly pointed out, the urban poor are waking up to the need for educating their children. ITIs not only train them, but also give stipend to SC/ST students. And yes, we need someone to stand over us with a gun to make us comply with rules that we should be following anyway 🙂 I remember those times when people bought water for their tanks in Chennai and today the scene is happier thanks to the draconian law of water harvesting.

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  18. we have an electrician who has ‘learnt on the job’ too… and in fact, i cant see a single one we have had over the years who had actually done a course… the same goes for plumbers, carpenters, civil contractors…. the list can go on and on and on…. to give u an idea, my father in law is a civil engineer,.. and an expert on water proofing.. so when our building was being repaired, the bldg ppl asked him to oversee the work of water proofing…. he did, and today, the contractor calls himself a water proofing expert!! thats how things work, and i guess most of us are used to it. the trouble begins when something goes wrong, because that is when it is painfully evident that these chaps are woefully inadequate, but with our usual ‘chalta hai’ attitude, the situation simply continues..

    why does this happen? No idea! is it because it is expensive to take courses? not really…. there are plenty of inexpensive ones, and they dont take too much time either.. there are part time courses… lots of them, and they are all filled.. so what happens to all those passing out from such courses? they want white collar jobs. dont want to be electricians plumbers/ carpenters…..
    its not a situation many of us can be happy with, but i cant really see it changing in the near future….

    .interestingly. about the medical field, remember a time when the compounder acted as a doctor when the doctor wasnt around? i was shocked to see that just recently… that too in chennai! in these days!! some years back, i remember when my aunt was admitted to a maternity hospital, the doctor who ran the clinic had a son who helped her out.. he was practically her second in command… it was only much much later that we came to know that the chap had just entered medical school!!!! we were absolutely shocked and when we confronted the doctor and asked her how she could let let her unqualified son let loose on patients, she replied, “I am training him. besides, i am always there to make sure everything is ok, so what is your problem?” we can only thank god that we didnt have any problems then…

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    1. Talking of contractors, there was this fellow who used acid to wash the tiles after our house was constructed. The only problem was that it ran over the dark green marble staircase and ruined it! He apparently didn’t know that acid can spoil marble! Like you say, only when something goes wrong do we realise our fate. You said it, those who take the vocational courses all want white collar jobs and so don’t use their diplomas in the field. This is also the reason why the poor don’t send their children to school or college and see a better future for them doing some job or running their own small business.

      The ‘apprentice’ doctor sounds scary and it was really lucky that you didn’t have any problem! If one goes to government hospitals we have problems of other kinds and if we go to private ones, we have to deal with such doctors. And they send us to path labs where an eighth standard pass girl takes our blood sample *shudder shudder*

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  19. Very true Mami, I mean when i took my drivers license here I had three exams, a written exam , then a simulation of driving risk something and the final was Practical test where a examiner sat with me .. you have to pass all three to get the license ..
    where as In india I was still in in my 10th calls and I had a heavy good carrier license from guwahati , I use to live in punjab..

    I know its easy to say now of chalta hai.. but if things go wrong for whatever reason there can be huge repercussions …

    As you mention the electricians too. But I guess experience counts a lot too, although education is very important but like here in UK, things have gone wrong the other way , to get a electric plug changed , a authorized electrician is needed who will charge minimum of 30 to 40 pounds call charge and then for the time he spends ..

    now that it atrocious too, but u cant get away because the law says so and if they find out the insurance goes void..

    So it depends on how experienced the person is , personally I dont believe in Degrees , they are just a piece of paper, anyone can get them .. but the work experience and the knowledge one has or get on the job can-not be bought or given ..

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    1. I agree about experience being more important than a degree, but while dealing with dangerous things or lives, one needs to have some control. I personally prefer calling certified ones for important electrical work, and the unlicenced ones to change a plug socket or the tube light fitting. The driving licence thing is a joke in India. I remember giving a test with my driving school instructor in the back seat when I was asked to go forward for 20 m, then reverse and stop. No written test at all. Even where they do take it, it is so silly. I remember my children exulting that they had got the licence in the first attempt in UK. And he has been driving since he was 18! He told me the same thing you have. apparently it is harder for the London Taxi drivers to get a licence?

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  20. Zephyr

    Literacy is definitely important atleast for safe survival without getting cheated etc. But as a few others mentioned education and literacy are two different things. I have seen people in the likes of lawyers and doctors on whom education has not had any impact with respect to moral values. But as you pointed out this post is on a slightly different plane.

    For some vocations like the technicians in a medical lab or drivers definitely some basic training is needed. But for things like plumbing and to an extent the basic electrical circuits of a house, I think being an apprentice to someone would give a person more practical knowledge than any certificate from an institute. Again, no courses come free in our country. People take up such jobs and are illiterate due to the basic fact that they cannot afford their own education. Moreover if we start mandating technical certifications for every such job, many would go jobless. But as I said earlier, when its a technician in a lab or a driver definitely formal training is a must.

    As others said, education is free but not enforced and look at the plight of the govt. run schools in some areas!! God help us!

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    1. I wish I had made two posts out of this instead of one 🙂 The illiteracy part flows into unqualified and untrained people who deal with important jobs including healthcare. Agreed that neither education nor efficiency are limited to degrees, but there needs to be some regulation that determines whether someone can be trusted with such jobs. A para-medic needs to be trained and literate. While midwives are more experienced with deliveries that even a fully qualified gynecologist due to her experience, when it comes to emergencies, a doctor is called. Similarly while a factory worker might know all about a particular machine, a good engineer knows the workings of the whole process. That is the difference and that is the reason why he is getting paid more.

      I have not asked that all professions be regulated by laws. Certainly not ones like carpentry, tailoring, masonry and the like. But certainly dangerous ones and those that play with lives. Are you aware that pharmacists act ‘doctors?’ Even that is not so bad. But the pharmacist might just be shop boy. Since licences are given only to qualified pharmacists, the licene is taken in someone’s name and the medical shop is run by a layman who ‘learns’ on the job and soon begins dispensing medicines to ignorant and illiterate ‘patients.’ I know of those who even give injections!

      Only a government that is committed and serious about literacy will take an interest in higher studies and technical education. And of course regulating these.

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  21. “Saare jahaan se achhaa hindostaan hamaraa”

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    1. How one wishes Iqbal’s words were true!

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  22. A “food for thought and plenty of discussions” kind of topic. I see problems in whatever solution I think of. When I was in Mumbai we had one technical institute – Agnel Polytechnic affiliated to the Maharashtra State Board of Technical Education . We definitely need more. (I’m not sure but I think Tatas have a few all over the country) Government apathy and poverty play such major roles. What if qualified technicians explained the pitfalls (in graphic and believable detail) of employing someone unqualified? What if they advertised their qualifications, customer satisfaction and most important, charged a reasonable fee? Unfortunately, even non-qualified technicians do all of the above. So, back to the old drawing board.

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    1. Thank you Kayem. There are many ITIs that not only offer diplomas in many fields but also offer stipends for backward classes. But the takers are not from the lower strata of society for whom they are intended. We need schools and institutes, but also good teachers and aids for the teachers for these to be effective. Else, as Umashankar pointed out, they will churn out substandard graduates or pack up in no time. You are right, people, even those like us, should be made aware of hiring untrained people for critical areas. For instance, after the inverter fiasco, I refuse to let the local electrician to touch my appliances and call the authorised service centre even if it means waiting for a couple of days for the complaint to be attended.

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  23. I think Illiteracy has many other reasons as well – Poverty is one. The parents would rather their kids work with them and earn some money than go to school. My aunt once taught in a rural school where attendance would drop drastically when it was time to cut the crops!
    They don’t understand the concept that if the kids go to school they would be able to earn much more after the education. It’s the money the kids bring right now that matters! Enforcing compulsory education and being very stringent with giving good meals and providing books etc to poor students would help a lot! But more than food and books, what we need the most is dedicated teachers in government schools – and sadly this is where we lack the most !

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    1. I agree that poverty is one reason, but those who are self employed, like maid servants and presswalas, earn well and the only reason they allow their children to drop out is because it is more lucrative for them to get trained and begin working. Many of them have just two or three children and so it is not about feeding so many mouths either. It is just a lack of awareness about the benefits of being educated and the paucity of jobs once they complete their education that makes them hesitant. Like you say, mid-day meals and good teachers will go a long way in improving matters. But with so many other issues the government is grappling with — not least being corruption charges — where is the time and the will to do something as unimportant as improving literacy rates?

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  24. You’ve summed up the situation in our country very nicely, Zephyr!

    Some level of education is a must, even if it is not directly essential for the job a person is doing. Even if an electrician may be able to repair an appliance, it would be dangerous if he does not realize the consequences of leaving a live wire exposed [or something similarly dangerous].

    Vocational education must be more freely available, I think. As you have mentioned, conventional degrees are no guarantee of employment.

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    1. One of the things that can be done to promote employment and also improve the quality of technicians is to set up more ITIs and other training. But caution needs to be exercised in controlling the quality of education being imparted there. Else, like the hundreds of engineering and medical colleges that have closed down due to poor quality, these would too. But first and foremost is the need to increase the literacy rate, for which at least school education should be made compulsory.

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  25. I think the resources in our country has never been put to proper use. More vocational courses and more instigation for literacy is required but none of this happens becasue honestly no one bothers. We don’t stop the electricians from doing job at our home because they have just learned from observing.

    And the government, whichever it is, does nothing to change the situation.

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    1. As far as electricians are concerned, they can be trusted with simple things. When it comes to appliances and heavy duty things, I prefer calling the authorised service centres, even if they charge me more because they take the responsibility for the work. Vocational courses are not promoted, which will definitely improve the service sector.

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  26. excellent thoughts Zephyr!…yes isee many drivers who dont know even traffic rules, thats why you will see that when Ambulance honks behind, nobody sifts to left.

    Same for pathoiogical labs, I have seen many reputed doctors clinic where these so called learners are doing it and we have to surrender to them, how many times we can ask them if they are qualified..

    and there are many learned on site and thru experience doctors who are flourishing here…

    its all due to ethics, greediness of people to earn more(those who employ such people are more to be blamed)….and poverty.

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    1. The reason why no one gives way to an ambulance is more because of indifference, Ranu. But it is true that most drivers don’t know traffic rules. Most of the time the labs and hospitals take advantage of the fact that the patients trust the doctor and so employ unqualified people with impunity. Illiteracy is being ignored by the people because the politicians can’t disband a huge votebank which they can nurture with sops.

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  27. We desperately need good vocational colleges to capitalize our vast human potential. It is in the politicians interest if people remain illiterate. The literate ones ask too many uncomfortable questions on television. Hence no serious efforts are being made by the government to educate the rural masses.
    Today anyone who can connect two wires is an electrician but when it comes to path labs it is scary.

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    1. Literate people are becoming the bane of the politicians on television and on the streets, but the politicians are too thick skinned to bother about it. Not just path labs, Alka, as Suranga has said, they even begin to act the doctors because they wear an op theatre mask.

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  28. I have lived in India where children are not educated due to financial, societal constraints and I now live in the US where higher education is not considered important/ is too expensive for parents to foot the bill so kids don’t go to college. There is no dearth of vocational education in the US and yes, you would get a licensed electrician/plumber to get a job done but when he charges $100/hr ($10 for parts + $90 for labor) it will be very tempting to get an unlicensed man in and get the job done at $40/hr.

    Licensed workers are in demand here to get the seal of approval on a job but for the most part it is the unlicensed, learned on the job guy/gal that does the actual work. So I am not sure if there is a valid reason for people to get higher education. Also, when I see doctors – specialists even, botch things up due to carelessness, I wonder how different is he/she from the compounder that doesn’t have the degree?

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    1. Exactly my point Meera. When in a country like US, the unlicenced are preferred over the licenced, what can we expect here. Seal of approval — well that is something only someone who has a professional credential can give. It comes with a guarantee doesn’t it? I am still remembering my inverter 😦

      Education is costly in India too, but our family structure and thinking make parents foot the bill for it. I have also heard about the abysmal standards of education in state schools in that country and how nearly illiterate they are despite the school certificate.

      And hey, doctors botching up is negligence not ignorance (I hope), but at least I wouldn’t subject my body to the ministrations of a compounder or ‘doc’ as revealed by Suranga in her comment. 🙂

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  29. Ah! this is definitely food for thought..I think there is a big difference in being literate and being educated…I dont think the illiterate are uneducated…life is a continuous education for them….its a very interesting thought, honestly, about what is the difference between the presswala’s child who has made it on his own while the rich people’s son is still dependent on his parent? I am pretty confused..

    But personally, I believe everyone…dpesite of sex, age, caste, creed, should be able to read..read at least one language…and I dont have a reason for that…I just believe in it!

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    1. I am sorry, I have made a mess of this one, R’s Mom! I think there should be another one to expand on some of the points. Let’s see….The analogy of the presswala’s son vis-a-vis a rich brat was to illustrate our view of success which is measured by the affluence and its trappings. By that standard, both are equal aren’t they? So where is the motivation for the presswala’s son to study or acquire some professional qualification? I do agree that one should not measure a person’s capability by the degree or lack of it, but not all professions can be practises only with experience and no indepth knowledge, can they?

      If everyone believed that literacy is the most important thing like you do, our country would be topping in not only the literacy rate but in other fields too. 🙂 Sill confused? 😀

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  30. Radha ( C.M) · · Reply

    Zephyr you have stirred the hornet nest. Many posers but no solutions available immediately. There can be no second opinion that literacy should be made compulsory. But with such a populace how are you going to do. Per se the govt. policies are not bad but lacks will at the implementation stage.Having said this I am not justifying what is going on today. Your point about uneducated (experienced) electrician & driver and plumber taken in real perspective will be a direct call to our mindsets and attitude. How many of us have the patience & grit to stand up and ask few questions. Having said this your post has really touched basic problems. No solutions are available on the counter. But to be honest a beginning has to be made by each and every citizen of this country. Mammoth task!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. The hornet’s nest should be dismantled and thrown away, Radha. When we look at the country as a whole the numbers and size are mindboggling. But when we break them into small blocks, it looks easy. How about just tightening the schools and making teachers accountable for starters? Instead we have such far-fetched schemes like RTE which would only be counterproductive in the metros with their flashy schools and fancy facilities. I don’t have anything against unqualified technicians who can fix things or make things. But not in critical professions like healthcare and safety areas. As a citizen, I have made a beginning. We are trying to make my maid’s drop-out daughter complete her 10th Boards through open school. We are coaching her too. A small drop, but a drop, nevertheless. 🙂

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  31. I am so glad you wrote this .

    You know, besides being a society which gives no respect to the profession of teaching (if you teach, it is assumed you were unable to get a job in industry), I sometimes suspect, that there is a “jugaad” string in our DNA.

    In an institutional hospital , with trained doctors in various specialities, including an excellent gynaec, there are several folks who “assist”/push the trolleys, transport patients ,, in the OT, they often walk outside with their green masks (mandatory for anyone inside), so many folks call them doctor, and they too do nothing to correct them. I found this out when one of my gynaec friends was aghast to hear a patient say that some doc had told them something, and my doctor friend couldnt place any doc with that name. She of course, rectified the whole situation and guided the patient appropriately, but just think of a situation, where the patient simply keeps on listening to someone who looks like a doc.

    The powers that be, agonize over entrance tests for higher education , and have no money to repair the bathrooms in the rural schools. My late mother’s friend, a widow, spent her entire life as a teacher in rural government schools, getting transferred to the remotest areas and still dedicating herself as best as she could, and when she retired, they held up her pension for several years on a very flimsy pretext , because by then bribes were in style, and she wasnt.

    Today, education is a profitable industry, degrees are like “formal” outfits , very expensive , visually impressive, but hollow inside in most cases; everyone strives for a quick buck, and thats what we see around us….

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    1. That sounds like a horror story, Suranga! For all we know, those same ‘docs’might be holding consultation in their homes and dispensing advice to the gullible patients.

      Blessed are the schools that have toilets, working or otherwise 😦 How many schools have none to speak of! There was this school behind our colony in one of the DDA colonies where the back of the school was used as a urinal by boys. Wonder what the girls did. It was a primary school and so the girls must have been spared the horror of no toilets during their periods. The back balcony couldn’t be opened for the stench from the school. And it was a private school. Buildings and other infrastructure are nearly absent in government schools of course. The case of your friend is typical. There is no place for sincerity today. As for dubbing teachers as being not good for other jobs, it shows the respect they get. Little wonder that the profession attracts so few committed people like your friend and more money minded tuition machines.

      Talking of good buildings that are hollow from the inside, you should see the school buildings in Delhi. Five star facilities, AC buses, cafeterias with cola fountains and little to show by way of teaching or even teachers. And it is these schools our HRD Minister wants slum children to get into — so that they might experience all these, not learn anything.

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  32. THe answer to the riddles as posed by you lies in that innocous but powerful statement, that it suits our politicians to keep the masses illetrate and hence only the lip service is given!

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    1. The populace is like a sleeping giant Rahul. The day they wake up to the fact that they are only being used by the politicians they will rise. But greed and laziness are their undoing and so they thrive on the largesses of the government and find short cuts to success and affluence.

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  33. The main culprit here is population explosion married with apathy of the government towards the problem. It is not as if our nation does not have the means and the money to make things better but somehow life is very cheap in our country. As long as the problem does not affect you, it is not a problem – that is the mantra on which a lot of nations are built and ours unfortunately is one of them.

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    1. But Amit, other nations have something that they can boast about — we don’t seem to have anything except our past and patches of brilliance in the IT industry maybe. Apathy and arrogance are both our undoing and we are paying the price for it, though we seem to be unaware of it yet. But for how long?

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  34. Your piece seems to be a mix Zephyr! There are issues with people incompetent to handle the job that they are doing sans the degree and there are people who are competent at their job and the only problem is that they do so sans a degree. So, we are actually talking about putting in place systems that ensure that the former does not happen (the incompetence and, the degree only if it will obviate the incompetence) and that the latter lot have a way to get a degree (not that it improves their competence but that it may improve their employability)

    As for literacy, I too am considered illiterate. When I fail to read the board of a bus in B’lore and have to ask someone to know where it is headed, that chap turns to me and asks “Can’t you read?”. And, yes, I cannot read Kannada —- yet! 🙂

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    1. Loved the way you have used the word ‘mixed’ instead of muddled 😀 I realised that I had taken on too many issues in one post and it shows. Moreover, a grandma writing on such a topic is bound to be so, isn’t it? 🙂 You have succinctly summed up all that I haven’t. I am loving the way you do on my posts 🙂

      But I don’t agree with the illiteracy with regard to being unable to read signboards in a language we don’t know. You have touched upon another sensitive topic — language chauvinism and I promise to muddle on that one too sometime soon 😀

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  35. I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Keeping them illiterate is solving their purpose and giving them the results as well. Sigh:(

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    1. If by some miracle these people can be educated about the benefits of literacy over ‘success’ then something is possible. But like crabs, we pull down anyone who wants to climb out of the pit.

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  36. I am not sure if it is in anyone’s interest for the population to be illiterate; illiteracy leads to many problems including population growth, poor hygiene etc that puts a strain on the government’s/public resources. So, it will be to the benefit of everyone in the long run if illiteracy is not so rampant. Oh well, only a government that is not as myopic as the current one will think along those lines, right?

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    1. You are right, no one is seriously interested in spreading literacy, not the leaders not the people for whom being illiterate and uneducated gets more benefits. If overpopulation were the cause of rampant illiteracy, what about China, whose rate is 95%? It is sheer neglect and indifference that are the causes why we are so backward and mired in corruption as we are.

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  37. Thoda long article.Most electricians,plumbers and carpenters have only hands on experience and no formal training.But why strain at a gnat, when you can swallow a camel.
    There are many fake doctors with fake degrees treating people and prescribing medicines until they are found out.
    In india the key to growth lies only in education of the poor kids with a slant on vocational training.If a skill is known, they are never without job and can migrate to other cities.A tailor,electrician and plumber will be in demand and never go hungry.. Given such an vocational training mosr poor people would emerge out of poverty in in ten years.This dole of 100 rupees to the unemployed,encourages indolence and corruption.Let education for their children be made compulsory for a few hours a day.

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    1. You said it KP. Make it compulsory for children to attend school and make it compulsory for teachers in those schools to actually teach children. When you can read and write, there is a whole lot of empowerment and when you get a good education, you can feel even more confident. As you rightly say, we need vocational training centres. I remember schools having a vocational training centre, where one could get such training after studying up to 8th standard. I wonder what happened to such schools. When a self-taught welder gets an ITI diploma, he can get work in a good workshop or factory. Unfortunately everyone wants to swallow a camel 😀

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  38. What timing, I myself had been struggling to come up with something on the matter, though in a slightly different light! And the day I finally decided to finish up on my post, you come up with yours! 😀 😀
    As a professor of mine rightly states, “The basic difference between a mechanic and an engineer is just that the engineer knows of the reason, and works in a more orderly fashion”
    Visit any factory you wish, most of the work is done by these “illiterate” men only. Engineers are paid to work as supervisors only. The head technician might be from some third-grade college, but most of them don’t have any degrees to boast of!
    About the scenario, the likes of education, poverty, infrastructure, health, etc. are all inter-linked and a look at the current scenarios will reveal that there’s much to be done. As long as the rural sectors don’t get the attention they deserve, the education scenario won’t gather much of an upliftment!

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    1. I read your post, but didn’t leave a comment. I will do it presently. Great minds and all that…eh? 😀

      When I discussed this post with the L&M, that was exactly what he said — about a mechanic and an engineer. I agree that skilled and unskilled workers do all the work, but they can’t solve a problem unless it can be solved by common sense, no matter how experienced, right? while an electrician who has learnt on the job can do simple repairs and wiring, it does require someone trained to do the complicated ones. Machinery is getting more and more complicated and need informed personnel to handle them. My nephew who wanted to join merchant navy as a cadet was persuaded by his father to do his engineering and then join the ship. He hated the studies but many years later confided in me about how he actually put to use what he had learnt at college and how it saved him from many ticklish problems all because he had learnt the principles. And in a ship, the engineers work along with the unskilled mechanic in the engine room 😀

      The problem of literacy in our country is not just as simple as might be in other countries, but that doesn’t mean that we ignore it, do we? We need leaders with vision and idealism, not just entrpreneurs who masquerade as leaders, if there is going to be any change. Else this big chunk will grow bigger and give larger margins of victory for our politicians and we will see other countries overtake us in this field. China is already heading the list at 95+% to India’s pathetic 74% in literacy.

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      1. We can’t! Education is as important as say, removal of corruption. The fact is much of rural India is yet to come to terms with the larger national picture of things! Most of the problems circle around land acquisitions, trespassing, theft, etc. and the gram panchayat, the MLAs, the ministers are happy encouraging such issues as long as people stay indulged in the said acts. Those manage to get away, stay away.
        The reason I mentioned this, is because being ignorant allows them to also be ignorant of their rights, their ability to question governance, etc. they are just happy to fiddle along!
        As long as they remain satisfied, why would they think of educating their pupil? And that is where the problem lies. Most of the young ones are sent to primary, or in some cases allowed to study till middle classes, but what after that? What about higher education!?
        The general thought is this: ‘Agar ghum-fir ke kheti hi karni hai toh padhane me paisa kyu barbaad karein?’ (If they are to work in the fields after all, then why bother educating them?)
        And yes, the 74% lit-rate is highly over-rated and somewhat overstated too, I guess!

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        1. I would say that even a middle school education is better than being unlettered. With it you can manage at least to some extent. Like checking the ticket you have bought, or reading the instructions on a bottle of medicine. We need to educate people on the need for literacy and schooling. Higher studies might not figure in their list of priorities because a mere degree is useless today and even campus placements are only for the good colleges. The rest only supply sweat shops. When we can’t provide good schools with proper infrastructure a stone’s throw away from our seat of power, how can we even think of doing that in rural areas? I have heard of teachers going to the fields to round up their wards 😀 Who can blame the kids or their parents with an apology for a building as theis school, which they sometimes share with the cattle?

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          1. That well, just sums up the governance we’ve been blessed with!
            Proper infrastructure is a must! We can’t have kids milking cows, just because they happen to share the study space with them!
            There are norms in place, funds; but no one to really make sure all is implemented properly, in effect.

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          2. Implementing? There are so many holes in that chain that nothing percolates to the actual beneficiaries for whom it is intended. So even if funds are sanctioned for buildings and other facilities in rural school and even urban government schools, they vanish by the time they reach the last step.

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          3. Oh let me assure you with any fund issued by any government any place in the country, that’s the case! 😀

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  39. Yes and No. Illiteracy is not a big deal in India. Your post itself has given all the answers to the question. You have cited so many live examples of people who are illiterate and yet are doing a good job. Then what’s the point in holding degrees? Not all people who have degrees get good jobs. But I believe, minimal education is must. They should be able to at least read and write. In India, people doing most of the electrician/mechanical jobs are school dropouts. In my mom’s apartment, the watchman’s daughter studies well and his family wants to get her married. His wife works as a maid servant. If the girl studies, she may not get an office job, but at least could work in some stores instead of being another maid servant like her mom. That is how I look at it. The mom is keen on sending her to college. I brainwashed her as much as I can on my last trip… 🙂
    Here, I don’t know about electricians but there are plenty of people who are not even high school graduates and are successfully running their own businesses. One day at work, we were discussing how much % of marks each of us got in college. Almost all of us were Indians/Asians. I asked our manager who happened to stop by as how much % he got. And you know what he said, “I never went to college. After high school, I went into the Army”. We were all surprised. Because he was technically so strong and knows his work so well. It is a learning experience when we work with him.
    Where as for professions like nurses and all, there is a lot to study and degrees are must 🙂 Now, I wonder is literacy a big deal everywhere? 🙂

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    1. How right you are about education not getting one a white collar job but something more dignified than a maid’s! Unfortunately, the poor want only such jobs and so are disheartened and discouraged from even getting a school certificate. My maid’s daughter who helps cook in our house is a school drop out and we are trying to get her do her 10th board through open school. But she is so disinterested because she is earning well — nearly 10,000 a month. So she doesn’t see how a certificate can help her in life.

      Schooling in the US is the butt of many jokes and how basic it is compared to say, India or China. but still there it is compulsory, isn’t it? The facilities in comparison to private schools might be basic, but they still have proper buildings and labs, even playgrounds and gyms. What do our government schools boast of? Especially in the rural areas? When one knows to read and write, it does empower them but our government is happy if they are just angootha-chaap, capable of pressing the button on the EVM 😦

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      1. I don’t know how compulsory it is, but after high school, 50% do not go to college as college education is super duper expensive here. No, the facilities in public schools are nothing less compared to private schools. I don’t know how it is in other states, but here they have A.C class rooms, nice benches, projectors, some have computers, they are wonderful. Ya, we cannot compare it to our govt schools for sure.

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        1. I have made two points — literacy and some formal training. College education is getting too expensive even in India and many have started taking educational loans to pay for their studies. I didn’t know about the public schools having all the facilities that private schools do. No, there is no comparison. Many years ago the KVs were supposed to be as good as the best private school in India, but today even that is not true 😦

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  40. I don’t know really. am so confused. Here we see, semi skilled people becoming millionaires and professionals slogging it out. But then you may say, it is not about money.
    A person who used to deliver ‘chai’ cups now owns a chain of clinics all over the Gulf. Though the polyclinics work well, the Doctors talk of mismanagement and how they are treated shabbily. My husband tells how this person treats his employees and how he receives the MRs and I am aghast. Such a dilemma really!!

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    1. you are right, Bhagya. It is not about money at all nor is it about paper degrees. But allowing unqualified people to deal with healthcare and driving — both of which involve lives, all because we have no controls, is scary, isn’t it? Skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers are all most essential for any industry, except the knowledge industry and even here we have untrained ones that are turning out half baked graduates. But basic literacy is a must and there must be some commitment from the government to promote it. Most campaigns die an abrupt/slow/painful death eventually.

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  41. inducares · · Reply

    The govt owns vast tracts of lands & there are scores of trained teachers wanting jobs.IF it wanted,it could construct spacious schools with play grounds ;but have you ever seen a Govt school in good condition?Instead of bringing these schools up to the standards of private schools( i know not all private schools are ideal institutions-far from it ),it wants the unprivileged kids to be admitted in fancy schools.Did it ever consider what effect this glaring disparity between the two classes of children will have on the psychology of the less privileged?But it adopts devious ways to shirk it’s responsibility
    .
    About the untrained technicians——once one such’physiotherapist’ rotated my mother’s arm so clumsily that she fainted,& when i asked for his degree he was very aggrieved.

    You know Zephyr here in our country we keep afloat only through God’s grace!

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    1. Indeed Indu! we are all living Ram bharose 😀 The government has so many things to keep it engaged — look at the news and you will know how many fronts they are fire-fighting on! There is utter contempt for the condition of the poor which makes them look at them only as a vote bank to be cashed at the time of the next election. I share your sentiments about RTE too Indu, exactly to the word. Who cares, as long as they have made a gesture? And we don’t have leaders from the grassroots anymore, so none of them can understand how a poor family lives and what they need. They have all the resources to supply mobile phones to the BPL, but no resource to make them literate.

      A compounder had carelessly damaged a nerve in my father’s hand, which made it hard for him to hold anything. Of course today there is no guarantee that a doctor might not make a fatal mistake either, as Meera has pointed out.

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  42. It is almost scary how little education has begun to matter and how much it has started to cost. Education is not just about degrees and knowing how to write. Education brings much discipline, free thought and a more civil society. At least people have started realizing the importance of being literate which I think is a step in itself. Unfortunately, they think that is all that is required since degrees may not help them to feed their families like vocational trainings might. If a person is educated, he expects a white collared job and it is unfortunate that we still don’t count the services of plumbers, electricians etc. just as valuable and requiring a formal education.

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    1. I have not mentioned education as much as literacy. For most degrees today make us just a little more literate than the one who can barely read and write. But there are jobs that need some qualification — in healthcare and precision industries, right? Also as machines and appliances get more and more complicated, it is not possible for unqualified workmen to repair them. I have also decried the obsession with paper degrees and the lack of dignity in labour in our country. The problem was, once I began writing, I realised that it would become too long and tried to condense everything into one post. No matter, because my readers are contributing and filling the gaps 😀

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  43. Education is one of the biggest business in India today. You have a lot of money and you want to multiply it? Open an engineering college! Almost all the engineers churned out by such institutions have zero working/practical knowledge about their respective fields. They too learn (almost everything) after they start working on the job.

    I do not see any difference between an illiterate learning on the job and these so called engineers learning on the job. The people whom you term illiterates might actually be better at their jobs, if you closely notice both of them working!

    It’s my personal opinion that degrees in India are only fit as qualification criterion. Otherwise, eighth standard education is more than enough to do most of the jobs today. Including those shiny jobs in large IT parks. Especially them.

    Destination Infinity

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    1. This post doesn’t focus on shiny jobs in IT parks but on critical sectors where some formal training and literacy — I am not saying education — is a must. I have not contested that training is better than formal paper education, either. This is about basic education, and higher education if so desired by the people. I wouldn’t want some boy plunging the syringe into my arm just because some ‘bahiyya’ in a path lab has given him ‘training,’ and I sure you wouldn’t either. 🙂 But they are able to get away because we believe in jugad and there are no controls or checks on these things. As for the eighth standard, I trust you are referring to your grandparents’ and parents’ time 🙂

      Like

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