A January 17, 2008 New York Times article (link below) largely discusses and criticizes the Indian government’s response to the growing gap in education between the have’s and the have-not’s but the author also notes that attitudes towards education are shifting, as the country shifts from an agrarian-based to industrial and skilled-labor based economy. “’Education is a long-term investment,’ said Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and the government’s top policy czar.”
This fundamental change in perception is important to Asha’s success as a catalyst for socioeconomic progress. For example:
-More children are in school in India than ever before
-The demand for labor to create “new roads, phones and televisions,” the desires of an industrializing economy, further fuels a new expectation of schools to achieve these goals
-There is evidence to support the contention that the children of a literate woman will perform better at school
-College-educated individuals receive better pay raises than illiterate individuals
-Public spending on education is about 4% of GDP
-Educational spending includes free lunches
The irony is that as India develops so quickly and offers new opportunities to the growing middle and upper classes, the poor are at an even greater risk of being left behind. They cannot afford to forgo a day’s worth of labor or income in order to send their children to school even if, in the long run, an education will help them to earn a better living. This is why the changing economy coupled with a changed attitude towards education is so important–it facilitates a need for new initiatives. India doesn’t just want an educated citizenry, she needs an educated citizenry for the welfare of the nation.
And while the government is taking various steps using a top-down approach, Asha addresses the problem from a different angle–grassroots efforts. By supporting local schools and programs that cater to the underprivileged and uneducated, Asha offers a real chance for India’s children to partake of the country’s new opportunities and increasing national wealth by addressing the issue from the bottom up. Helping to empower children, as well as their local communities also works to ensure that the next generation of youths also seek out education.
India is quite a young country. But with national attitudes on education changing, along with grassroots efforts to make a visible, lasting impact on the education of the underprivileged, all levels of India’s society can share in her wealth.
New York Times Article: