Listen to this article:
In an interview that will deeply shock most people but also come as a sharp wake-up call, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Azim Premji Foundation has said that as schools reopen, perhaps as many as 230 million children face the worst education crisis.
Anurag Behar, who is also the vice-chancellor of Azim Premji University, said the children are returning to the classrooms after two years and probably, they have forgotten most of what they were taught before the pandemic shut down schools. Now, in addition, they will return to schools with either a promotion or a double promotion, which will make the problem even worse.
For example, a child in grade 3 two years ago, when the pandemic hit, has not only forgotten most of what he/she was taught, but will return to school at grade 5 level without ever having been to grade 4.
Behar said this is “perhaps the most urgent crisis facing our country” and yet no one – not at the level of the prime minister or the central government, or state governments, television or newspapers or the middle class – is talking about this. They are either unaware of the problem or unconcerned about it.
In a 35-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Behar spoke in detail about three things: the nature of the problem; who is responsible to take steps to tackle this crisis; and what is the strategy that needs to be adopted to handle this crisis. He spells the strategy out in considerable detail.
Behar agrees that it is a critical matter because at the moment, the children have lost two years of schooling. If we do not take proper steps to make up for that, when they reach their 20s and 30s and run the country, it will affect India’s future. This will also have a huge impact on the country’s economy.