The earliest recorded centers of higher learning in India, around 5th century BCE, were the famed Nalanda and Takshasila Universities. Education was also passed on in secular institutions like Hindu temples, mutths and Buddhist monasteries. Students of yore were tutored along practical lines that included different subjects like medicine, general knowledge, mathematics, Vedic and Buddhist literature, logic, grammar and so on. It was a common practice for gurus or teachers to be offered dakshina or donations from their students.
After independence, Indian leaders viewed education to be an effective tool for social change and development. The administrative control that was effectively initiated in 1950s had it initiating policies by the early fifties to group villages under Community Development Blocks. The government then became the regulatory body for providing education to up to 100 villages under the Block Development Officer who oversaw a geographical area of 150 square miles.
Despite setbacks rural education programmes were in time more or less organized and established, albeit they worked haphazardly. And in time private educational institutions began coming up to form part of the network of rural education initiatives. In time nursery schools, elementary schools, secondary school, and schools for adult education for women were set up all over the rural areas.
For some reason government run rural education agenda worked as a backlog in the wake of the general stagnation and in some areas to this day (especially in remote areas) education ideas kept failing. It was in this scenario that private schooling and increasingly now NGO run schools began taking over the need to educate our rural children. Also since government rural schools remain poorly funded and understaffed these new initiatives were found to be pretty effective.
Education in rural India is valued differently from the urban setting, for obvious reasons, chief amongst which is that kids are deployed in the family traditions for their livelihoods. Also there remained a distinct gender bias that is largely prevalent even now. Clearly even today there are still areas where children have never attended school! Surprising as this may sound, but we also have clear indications of rural children looking for different outlets other than traditional occupations that seem to be dithering. It is time to invest in rural education afresh.
We need to take positive steps to turn rural education more vocational or job oriented. Also the government too is taking plentiful steps to promote vocational education to include the rural students into the development concourse. While urban India has made very impressive progress to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century and we have the best IT force in the world, unfortunately rural school education needs to buckle up to join the race.
HERD Foundation draws inspiration from its own mother concern VSPMAHE or Vidya Shikshan Prasarak Mandal that began spreading education in the early seventies. In fact the genesis of VSPM occurred for the purpose of making education a trusted means for achieving socio-economic development of the rural people in the region. Education was considered the medium by which people could be made self reliant and encouraged to move ahead in life. Living in the context of present day realities HERD Foundation is keen to manifest vocational skills educational opportunities for rural students to make them self sufficient.