Chronic illiteracy and poverty overshadow this week's celebrations of Indian independence, reports Brendan O'Malley.
Next month's Teachers' Day in India (September 5) is to be marked by the publication of a report that is expected to be deeply critical of the government's schools policy.
The report is being presented to parliament by an alliance of citizens' groups. Originally scheduled for today's Independence Day, it had to be delayed after one of the movement's founders was abducted by separatists in the United Liberation Force of Assam. Negotiations for his release are still taking place.
The alliance's consultations were organised by ActionAid and centred on a paper initiated by Professor Dashwani, a former head of non-formal education at the National Centre for Educational Research and Training. He said: "The education system is like a glacier - it moves on a path pre-ordained by its own weight and it is difficult to divert it. But that is what we are trying to do."
He said teachers have become content to impart a centralised curriculum to 60 to 70 children of different grades, all in one large room. "Hundreds of thousands of schools may not have blackboards, toilets or electricity. A teacher often enters the profession at 22 and is not retrained in 40 years. Some don't even have training," he said.
Dr J Acharya, head of ActionAid's education support programme, said: "There is an over-emphasis on buildings and construction because that is where corruption is more possible. Sometimes teachers are recruited by political recommendation or bribe. The system is defective."