Last Friday I walked across a stage and received my college diploma. In some ways, I see this as a major accomplishment. That degree represents many hours of sitting in lectures, reading textbooks, preparing and giving speeches, writing papers, studying for exams, researching topics, and participating in group discussions and projects. It represents courage to do things I thought were too hard for me, perseverance when I didn’t feel like studying anymore, and faithful encouragement from my friends and family. Yes, I do believe the diploma I now have represents a big accomplishment.
I’m also aware, however, that this milestone has been relatively easy for me to reach, all things considered. I come from an educated family – many of whom are teachers – so learning has always been modeled and supported for me. My parents place a high priority on my education and often had the luxury of choosing the school they thought would be best for me. While I was living at home, they helped me with homework, and during college I always knew I could e-mail them a paper to be proofread if I needed it. The entire possibility of going to college was enabled by financial sacrifices by my parents and grandfather, as well as a government loan system specifically designed for college students. Even my employers have supported my education by scheduling my work shifts around my classes. I have been blessed to be supported in more ways than I will know as I worked to get my college degree.
As I reflect on the last four years of college and my entire educational journey, I realize that not everyone has such an easy and supported road as I have had. Many are faced with the choice of either going to school or providing for their practical needs and the needs of their families. Others are denied education based on their socioeconomic level or race. Still others do not recognize the value of education because it was never modeled to them or encouraged.
From what I have gathered, India’s educational system has been improving dramatically in recent years. The Right to Education Act in 2009 requires, among other things, that children between the ages of 6 and 14 to attend school. It also seeks to ensure that 25% of students in private schools come from disadvantaged communities. Approximately 73% of males and 48% of females in India are literate, and children attend school for an average of 10 years. The Indian government in clearly making an attempt to improve the quality and availability of education in India, and much of the country’s development can be credited to this renewed focus on education.
However, challenges remain. A writer for The Hindu (an Indian newspaper) recently reflected on the challenges that teachers and parents face as the Right to Education Act is implemented. Sohini Chakravorty points out that underprivileged children entering a private school may need extra tutoring to help them reach the scholastic level they need to be at in order to participate and benefit from school. Teachers need to be sensitive to the diverse student body they will be called upon to teach and attend specifically to their unique needs. The 25% of underprivileged children may face bullying and segregation at school, and often lack good support systems from their families. These observations most likely only touch the host of issues that face Indian education today. Huge strides of progress have been made, and many more are still needed.
So as a new college graduate, I am grateful for the opportunities and support I was given in order to reach this place of accomplishment. I am also aware that for many people – in America, as well as in India – education is not such an easy or encouraged road. I hope that I can somehow be used in the lives of many, both here and in India, to support and enable an education that will enrich and equip students for a bright future.
“Main Features of Right to Education Act 2009.” India Development Gateway. <http://www.indg.in/primary-education/policiesandschemes/Main%20features%20of%20Right%20to%20Education%202009%20act.pdf>.
“The World Factbook: India” Central Intelligence Agency. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html>.
Chakravorty, Sohini. “Right on Track?” The Hindu. May 16, 2012. <http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/society/article3425007.ece>.