During our work with people living around the Ranthambhor National Park on issues of conservation, livelihoods, and eco-development, a constant question we were asked was how long we thought we could continue helping them. And then, an accompanying question — would their children never be in a position to help themselves? To advocate for and implement the change they wanted to see?

People had been led to believe that sending children to school was a precondition for a better future. Despite this, what they kept seeing was that the education system accessible to them was not equipping their children with the skills and abilities that they required to negotiate better futures for themselves.

Working in Sawai Madhopur made us painfully aware of the community’s past experiences with education. Over time they had experienced the Shiksha Karmi Programme (which trained daughters-in-law to run schools), and the Rajiv Gandhi Pathshalas (which trained a young person who had passed Class 10, to run schools), not counting their countless experiences with government schools in the larger villages, most of which were sub-optimal.

When we look at the pitfalls of the government schooling system — be it teacher absenteeism, quality of textbooks, a lack of adequate infrastructure, constrained budgets and human resources — and the plans or schemes that have been created to address them, we realize that most of them could be categorized as  ‘poor solutions for poor people’.

People often believe that the problems in the education space have more to do with curricula or pedagogy, or with the capacity of teachers. We disagree. The main issue is that today, communities are missing from the school ecosystem.

The community is the biggest stakeholder in the education space, and they need to be treated as such. People need to have a real idea of what they can expect from the system, and they need the system to be accountable to them. This has never happened.

For change to occur, communities must be more aware, and in charge of their education.

Read the full article about changing rural education in India by Sachin Sachdeva at India Development Review.