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A strong education system is the cornerstone of any country's growth and prosperity.

Over the last decade, India has made great strides in strengthening its primary education system. The District Information System for Education (DISE) reported in 2012 that 95% of India's rural populations are within one kilometer of primary schools. The 2011 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), which tracks trends in rural education, indicated that enrollment rates among primary-school-aged children were about 93%, with little difference by gender. Yet India's education system has not achieved strong learning outcomes for reasons that are as diverse and nuanced as the country itself. The West Bengal primary education system seemingly suffers from a perfect storm of maladies including: gigantic rates of teacher absenteeism, a daunting lack of trained teachers, impossibly difficult assignments facing teachers, the evil necessity of private tuition, crippled and antiquated infrastructure of West Bengal primary schools, incentive schemes that that are woefully underfunded by the state government, and rampant discrimination against children of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and Muslim origin by school authorities. This amalgamation of calamities has created a situation in West Bengal where only 6.8% of the students who enter the primary education system later reach universities. The chief issues are explained in brief below: 1. Teacher absenteeism : Teacher absenteeism is a pervasive issue encumbering the West Bengal primary education system. It is not just that an all too gargantuan number of teachers are not attending work, but teachers who are present are not actively involved in teaching their pupils. It is estimated that at any one time, twenty-five percent of teachers were absent from school, and only about half were teaching. (Kremer et. al, 658) If so many teachers are simply not teaching, present or not, the implications for students are clear. Primary school students cannot be expected to learn to read and write or do basic arithmetic if there is no one there to teach them. It is not merely the performance of students that is affected but their motivation to attend school. Teacher absenteeism, has contributed to a high level of absenteeism among the children. We found attendance rates of only 54% in the primary schools. (Rafique, 2) Teacher absenteeism in West Bengal vastly reduces the capabilities of Bengali students and all too often is partially responsible for their jettison from the primary education system. 2. Lack of teachers and training: The West Bengal Primary education system also suffers from a lack of teachers and training. Teachers in public schools are spread so thin that, on an average there were three teachers per school. Each teacher had to mange 69 students, perhaps spread over two classes. With the norm of 40 students per class the total number of teachers should have been 2,002,088. Thus there is a shortage of 48,868 teachers. (Bandyopadhyay) Teachers simply cannot offer students the attention they need to properly learn the essential material of primary school if their focus is divided amongst so many students and classes. This problem is further compounded by the fact that the total number of primary school teachers in West Bengal is falling as concurrently more students attempt to enter primary school. (Ghosh, 17) Furthermore, there is not only a need for more teachers but much more extensive training for its existing ones. There has been little consideration of this factor from the state government. As

recently as 1999 only 65 % of teachers in primary schools were properly trained compared to 1964 when only 64% of primary school teachers were trained. (Rana et. al, 4) If West Bengal teachers continue to be so miserably under trained anecdotes provided by parents of teachers asking children to pick their grey hairs during class will continue unfettered. Steps must be taken in order to secure more teachers that are better trained as more of West Bengals youth seek an education. 3. Private tuition: According to Amartya Sen, education has ceased to be a right of all children particularly because of the artificially generated need for private tuition. (Pratichi Trust) Due to the fact that government run public schools perform so abominably, parents of West Bengal primary students are forced to seek out private tutors to fill the ever widening gap of knowledge. In fact it is estimated that of the children who do not receive private tuition only, only 29% of these children could read, write and do simple sums. (Rana et. al, 2) However, private tuition is extremely costly and only rich and influential parents can afford it. The flight of such parents from public schools leaves advocates for improvement in the primary school system without their most powerful constituency. If the wealthy and dominant families feel no stake in the public primary schools since their children receive private tuition then there is no need for them to campaign for needed changes in the schools. Private tuition is a function of the free market and cannot be abolished, but the West Bengal state government must take steps needed to improve public primary schools in order to make private tuition redundant. 4. Discrimination : Discrimination is an all-encompassing ailment key to explaining the current state of the West Bengal primary education system. Discrimination largely occurs against scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and those of Muslim origin. (Jha, 2839) Coincidentally, these groups are also the most financially destitute in West Bengal. The manner in which children in primary schools are first and foremost discriminated comes from inside the school. To begin with, there are exorbitantly higher cases of teacher absenteeism in majority scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, and Muslim schools. The incidence of teacher absenteeism was recorded to be high in schools with a majority of children from SC and ST (75 per cent) as compared to other schools (33 per cent). (Jha, 2839) Furthermore, teachers harbor poor and discriminatory attitudes against these children. Teachers, the majority of them men from the general caste, showed a poor opinion of these childrens interest in studies and their ability to learn. They usually think that the SC and ST children are less motivated than the others, more timid, and finally less intelligent than the general caste students.(Jha, 2840) These attitudes manifest themselves in teachers forcing children of these societal groups to sit separately from the rest of the class while hurling derogatory slurs against them and their families. Thus, there can be no surprise that there are much higher dropout rates amongst children in these groups. Discrimination against scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and Muslims is a deep seeded cultural problem that cannot easily be erased. However, a push for greater diversity amongst the teaching corps is one certain step that can be taken to enable a less discriminatory ethos in West Bengals primary schools. Teachers in West Bengal are too homogenously male and of the general caste.