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Make primary education a priority: Kalam

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INDIA’S ‘MISSILE MAN’ and former President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam has called upon all stake-holders to make primary education a priority. Addressing a conference on education in New Delhi, Dr. Kalam said that making primary education a priority would go a long way in making India a knowledge economy within the next decade. Educationalists, planners, principals, teachers, parents and students should all make concerted efforts to realise these goals, he said. Even professionals, homemakers and senior citizens could contribute by teaching in rural areas, while companies could pitch in as part of their corporate social responsibility, he also said. Private schools could help poor students get primary education by adopting government and municipal schools, the former president suggested. Dr. Kalam regretted that the number of drop-outs in the country was high. Out of the 153 million children enrolled in primary schools in India, only 17 million complete their senior secondary education, while 87 million drop out before they reach the upper primary classes, he pointed out. He suggested several ways to prevent drop-outs, involve the community for the uplift of education, and use technology to make education more effective. Stressing the need to deliver primary education in an integrated way by promoting affinity among parents, schools and teachers, Dr. Kalam asserted that exceptional education good teachers made a great school, not huge buildings or world-class facilities. In this context, he recalled the experience of his own childhood. He studied at Rameswaram Panchayat Primary School more than six decades ago. Although the school building was not impressive and had few amenities, there was a sense of belonging among teachers and students alike. There were 55 students in his class. If one was absent for even a day, the teachers would enquire with the parents about his well-being, Dr. Kalam recalled. If a student scored high marks, the teacher would be the one to break the news to the parents, he said. “My school may not have been prominent or impressive, but it was a happy school. That was important,” he said. “And I don’t remember even a single drop-out,” he added with pride.

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