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Dec, 02 2016

Do your part in India's effort to educate every child

We are heading for a situation of severe un- or under-employment for over 400 million young lives – what we have been calling India's demographic dividend.

More than 72 million children from around the globe are growing up without the right to education – a good part of this number live in some of our country's poorest communities. Poverty and the lack of education make uneasy companions in many developing nations.

In India alone, although almost every child enrolls in school, only half of those who join Class 1 drop out by Class 8, which arguably is the basic education level if you want to do anything at all in life.

Experts in India agree that what's needed are not necessarily more schools, but better education quality in the available ones, as well as a range of supportive tactics that will improve access. Although systemic change or at the least a refinement is a priority, seemingly simple steps such as a strong teacher support programme, or working toilets, have an incremental impact on retention.

In developing and developed countries alike, children do not have access to basic education because of several overlapping inequalities – be it financial, gender, health and cultural identity (ethnic origin, language, religion). These children find themselves on the margins of society, growing up without the benefit from learning that is vital to their intellectual and social development.

That is why campaigns such as the Global Citizen India are so vital. This is about building synergies across all parts of society and a strong, national-level advocacy plan that pushes quality education as a top priority for children. But most importantly, it's about taking responsibility. This is our problem on our doorstep – we can ignore it at our peril.

We are heading for a situation of severe un- or under-employment for over 400 million young lives – what we have been calling India's demographic dividend. This dividend urgently needs the nurturing that quality education provides to actually bear fruit – the alternative is difficult to visualise and it will not be pretty.

And it doesn't stop there - it's important to remember that the shift from poverty and discrimination doesn't end with school. Without a vocational input or a strong tertiary education system that is affordable to the poor, many young people may find themselves returning to the low-pay informal sector jobs that their parents have had. This is why the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship identifies not just quality education and jobs but also skill development as a key contributor to reaping our demographic dividend.

Campaigns that bring this serious agenda using something as engaging as music – the universal glue – do something that many others can't. They build a public voice for investing in the whole pipeline of quality education – that starts when a child starts to go to school and effectively ends only when she or he gets a secure job. It's not inevitable that these problems will solve themselves – it's time to take a stand.

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