Universal access to quality education becoming a legal right of all child citizens of India, poses a number of problems. Firstly, the definition of quality in “Quality education for All”. Secondly, ascertaining reliably the current status of the problem in the nation today. Thirdly, setting standards for and defining RTE compliance. And most importantly, the problem of how can RTE compliance be achieved systematically in the shortest feasible time period at various levels, from a single classroom to the entire nation?
We first propose that the problem of universalization of quality education must first be taken on the agenda as a scientific problem, and engaged with the same seriousness as some other mass scientific programmes had been taken up in history. When universalisation of primary mathematics is comprehensively examined as a scientific problem, it is evident that math pedagogy- curriculum, syllabus, teaching-learning materials, classroom practice etc- is only one of its important aspects. The other aspects like systems, administrative support, logistics for mass implementation, assessments, capacity building, motivation and community participation are no less important in delivering, or not delivering, outcomes. The achievement of seed successes in realistic situations and the systematic generalization of these seeds is the key to achieving universalization in practice. We discuss some specific experiences and problems with implementing mass programmes.
The RTE Act 2009, along with the notification of the National Curriculum Framework 2005 as the curriculum framework for RTE provides the foundation and vision for the programme of universalization. NCF 2005’s five guiding principles- contexualizaton of all learning, discouraging rote learning, linking learning to real life and the world outside the classroom etc.- are not merely desirable. They are necessary conditions for universalization.
The question of universalizing quality science education is central to the problem of math universalization. The concept of the whole real world as a school science laboratory is crucial to universalizing science. ‘Universalizing the universe’ is possible in every school at a cost that no school cannot afford. Every school can become a discovery school. We discuss how a terra-sun laboratory can be set up in every school. Low cost and no cost non trivial experiments, like measuring the size of the earth, the size of the sun and the distance of the sun can make world class science education accessible to every child. Mass science campaigns around events like the Transit of Venus can play a catalytic role in significantly upgrading science and math education.