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  • Yasin Khan

Discontinuity between library and school in India

Library has not ever been explicitly part of the school system in India especially in elementary schooling. There is a visible disconnectedness between library and school, and it is understood as discontinued entities in school education. The discontinuity between library and school is much more a matter of concern in 21st century than it was in the early days of India’s independence. The argument is on the assumption that reading, apart from various others, is a core of purpose of a library in elementary school. The views defending the argument is organised around implications of absence of library in the schools, impact of school libraries, global and domestic policies of school libraries and reading programs.

Why is it a concern today?

The discontinuity between library and school is now a pressing concern majorly because ability to read among Indian children has not improved in the last few decades. This is the world technology is very rapidly improving and even penetrating rural corners of the country while basic reading skills has not changed at any visible degree. In rural India, 96.7% of children enrolled in govt. schools. Unfortunately, an average of 48.7% of the total children enrolled in Grade III-VIII cannot read a simple text of Standard II level (Pratham, 2015). Literacy rate increased but reading competency hasn’t increased among the schooling children. Reading is the centre of all attention for early child education. Reading is the pivotal for any teaching-learning process. The dismal figure of reading competency of Indian children has made a factor concern for the discontinuity between library and school.

Discontinuity between reading and library

Books are for reading, so as the library is , analogically. The axiomatic inevitable relationship between reading and library for elementary level is not acknowledged by academics and policy makers in India. There is a huge discontinuity between reading and library. Libraries are merely the warehouse for syllabi books in Indian school scenario (Mahajan, 2010). Library is a place for everything about reading, where, in fact, it is much more than mere reading but also for life skill development (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, 2015), for 21st century learning framework. Classroom is where reading is taught how to do, whereas library is where reading is practiced (Sensening, 2011). Learning without practice is science without fact.

21st century learning system is crazed behind discovery method of learning, which is considered as most advance way of learning. Library is where discovery learning happens. Current generation children are quite advanced that there is now just remain a very thin line of difference pedagogy and andragogy. Andragogy is truly served by library. Therefore, the implication of absence of library in the school is that children with no access to library are less learned than children who have more access to library.

Why not a centrally sponsored reading program?

Which comes first between reading and library is just the debate on which comes first between chicken and egg. The fact is that both are complementary and simultaneous. The discontinuity between library and schools is witnessed owing to be the factor of historical indifference to the significance of reading per se in the school education. Government of India’s robust intervention for universal elementary school over assumed that reading would be covered within that didn’t come out what planned. Till date, millions of Indian children cannot read and comprehend even a basic sentence, as mentioned above.

India hasn’t thought of intervention in reading or it has missed to acknowledge that reading is the only crucial to learn anything further. None of the commission report by Union of India till date explicitly mentioned about reading improvement rather than whole school approach. Similarly, none of the commissioned Educational documents explicitly mentioned about library as something to intervene into. School library started to exist across the country when especial category schools like Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya came to exist. It was just less than 600 libraries till then.

Intervention in reading was initiated by Pratham, a national level NGO, in 2007 (Pratham). Pratham’s Read India program set the landmark for reading intervention in seven states of least developed in the country. Recently, Rajasthan followed the reading intervention, titled Reading Campaign program which got big applause from the all stakeholders. The Reading Campaign program made to set up libraries with millions of story books in all the schools. It is witnessed that intervention in reading is accompanied with books and libraries.

Learning from the first world countries

As mentioned above, the inevitable underlying continuity between school and library is less acknowledged by academic, so as the less research study about it in India. It is worth introspecting on why first world countries like USA and Australia had special focus in school libraries by the end of WW-II, before India’s independence. American Association of School Libraries (AASL) and Australian School Library Association (ASLA) in 1940s set the mark of international acknowledgement for the importance of reading and libraries.

Indian school educationist failed to see the path taken by first world countries, from where most of the knowledge is borrowed.  In 1930s the movement ‘why centralised school libraries’ was followed by stronger movement ‘ why not central library in elementary school’ in the USA which made to emerged AASL (Calhoun, 1961). A similar movement ‘why not a central library in schools’ should be an impetus to the universal elementary education in India, elixir for the above mentioned pressing figure of reading scenario of India.

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