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Challenges for the new government – reforming school education

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Challenges for the new government - reforming school education

“Any investment in knowledge pays the best interest”

– Benjamin Franklin

Education has not been given the desired importance by all political parties as most of them have looked at immediate political gains that are not forthcoming from this sector. Hence, political parties have perhaps consciously chosen to ignore education. The consequences are there for everyone to see but this can’t go on any longer.

The NDA government announced a well drafted National Education Policy and did manage to take some initiatives to address some of the issues that beset school education. Realising the critical role of teachers, steps were taken to address issues relating to this segment. It was recognised that pre-service training was beset with huge problems. A crucial decision was taken in this regard. There would now be integrated course of four years for Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.). This has the potential of eliminating non-existent teacher training colleges and would encourage only those that are keen on this profession to enrol. The Right to Education Act was amended to facilitate training of unqualified teacher. There were more than a million such teachers. Making use of technology “DIKSHA” portal was launched to provide training to teachers on a more scientific basis.

Doing away with segmented approach to school education, a comprehensive scheme was launched in the form of Samagra Shikha replacing the erstwhile segmented schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. Pre-school and intermediate education were brought on the agenda for the first time. These segments also became eligible for funding.

In true spirit of cooperative federalism, instead of pre-determining allocation of resources for each segment, states were given freedom to determine priorities.

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Also Read: Mafia in the education sector

To leverage good work and practices and with a view to scaling such practices, public-private partnership was encouraged. “Shaala Sarathi” portal was put in place to facilitate transparent interface between the Central Government, State Governments, NGOs and CSR Funding Agencies

Recognising the need for state specific action plans, such plans were prepared for the states of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir in consultation with the state government

As mentioned earlier, the NEP is in place now but a number of State Governments are struggling to implement it. In fact, was there for need of a policy? Diagnosis and prescription on how to take education forward existed. The government needed to get down to business and attempt make things happen on the ground. First there should have been attempts to take forward the initiatives that were taken during the first three years of the NDA government to their logical conclusion and the second should have been to launch certain fresh initiatives that were either not taken  or failed to take them forward.However, the government was spending more time on re-writing history than in improving delivery of quality education. What can now be done by the new government?

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Teacher has to continue to be the focus as she lies at the pivot of education. The decision taken for four-year course for pre-service training has to be implemented in letter and spirit so that fraudulent training colleges close down. This will be resisted by those that are benefitting from the current dispensation but implementation of this decision is critical.

 Centralisation of recruitment of teachers will help in taking care of malpractices that have become an integral part of the process. Some states, like Tamilnadu, have done a laudable work in this regard. Other states can learn from them.

 “DIKSHA” portal has enormous potential. It needs to be strengthened further and leveraged for in-service training. It has many other facets, like maintaining teacher related data that can be utilised. Practices evolved in states like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh can be replicated.

Technology can be a game changer and can transform delivery of education in a manner that that learning becomes an enjoyable experience. States like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra are already doing that. Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh have demonstrated how technology can also be used for ensuring attendance of teachers. States like UP, Bihar and Jharkhand that face similar problems can learn from them. The central government can induce and incentivise the states to learn from each other.

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In view of the diversity within the country, there can’t be the same approach in all the states. Each state requires different set of interventions in terms of teachers, curriculum, pedagogy and the like. Practicable action plans need to be worked out for each state in consultation with all the stake holders wherein what needs to be done, how it will be done, who will do it and by when it will be done is clearly outlined. The National Assessment Survey (NAS) can be handy in preparing such plans. Implementation of these plans will need to be facilitated and monitored by the central government

Encouragement given to NGOs has had the desired impact in the field during years as this partnership was transforming delivery of educations in some parts of the country. However, during the past few years the NGOs are seen with a lot of scepticism. This needs to change. Importance and utility of   Public-Private partnership will need to be appreciated and taken forward.

A number of other issues relating to curriculum, vocational training, educating the girl child, school drop outs, value based education, children with special needs, ridiculous marking system in the examinations and  those in the context of private schools that will also need to be addressed.

What the NDA government did during the initial few years gave  a lot of hope that school education can be transformed. The new government has to take the initiatives to their logical conclusion.

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Anil Swarup IAS (Retd)
Anil Swarup IAS (Retd)
Anil Swarup is a former 1981 batch, Uttar Pradesh cadre  IAS officer, and was awarded Director's gold medal for "best officer trainee" at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA). He served the Government of India in various capacities for 38 years and went on to become Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy and the Coal Secretary of India. He also served as Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Additional Secretary, Labour & Empowerment, Export Commissioner in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry of India and as the District Magistrate of Lakhimpur Kheri. He couldn’t make it to the “elite” Indian Administrative Service (IAS) on his first attempt but qualified for the Indian Police Service where he worked for one year before clearing IAS in his next attempt. He is today an author of several looks like 'No More a Civil Servant,' ‘Ethical dilemmas of a civil servant’ and ‘Not just a civilservant’. The views expressed are his own.


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