How AAP’s education agenda in Delhi is setting an example for other states

In the past few months, the government has taken significant steps to improve the quality of education which is phenomenal towards achieving its dream of making Delhi a “fully-literate state”.
How AAP’s education agenda in Delhi is setting an example for other states
How AAP’s education agenda in Delhi is setting an example for other states
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Public education in India is in shambles. Through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, India has managed to achieve impressive levels of enrolment but the quality of education leaves a lot to desire.  Recently, Allahabad High Court’s controversial decision, which ordered government officials and politicians’ kids to compulsorily send their children to government schools, raised a lot of eyebrows.

The sanctity of HC’s judgment can be debated endlessly but one thing can never be refuted – the state government and officials’ role in improving public education is of paramount importance.

The Aam Aadmi Party stormed to power in Delhi fuelled by the hopes and aspirations of the lower classes who saw Kejriwal as one of their own and someone who could help them better their kids’ future.  Controversies aside, AAP has proved that it is indeed serious about improving the social indicators of Delhi, with education being a priority.

In the past few months, the government has taken significant steps to improve the quality of education which is phenomenal towards achieving its dream of making Delhi a “fully-literate state”. I had the experience of teaching two years in a municipal school as a part of the Teach For India Fellowship, and therefore, in my opinion, the steps taken by AAP to revamp education in Delhi is definitely commendable and sets an example for every other state to follow. Some of these are,

1. Increase in budget: Plan expenditure budget was increased by 106% from Rs 2219 Crore in 2013-14 to Rs 4570 Crore in 2014-15, with a total allocation of Rs 9836 Crore for the sector.  It also announced setting up of 236 new schools as well as recruitment of 20,000 regular teachers.

2. Development of model schools: The government has chosen 54 model schools with whom it will work extensively to improve the quality of education. Personally, I am skeptical about this system of creating a certain set of model schools while leaving out others, but working with too many schools simultaneously leads to a too-many-cooks-spoil-the-broth situation is the government’s rationale.

"For us, these are not really model schools—not RPVVs (Rashtriya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya)—but ones where we are piloting what we feel will be the interventions that can transform schools. To implement it in all the 1,100 schools simultaneously will make it difficult for the administration to gauge the impact," said Atishi Marlena, Special Advisor to the Education Minister.

3. Reviving school management committees: The section 21 of the RTE Act, mandates the formation of School Management Committees (SMCs) in all elementary government, government-aided schools and special category schools in the country, and the 75% of the committee should comprise of parents. However, either most parents do not know about it or they lie defunct or school principals choose their own people to avoid creating any nuisance for themselves. Therefore, reviving SMCs is huge step as it will increase accountability and transparency which is often missing in government schools.

The process of reformation will be based on a three-pronged approach – school leadership, teacher training and community development – and the government will work with organizations like Pratham, Teach For India, CreateNet and Sajha, who have extensive ground experience in these aspects.

But enthusiasm always comes with a word of caution.

My own experience with the school excellence program (involving municipal schools) in Mumbai is a testimony of that, where there was excessive focus on working with too many schools, which completely diluted the quality of the program. I was working with an NGO, which was a program partner and my work involved monitoring and observations, where I interacted with many teachers, and I gathered that they felt compelled to put in efforts as there was pressure from senior officials.  These teachers were only doing this as they wanted a secure government job which paid well.

Therefore, the initiatives taken by AAP are truly commendable, but they should also stress on changing mindsets of teachers, because if that is not done, then the whole program will be a cropper, irrespective of how much money and efforts are put in by the government and NGOs.

However, there is another important piece of the puzzle which AAP should also focus upon – supplementary education. Given that most kids studying in government are first generation learners and their parents aren’t literate enough to help them in their studies, supplementary education adds significant value. For academically strong students, provides them with multiple opportunities to improve their critical thinking and analysis skills, while for slow learners, it is imperative that they get additional support to strengthen their basics. For instance, when I started teaching in Grade 3, there were some students who could read basic words in English while others could not even read alphabets. Therefore, providing supplementary education to the slow learners would help in bridging the gap and be at par with their peers in class.

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