Editorials, Essay, GS-2, Uncategorized

Draft National Education Policy

Objective

The National Education Policy 2016 envisages creation of a credible education system capable of ensuring

  •       Inclusive quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all
  •       Producing students/graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitude and values that are required to lead a productive life
  •       Participate in the country’s development process
  •       Respond to the ever changing requirements of a globalizing, knowledge based society
  •       Develop responsible citizens who respect the Indian tradition of acceptance of diversity of India’s heritage, culture and history as well as promote social cohesion and religious amity
  •       The vision recognizes the central role of education in India’s economic, social, political and cultural development

Key Challenges in India’s education system

I.  Access and Participation

  1.    Research highlights the importance of early childhood education. Participation in pre-school education remains low in the country
  2.    Expanding access to early childhood education and provide equal opportunity to all children to prepare them for formal education is a priority task
  3.    While nationally the % of out of school children aged 6-13 years has declined since 2000, still the absolute number remains high
  4.    Currently there is a situation of relatively lower enrolment rates in upper primary and secondary education. Ensuring mobility of students from elementary to primary to secondary to tertiary education is a key challenge. Currently Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education is 23.6%. The target is to increase it to 25.2% in 2017-18 and to 30% in 2020-21
  5.    Relatively slower progress in reducing the number of illiterates is also a huge challenge. India currently has the highest number of non literates in the world

II.   Quality Issues

1) Poor quality of education leading to unsatisfactory learning outcomes is a huge challenge. At the pre school level the following challenges are there

  •   Inappropriate curriculum
  •  Lack of trained educators
  •  Ineffective pedagogy

Resultantly students coming out of pre schools do not have school readiness in terms of cognitive and language domains

2)  Biggest challenge remains the unsatisfactory level of student learning. ASER reports, PISA reports all point towards the same. Finding of National Achievement Surveys covering Grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 suggest that learning levels of a significant proportion of students do not measure up to expected learning levels which has a cascading effect on the next stage

3) Factors affecting unsatisfactory quality of school education are

  •   Large proportion of schools not compliant with prescribed norms and standards
  •    Students and teachers absenteeism
  •  Gaps in teacher motivation and training which affects teacher quality and performance
  •  Slow progress with regards to usage of ICT
  •  Sub optimal personnel management
  • Inadequate attention to monitoring and supervision of performance

Perceived failure of government schools has triggered entry of a large number of private schools, many of whom also fall prey to the same vices

4) Quality at higher education level – Issues are

  •   Very few universities and colleges accredited by NAAC are in A grade
  •  Mushrooming of private players of indifferent quality
  •   Shortage of well qualified faculty
  • Vacancy in faculty positions
  •  Poor infrastructure in both private as well as public institutions
  • Slow renewal of curriculum to align it more closely with skills demanded in a diversified economy
  • Inadequate funding for research and development

III   Equity

  1.    Whereas substantial improvement is seen in enhancing enrolment rate in pre-school, still, children from disadvantaged population still lack access to pre school education
  2.    Percentage of Out of school children (OOSC) has declined since 2000, but the absolute number is still high. Moreover, OOSC still very high among SC, ST and Muslims
  3.    Children from certain sections like children with disabilities, children in remote location, children belonging to nomadic families, migrant children and other vulnerable disadvantaged group are yet to take full benefit of educational opportunities
  4.    National Learning Achievement Surveys highlight the following
  • Urban students do better than rural
  •  Students of private schools do better than those in government schools
  •   General and OBC students do better than SC and ST students

5. Relatively higher gender gap in youth (8.2 % points) and adult (19.5 percentage points) literacy rates


 

IV  Skills and employability

  1.    India is a young nation with 54% of population below 25 years of age. Thus skilling is necessary to take care of livelihood needs
  2.    However institutional arrangements to support technical and vocational educational programme quite inadequate

V  Curriculum and Assessment

  1.    Growing disconnect between existing school and higher education curricula
  2.    Curriculum thrust needed for promoting acquisition of relevant skills by students is missing
  3.    Assessment criteria in schools focus primarily on rote learning and ability of students to reproduce content knowledge

VI   ICT potential not fully tapped by educational institutes in the country

VII   Teacher development and management

  1.    Not equipping teachers with competencies required to cope up with new profile and roles expected of teachers
  2.    Mismatch between institutional capacity and required teacher supply resulting in shortage of teachers. Problem more acute in Eastern part of the country
  3.    Research, innovation and experimentation in teacher education is very limited

VIII   Governance and Management

  1.    It has assumed complexity especially at tertiary level due to
  •  Advent of multiplicity of providers
  •  Multiplicity of programmes
  •  Multiplicity in modes of financing

IX   Research and Development – Following are the reasons for India’s poor performance in R&D

  1.    Limited initiative for upgrading skills of existing faculty
  2.    Lack of synergies between training and research to promote excellence in both
  3.    Lack of engagement with institutes around the globe to improve quality of research
  4.    Lack of creation and facilitation of alliances for research purpose
  5.    Lack of linkage between research institutions and industry to accelerate process of knowledge development

X   Budgetary Constraints

  1.    Target of 6% of GDP envisaged in National Education Policy 1986 yet to be met

Reforms Suggested

1) Pre-school Education:

  1. Pre-school education for children in the age group of 4 to 5 years will be implemented.
  2. To strengthen the pre-school education in Anganwadis, steps will be taken in consultation with states to frame curricula and develop learning materials.
  3. State Governments will prepare cadres of pre-primary teachers.
  4. All primary schools will cover pre-primary education.
  5. Appropriate regulatory and monitoring rules and mechanisms will be designed for private pre-schools.

2) Curriculum Renewal and Examination Reforms

  1. Curricular reforms will be carried out to meet the emerging aspirations and align to national goals of social cohesion, religious amity and national integration.
  2. NCERT will undergo a re-orientation to address issues of deteriorating quality of school education and periodic renewal of curricula and pedagogy to move from rote learning to facilitate understanding and encourage a spirit of enquiry.
  3. Procedural reforms will be undertaken, such as, doing away with migration certificate, school leaving certificate, etc. in order to encourage mobility of students from one institution to another.

3) Learning outcomes in School Education

  1. Norms for learning outcomes will be developed and applied uniformly to both private and government schools.
  2. Within the parameters prescribed by the RTE Act, States will have the flexibility to design and plan for the infrastructure keeping in view the local conditions.
  3. The present provisions of no-detention policy will be amended, as it has seriously affected the academic performance of students. The no detention policy will be limited up to class V and the system of detention will be restored at the upper primary stage.
  4. Effective steps will be taken to improve teaching standards in schools

4) School Education

  1. Each State will undertake a detailed exercise of school mapping to identify schools with low enrolment and inadequate infrastructure.
  2. Minimum standards for provision of facilities and student outcomes across all levels in school education will be laid down.
  3. Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) will be expanded and Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) will be expanded and upgraded

5) Protection of Rights of the Child & Adolescent Education

  1. Framework and guidelines for ensuring school safety and security of children will be developed.
  2. Every Principal and teacher will be made aware of the provisions of the relevant Acts, Rules, Regulations, etc.
  3. The Adolescent Education Programme and National Population Education Programme will be integrated into the curriculum of schools in a phased manner.
  4. Adolescent Education will be included in pre- and in-service training programmes of secondary school teachers.
  5. Self-learning online programmes on child rights will be developed for the benefit of students, teachers and parents.
  6. Schools will engage trained counsellors to confidentially advise parents and teachers on adolescence problems faced by growing boys and girls.

6) Inclusive Education and Student Support

  1. Curriculum will cover the issues of social justice and harmony and legal measures in order to avoid social discrimination.
  2. With the objective of encouraging merit and promoting equity, a National Fellowship Fund, primarily designed to support the tuition fees, learning materials and living expenses for about 10 lakh students will be created.
  3. A zero tolerance approach on gender discrimination and violence will be adopted.
  4. There will be dedicated funds for R&D to strengthen disability studies in higher education.

7) Literacy and Lifelong Learning

  1. Existing initiatives will be strengthened and curricula revamped with multi-pronged strategies involving Self Help Groups, NGOs, Government etc.
  2. The Government will set up an apex body of experts to look into remodelling and strengthening of adult literacy programmes and develop scientific criteria for assessing the learning outcomes of adults in literacy, skill development, prior learning and equivalency for certification which may also facilitate entry into the formal education system.
  3. Adult literacy programme will incorporate skill development and digital, financial and legal literacy.

8) Skills in Education and Employability

  1. Skill development programmes in school and higher education system will be reoriented
  2. A detailed plan for the creation of skill schools for improving employment opportunities for secondary school students in special focus districts will be prepared.
  3. Joint certificates by the Sector Skill Council and the School/College authorities to help students take up wage-employment or start their own enterprise.

9) Use of ICT in Education

  1. A concerted effort will be made to make ICT an integral part of education across all levels and domains of learning.
  2. Online maintenance of all records of a child from the time of admission till the time of leaving the school will be made mandatory.
  3. IT reporting systems will be a powerful tool to better school management and performance.

10) Teacher Development and Management

  1. A transparent and merit based norms and guidelines for recruitment of teachers will be formulated in consultation with the state governments.
  2. All vacancies in teacher education institutions and all positions of head teachers and principals will be filled up.
  3. At the National level, a Teacher Education University will be set up covering various aspects of teacher education and faculty development.
  4. A separate cadre for teacher educators will be established in every state.

11) Language and Culture in Education

  1. All states and UTs, if they so desire, may provide education in schools, upto Class V, in mother tongue, local or regional language as the medium of instruction.
  2. Indian culture, local and traditional knowledge will be given adequate space in the school education.
  3. Keeping in view special importance of Sanskrit to the growth and development of Indian languages and its unique contribution to the cultural unity of the country, facilities for teaching Sanskrit at the school and university stages will be offered on a more liberal scale.

12) Self -Development through Comprehensive Education

  1. Extra-curricular activities like games, yoga, NSS, Bal Sansad will be emphasized upon
  2. Funds will be earmarked by the government/ school management for all co-scholastic activities in schools.

13) School Assessment and Governance

  1. The framework of school standards with various parameters and indicators to measure school quality, professional competence of teachers, school leadership and the school management, as well as, self-appraisal and performance assessment will be used throughout the country
  2. A mechanism will be put in place for accreditation of school boards.
  3. Principals/head teachers will be held accountable for the academic performance of the schools and its improvement.

14) Regulation In Higher Education

  1. An independent mechanism for administering the National Higher Education Fellowship Programme will be put in place.
  2. A Central Educational Statistics Agency (CESA) will be established as the central data collection, compilation and consolidation agency with high quality statistical expertise and management information system which will be used for predictive analysis, manpower planning and future course corrections.

15) Quality Assurance In Higher Education

  1. An expert committee will be constituted to study the systems of accreditation in place internationally. It will draw from the experiences of some of the best practices followed by countries having well performing systems and will suggest restructuring of NAAC and NAB as well as redefining methodologies, parameters and criteria. .
  2. Evaluation/ Accreditation details of each institution will be available to the general public through a dedicated website, to enable students and other stakeholders to make informed choices.

16) Open and Distance Learning & MOOCs

  1. The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), in collaboration with Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, will redefine itself to address the large potential demand for vocational education. The issues of management, monitoring and oversight of NIOS will be addressed appropriately.
  2. A quality assurance mechanism for accreditation of all universities/institutions offering ODL / MOOCs will be put in place to ensure quality, promote, innovation and reshape and modernize the ODL / MOOCs courses and programmes.

17) Internationalization of Education

  1. Selected foreign universities, from the top 200 in the world, will be encouraged to establish their presence in India through collaboration with Indian universities.
  2. In order to increase acceptability of Indian students abroad and to attract international students, Indian HEIs will be encouraged to work towards internationalization of curricula aligned with international levels so as to make it globally compatible with best ranked institutions of the world.
  3. Internationalization will be included as one of the components for allocating additional financial resources to government-funded HEIs.

18) Faculty Development in Higher Education

  1. A task force of experts will be set up to study the recruitment, promotion and retention procedures, followed by internationally renowned universities and institutions and suggest measures to promote intellectual and academic excellence in HEIs.
  2. A national campaign will be launched to attract young talent into the teaching profession. In order to attract young talent into teaching profession, a career growth of research students, such as M.Phil & Ph.D scholars, will be created.
  3. A mechanism of assessment of academic performance of faculty including peer review will be put in place so as to ensure academic accountability of public-funded institutions.

19) Research, Innovation and New Knowledge

  1. A clear reorientation of research agenda of National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) will be undertaken to reflect actual issues on the ground.
  2. Steps will be taken to promote generation of new knowledge and their applications and introduction of these new domains into the curricula of higher education to consolidate and strengthen India’s position as a soft power.
  3. In order to promote innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, 100 more incubation centres will be established in HEIs over a period of next 5 years.
  4. International collaborations and networks will be promoted for developing human resources required to sustain new knowledge with special focus on inter-disciplinary research and studies.

20) Financing Education

  1. The government will take steps for reaching the long pending goal of raising the investment in education sector to at least 6% of GDP as a priority.
  2. Instead of setting up new institutions, which require huge investments, priority of the Government will be to expand the capacity of existing institutions.
  3. In order to encourage excellence and efficiency, performance-linked funding of higher education institutions will be implemented.
GS-2, Social Issue, Uncategorized

How efficient is Indian education?

Livemint

Issue

  • There is a need to develop a system where efficiency of our education system can be measured.

Context

  • With Right to Education (RTE) Act and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the goal of ensuring universal primary education has been  aggressively pursued, and a significant quantitative impact in terms of the enrolment ratio has been seen.  However, an assessment of the actual learning levels reveals the flip side of the coin.The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 indicates learning levels of students are still a huge concern.

Need to measure efficiency

  • It is important for state administrations to realize that improving infrastructure and resources should be accompanied by commensurate learning levels of students.
  • Thus, the need for a measure of efficiency emerges in order to assess education systems in their ability to convert educational inputs to outputs.
  • This can help provide an objective way for states to get feedback on their education delivery process and do away with the practice of judging the performance of states based solely on their inputs, or outputs.
  • There is a need to develop a methodology to measure the relative efficiency of the education delivery process and provide insights on what states can learn from peer-to-peer exchanges.

Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA)

  • It has been used extensively in several investigations and researches across countries and sectors for efficiency analyses.
  • It compares each entity (states in this case) with its peers in the set, and assigns a relative efficiency to it.
  • The first step in efficiency measurement using DEA is to identify relevant inputs and outputs for the educational process.
  • The learning outcomes reported by ASER are used as outputs, namely reading levels in local language, basic arithmetic ability and learning levels in English.
  • Similarly, the resources and infrastructure provided by state authorities to facilitate education are the quantifiable inputs.

Applying it to RTE

  • The RTE lays down certain minimum requirements, and the percentage of schools adhering to those norms serve as input values in this method.
  • The seven factors, as mandated by RTE, considered in this analysis are pupil-teacher ratio, classroom-teacher ratio, availability of drinking water, availability of usable toilets, availability of buildings and playgrounds, availability of library with books and mid-day meals being served.
  • Two additional inputs to represent the socioeconomic background of students as well as the local village infrastructure are also used.

Conclusion

  • A careful inclusion of inputs as well as outputs is needed in assessment of the status quo, and data-driven insights need to be drawn to identify the right focus areas for improvement.
  • DEA fulfils all such requirements, and can aid in the policymaking process in other sectors too.
  • A sound elementary education system is essential for our country to tap the potential of its vast human resource, and the importance of data-driven policy in this context can never be overemphasized.
Editorials, GS-2, Social Issue, Uncategorized

Researching education

  • India in a big need for research in education sector, to improve quality of education.

Research

Two kinds of research can be done in education.

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Second type of research is usually done by economists, political scientists, sociologists and scholars from similar intellectual backgrounds.

In India nobody is bothered about first type of research, very little can be seen, and second type of research gets disproportionate attention of policymakers and the public.

It basically focuses on issues of peripheral importance to the reality of education.

If research really want to help educational policy and practice, in improving the educational experience and attainment of the millions of students in our schools, we need to pay adequate attention to the first kind of research also.

This type of research requires focus on understanding the two important elements in our education system.

  1. The teacher
  • Most teachers in India deal with heterogeneous student group
  • That present complex challenges.
  • Example
    • different age groups
    • A large number of these children would have parents who have never gone to school
    • and even for others, the brutal struggle for livelihood leaves little possibility of educational support at home.
    • Language issue: child knows different from the language used as the medium of instruction at the school.
    • For many of these children, the only full meal is the mid-day meal provided by the school. Before and after school, most of them are engulfed with their share of daily chores.

Now the questions arises:

  • How does a teacher deal with this situation?
  • How can she be effective as an educator?
  • How does she tackle the issue of multiple languages?
  • How does she provide required support to those children facing the most acute deprivation?
  • What are her struggles in doing all this, day after day, for years?
  • What support does she require and how can we make that happen?
  • How can she deal more effectively with the local community?

There is no one correct answer to any of these questions. There can be multiple valid approaches, influenced by factors factors, which may change over time.

With experience and rigorous reflection, one can arrive at relevant operating principles that can help in multiple contexts and situations.

Even these need constant critical interrogation, because of our dynamic social reality.

Now arises second set of questions which requires deep understanding of education systems in their complex social setting.

These type of questions take account of, the aims, values and concerns of education revealed by the first set with empathy.

Questions arises are:

  • How can the capacity of our 8.5 million teachers, who have a full-time job, be improved within the constraints and diversity of our education system and social reality?
  • How does community engagement with schools become effective?
  • How can schools foster constitutional values?
  • How should schools be governed, recognizing fully that simplistic, industrial-mindset governance mechanisms are not only ineffective but also harmful to good education?
  • How do we deal with the rot in the pre-service teacher education system?
  1. Individual educators and organizations
  • Some have conducted systematic inquiry and they have been able to abstract the experience into shareable knowledge.
  • And if we compare multitude of these matters and their complexity, such inquiry has been microscopic in India.

Conclusion

  • Research in education must focus on the real and important issues within education.
  • Educators themselves should adept at asking and answering research questions, rigorously and systematically.
  • If educators take responsibility for research, it will definitely cause a quiet revolution in education research and education itself.
Editorials, GS-2, Social Issue, Uncategorized

Education key to quality public representation

Many believe that while acceptability of democracy continues to be unquestionable, there is enough empirical evidence suggesting that efficacy of democratic governance has always remained doubtful. Poor functional ability of the elected representatives is the main reason behind this.

  • The question of palpable tensions between electability and functional ability of an elected representative has always figured as a prominent theme in contemporary discourse about democracy the world over.

Concerns:

It is now generally agreed that the quality of elected representatives has been the main factor responsible for this abysmally low result orientation of democratic governance.

  • In India, even today, electability, or ability to get elected, remains the single-most decisive factor in awarding a party ticket. Those who get party nomination are more often than not unable to boast of any high personal qualifications.
  • This is certainly bound to affect quality of representation, impacting deliberations, decision-making and delivery in a democratic setup.
  • And being a part of competitive democratic polity, there is an obvious limitation for any single party taking ameritocratic view (A political philosophy holding that power should be vested in individuals almost exclusively based on ability and talent). Obviously then, electability becomes the common single denominator, leading to a situation where people get a representative that they in fact do not deserve.

How to tackle this problem?

Driven by the need to overcome this quality crunch, different democracies have evolved some screening mechanisms. Measures such as a term limit to facilitate entry of fresh blood, qualifying thresholds for parties and candidates, age limit and similar such regulatory provisions were introduced by different countries at different levels.

Efforts in India:

In a bid to improve the quality of elected representatives, in 2015, Haryana amended the existing law.

  • The new law mandated that matriculation is required for a general male candidate, middle pass for a general woman candidate and for Scheduled Caste (SC) male candidate and only Class V pass for an SC woman candidate, as the minimum educational qualifications to be eligible for contesting the elections to the Gram Panchayats, or village bodies, and other Panchayati Raj institutions.
  • Having a functional toilet at home was also made a mandatory eligibility criterion for candidates.

Opposition:

Many people, including few experts, opposed the amendment, and few even contested in the apex court.

  • It was argued that whether a man or woman, SC or general, the functions of a panchayat member is the same and hence if a Class 5 pass is enough to discharge a member’s function, why has a higher qualification of middle pass and matriculation pass been imposed?
  • It was also argued that the amendment goes against the spirit behind the principle of adult franchise.
  • However, much to the dismay of the critics, the apex court upheld the amendment, which is now in force. In fact, the state went ahead with elections to village bodies under this amended act and its impact is highly remarkable and hence noteworthy.

Impacts of this law:

This law has brought many changes in the state. For the first time, Haryana, a state that had acquired a bad name for female foeticide, saw several young women making it to the positions of sarpanch. Also, most elections were held without any violence, the reason being that many hooligans were automatically driven out of the fray.

  • It has also helped achieve greater gender justice as the number of women making it to rural local self-government institutions has gone beyond the quota limit of 33%. The state has as many as 43% women members across its Zila Parishads while in Taluka Panchayats, the proportion of women is 42%. More importantly, a total of 41% villages are now headed by a woman as its chief, or Sarpanch.
  • A by-product of this new measure, making minimum education mandatory, is that the fierceness of the contests disappeared hugely. Of the total 70,071 seats for which elections were held, in as many as 39,249 seats the elections were unanimous. This takes the number of consensus candidates to a whopping 56%! Again, of the total 6,187 Sarpanchs elected, 274 got the mandate unanimously.
  • Much to the surprise of many, this amendment, being assailed as “meritocracy”-promotion has also led to social democracy with greater representation to the marginal sections of society.
  • Because of this law, many more backward class candidates have made it to the elected bodies, leaving the statutory quota figures far behind.

Way ahead:

Now, the real test of the impact of these amendments will be in the way these representatives conduct themselves. This will largely depend on the quality of deliberations, decision-making and delivery. Also under watch will be their public conduct. Now, it is up to the state government to work on a massive capacity building campaign for these newly elected representatives.

Conclusion:

When popular confidence in democracy is under severe strain, mainly due to the quality of public representation, although debatable, reforms-oriented experiments are always very important. In this regard, Haryana has taken a bold step. The apex court has already validated these reforms. Now, it is for the new entrants in Haryana’s Panchayati Raj institutions to establish that quality representation also leads to good governance, helping achieve egalitarian goals of a society where justice, harmony and avenues for aspirations are accessible to all.

Editorials, GS-2, Social Issue, Uncategorized

The illusion of equity in the classroom

India is home to 19% of the world’s children. What this means is that India has the world’s largest number of youngsters, which is largely beneficial, especially as compared to countries like China, which has an ageing population.

  • The not-so-good news is that India also has one-third of the world’s illiterate population. It’s not as though literacy levels have not increased, but rather that the rate of the increase is rapidly slowing.
  • To combat this worrisome trend, the Indian government proposed the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, making education a fundamental right of every child in the age group of 6 to 14. This act recently completed five years of operation.

Concerns:

  • The Act mandates that schools reserve 25% seats for students from the disadvantaged groups. However, in many states this is not followed strictly. For example, in Uttar Pradesh, only 12 out of 75 districts have admitted students from disadvantaged groups to private schools.
  • There are rumours that due to the pressure exerted by the private schools’ lobby, even Karnataka may dilute the Act.
  • A large number of Dalits, Adivasis and girls discontinue education because of discrimination in schools.
  • And more than 60% of urban primary schools are overcrowded, and about 50% of Indian students cannot do basic mathematics or read a short story when they complete elementary education.

Census data:

According to the 2011 Census, the average literacy rates of people aged above 15 among Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are about 9% and 17.4% less than the national average, respectively.

  • The female literacy rate is 19.5% less than that of males. This difference increases to 23% and 23.5% among the SCs and STs, respectively, indicating the double discrimination faced by Dalit and Adivasi women.
  • The dropout rates among SCs and STs are significantly higher than the national average and more girls discontinue schooling than boys.
  • There is also a wide variation across States and the gap is wider in rural areas as compared to urban, but these statistics suggest significant inequalities in the distribution of educational opportunities.

Equity and quality parameters:

  • The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 reveals that enrolment in private schools has increased from 18.7% in 2006 to 30.8% in 2014. But, this increase has not been accompanied by a proportionate inclusion of disadvantaged groups. The report also suggests that private schools fare only marginally better in terms of imparting quality education compared to government schools.
  • The National University of Educational Planning and Administration’s 2011-12 report shows that only about 16% of students from SCs and STs attend private schools and the average Indian household spends five times more money on each child annually if s/he is enrolled in a private school compared to a government school. It is reasonable to say that private schools are ordinarily more accessible to higher income groups.

These statistics suggest that our education system has fared poorly on both equity and quality parameters.

Common school system (CSS):

To address the above mentioned issues and to bring the different social classes and groups together and thus promote the emergence of an egalitarian and integrated society, the Kothari Commission recommended a common school system (CSS).

  • The CSS was adopted by both the 1968 and 1986 national policies on education.
  • While the interventions from ‘Operation Blackboard’ to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan brought universalisation and quality to the forefront, the CSS was somehow relegated to the background.

Road ahead:

The RTE Act provides for minimum quality standards and mandates 25% reservation for children belonging to weaker sections. This provision has caused much debate. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has clarified that “the larger objective of this provision is to provide a common place where children sit, eat and live together for at least eight years of their lives across caste, class and gender divides in order that it narrows down such divisions in our society”.

Four caveats could be issued here-

  • One, in conceiving ‘disadvantaged groups’, we must also include children of sex workers, transgendered groups, disabled persons and minorities.
  • Two, equality also means the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Three, the government must not abdicate its responsibility to make its schools inclusive. If Dalit children sit separately and clean toilets and girls perform stereotypical gender roles, then we have only engrafted inequality and entrenched hierarchies.
  • Four, education itself needs to celebrate the diverse ways in which knowledge is transferred and acquired.

Responsibility of the state:

  • Article 39 directs the state to frame policies that distribute the “ownership and control of the material resources of the community” such that it serves the “common good”, and “provide opportunities and facilities that enable children to develop in a healthy manner in conditions of freedom and dignity”.
  • Article 37 commands that they shall be “fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws”.

Initially, universal elementary education was a Directive Principle under Article 45. But, it was made a fundamental right vide the 86th Constitutional Amendment.

Conclusion:

It is time that the central and state governments carry out a thorough review of the RTE and take remedial action. There is diffused responsibility and lack of accountability in states towards goals set by the Centre. Co-ordinated action is indeed lacking and implementation tends to fall between two stools. A greater level of seriousness on all sides is the need of the hour. Like many attempted social changes in India, this too has to start at the community level, requires a widespread change of an age-old mindset and must make people at the helm of affairs accountable.

Big Picture, Uncategorized

Minority status to Universities: Is it necessary?

Last week an issue, which has always been controversial was reopened. It is about whether Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Mila Islamia were minority universities. The government has said that Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia are not minority educational institutions. In the case of AMU, the Attorney General has argued that this is because it was set up by an act of Parliament, not by Muslims. However, critics say this is a narrow reading of the history and background of AMU and JMI. There are hundreds of minority institutions in the country but still the controversy continues.

What is the ‘minority character’ of an educational institution?

Article 30(1) of the Constitution gives all religious and linguistic minorities the right to set up and run educational institutions, including schools, colleges and universities. The law guarantees that governments will not discriminate in giving aid on the basis of their being ‘minority’ institutions, thus sealing in a commitment by the Government of India to allow minorities to flourish.

Why this provision was included in the constitution?

This was done to assure minorities of being able to maintain and propagate their unique and special educational aspects.

Background:

AMU was founded as the Madrasatul Uloom in 1875 in Aligarh, and evolved into the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College. The seeds of Jamia Millia Islamia were sown in Aligarh by a group of nationalist students and members who formed a camp there as Jamia Millia Islamia, which later moved to Delhi. Leaders like M A Ansari, Zakir Husain and Mahatma Gandhi encouraged the university to push nationalist values and ideas.

  • However, there was friction between JMI and AMU along political lines, as a significant section at AMU was said to be tilting towards the Muslim League, while the ‘nationalist’ JMI was wholeheartedly supported by the Congress.
  • The universities have had their own journeys in independent India. AMU has no reservation for Muslims, but has preferences and reservations for local candidates, irrespective of faith. JMI gives reservation/preference to Muslims after the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) granted it minority status in 2011.

Arguments in favour of granting minority status for JMI and AMU:

Jamia became a deemed university in 1962 and a central university in 1988, both by Acts of Parliament. However, supporters argue that Jamia was founded by the Muslims for the benefit of Muslims and it never lost its identity as a Muslim minority educational institution and is covered under Article 30(1) and under the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act’s provision.

  • And In 1920, the Indian Legislative Council set up the AMU, and all assets of Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College were transferred to it. Those arguing for minority character say that this was done by an Act as that was the only way a university could be set up at the time.

Arguments against:

  • Those opposed to the move say the Act of 1988 states that “it shall not be lawful for the university to adopt or impose on any person any test whatsoever of religious belief or profession in order to entitle him to be admitted therein as a teacher or student or to hold any office therein or to graduate thereat”.
  • They also argue that the application to be declared a minority institution was made in 2006, when reservation for OBCs was introduced in higher educational institutions. Making these institutions minority acted against poor and disadvantaged Muslims.

What has Supreme Court said?

In 1981, Parliament passed an AMU Amendment Act, which accepted that AMU was set up by Muslims. But, in the famous Azeez Basha versus Union of India case, to which AMU was not a party, the Supreme Court ruled thatAMU was not a minority institution as it was set up by the British legislature, and not by Muslims.

  • Even, the Allahabad High Court ruled in 2005 that the 1981 Act was ultra vires of the Constitution, and that AMU was not a minority institution.
  • But the Supreme Court stayed the Allahabad HC decision, so effectively, AMU remained a minority institution.

What has happened now?

Recently, the Centre reversed its earlier position and stated that AMU was not a minority institution as it was set up by Parliament.

Way ahead:

The Supreme Court has held that the term “educational institution” includes a “university”. Similarly, it said expression “of their choice” means “of their choice”, and it is within the power of minorities to expand their choice as much as they want. It is thus possible for a minority community to choose a central university with some governmental supervision, and whose degrees are recognized at par with degrees of other universities.

  • The Supreme Court in the 1967 case has also not ruled out possibility of a central university being a minority institution. It merely said that from the provisions of the AMU Act, 1920, it is not clear that it is a minority institution. This is the heart of this case.
  • The conclusion of the court was primarily based on the provisions of the Aligarh Muslim University Act, 1920. However, critics argue that to determine minority character, one cannot merely look at the law enacted by the legislature. In the Stephen’s case in 1993, the Supreme Court held that St. Stephen’s College is a minority institution and has apparently maintained its Christian character which is evident from its very name, emblem, motto, the establishment of a chapel and its religious instruction in Christian Gospel. Thus, the 1967 decision in the Azeez Basha case has been overruled by the court itself, critics argue.

Conclusion:

Protection of minorities is the hallmark of a civilization. These guarantees are essential in a democratic and pluralistic country like India. The framers of the constitution showed utmost sensitivity to the needs and aspirations of the minorities. Accordingly, special safeguards were guaranteed to the minorities and were incorporated in the chapter on fundamental rights with a view to inculcate in them a sense of confidence and security. Both, AMU and JMI universities have witnessed hectic activity on minority status, especially after reservation for OBCs was made mandatory in 2006. Although the discussion is still centered on the Art.30 (1) of the Constitution (that ensures that ‘all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice’), there is a possibility that this legal debate might take a political form. It is now up to the Apex Court to decide about the minority character of these institutions.

Big Picture, Uncategorized

Future of Indian Education

Watch debate here

Summary:

As per Population Census of India 2011, the Literacy rate of India has shown an improvement of almost 9%. It has gone up to 74.04% in 2011 from 65.38% in 2001. It consists of male literacy rate 82.14% and female literacy rate is 65.46%. Kerala with 93.9% literacy rate is the top state in India. Lakshadweep and Mizoram are at second and third position with 92.3% and 91.06% literacy rate respectively. Bihar with 63.08% literacy rate is the last in terms of literacy rate in India. Majority of states in India have shown majors signs of improvement in their overall literary rate thus contributing towards a literate nation. But, India is said to be passing through a great dichotomy. The country has got some excellent education institutions. But, the quality across the country is uneven.

According to a report, 57% of students in the country are educated but are not adequately prepared for employment. The country’s education assessment framework lacks specific action points for teachers and parents to enable holistic education.

India holds an important place in the global education industry. The country has more than 1.4 million schools with over 227 million students enrolled and more than 36,000 higher education institutes. India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world. However, there is still a lot of potential for further development in the education system. The total amount of foreign direct investments (FDI) inflow into the education sector in India stood at US$ 1,171.10 million from April 2000 to June 2015, according to data released by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).

The education sector in India is poised to witness major growth in the years to come as India will have world’s largest tertiary-age population and second largest graduate talent pipeline globally by the end of 2020. Higher education system in India has undergone rapid expansion. Currently, India’s higher education system is the largest in the world enrolling over 70 million students while in less than two decades. India’s IT firms are also working with academic institutions and setting up in-house institutes to groom the right talent.

The Government of India has taken several steps including opening of IIT’s and IIM’s in new locations as well as allocating educational grants for research scholars in most government institutions. Furthermore, with online modes of education being used by several educational organisations, the higher education sector in India is set for some major changes and developments in the years to come. Government has also taken several measures to improve the literacy rate in villages and towns of India. State Governments has been directed to ensure and improve literacy rate in districts and villages where people are very poor. There has been a good improvement in literacy rate of India in last 10 years but there is still a long way to go.

Various initiatives by Ministry of HRD:

Unlike 2014, this year turned out to be productive for the Human Resource Development Ministry. Some of the promises made last year were followed by tangible results in 2015.

  • The launch of the Global Initiative of Academic Network or GIAN, under which eminent scholars from abroad were recruited to teach students of higher courses, and the indigenous ranking framework for universities and institutes were among them.
  • The ministry also cleared several pending appointments, including posts of eight vice-chancellors at central universities and the heads of AICTE, NCERT and Indian Council of Philosophical Research.
  • The most notable achievement of the ministry was completion of the Swachh Vidyalaya target, with four lakh toilets built in government schools.

Challenges:

  • The problems that confront education today are low rates of enrolment, unequal access, poor quality of infrastructure and lack of relevance.
  • Another challenge that confronts India is in the disparities in access to education, especially in terms of economic class, gender, caste and ethnic and religious belonging.
  • The expansion of the private, self-financing education sector, with its aim of commercial intent, has been another reason for the propagation of disparities.

Looking forward:

  • In 2016, the new education policy will be the top agenda for the HRD ministry as consultations with state governments and stakeholders enter the last lap. A revamp of the National Curriculum Framework is also on the cards.
  • The ministry is also expected to roll back some big decisions, including making Class X board examinations optional and the no-detention policy of the Right to Education Act.
  • With human resource increasingly gaining significance in the overall development of the country, development of education infrastructure is expected to remain the key focus in the current decade. In this scenario, infrastructure investment in the education sector is likely to see a considerable increase in the current decade.
  • To ensure that the skills of Indian students are aligned with what the market demands will require that courses and teachers are in tune with the same.
  • Public and private aided institutions must be strengthened and expanded and the expansion of self-financing private institutions restricted to a reasonable level.
  • Foreign educational institutions should be allowed to enter into collaborations with Indian institutions on a large scale. This will help in enhancing capabilities as far as curricular and pedagogical practices.