Will the New Education Policy revitalize India’s Education System?

The Indian Education system is finally undergoing revision after a good 30 years and is therefore a huge welcome step. Since the revision has come after a long gap it will have to take into account the socio-economic and political changes that have occurred over the last few decades.

soha-pic-836x1024Despite having achieved significant progress, issues pertaining to quantity, quality, access, efficacy and financial outlays still remain. In fact they have built up to mammoth proportions and hence must be tackled with utmost urgency. For three decades CRY has been working to restore the rights of children in India. Having touched the lives of 20 lakh children across 23 states, we believe that a few critical recommendations need to be put forth to necessitate a lasting change

A greater demand for education calls for a strong foundation in schools so as to achieve the desired learning outcome. Learning outcomes are a combination of several factors. These include overall health and nutrition, school infrastructure, qualified teachers, regular attendance, pedagogy and assessment processes and the environment provided to children in school and at home.

Quality infrastructure and qualified workforce are both critical for a good start and the Right to Education Act 2009 has rightly emphasized on these two components, setting deadlines which we have unfortunately failed to meet.

According to the latest available DISE data (2014-2015) less than 65% schools have playground and boundary walls. While 87% schools in the country have girl’s toilets faculties, ground realities however reveal that there are several instances where toilets are non functional mostly due to non availability of water.

In a 7 state CRY study conducted recently, Andhra Pradesh was found to have the highest number of schools without drinking water and toilet facilities. A huge percentage of schools studied in the East and North were not electrified with Jharkhand, Bihar, J&K, Orissa and MP having more than 70% schools with no electricity.  This existing situation definitely comes in the way of promoting Information Communication technology in schools, reflected in the fact that a mere 25% schools have computer facilities

Improving the basic infrastructure in terms of availability of all weather classrooms, drinking water facilities and functional, accessible toilets is essential since it will have a direct bearing on the attendance and consequently the learning outcomes.

Teachers are pivotal to the learning process but lack of enough and qualified teachers has often been a disabler. According to the 12th five year plan there are 5 lakh teacher vacancies in the country and another 5 lakh teachers are required to meet the RTE norms on pupil-teacher ratio.  Furthermore 2.25 lakh in service teachers are still untrained as indicated by DISE (2013-14). Need-based and on-site training of teachers should be given utmost importance as it not only brings in an element of innovation and interest in the teaching-learning experience but also helps teachers to identify and course correct problems faced by children like slow learning, lack of interest, disciplining etc.

Similarly a balanced pupil-teacher ratio allows for individual student attention and thus affects the effectiveness. The RTE Act allows for a certain teacher-student ratio to be followed in both primary (30:1) and secondary schools (35:1). However the latest DISE data shows that in some states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, more than 50% schools have Pupil Teacher ratio above the prescribed RTE norms

Studies conducted by the National University of Educational planning and Administration (NUEPA) reflect an urgent need to improve children’s learning outcomes. Three cycles of surveys conducted for classes III, V and VIII since 2001 show that the average achievement of students in selected subject areas vary greatly across states and UTs. The results also reflected that achievements varied greatly based on socio-economic backgrounds of children, with students from general category performing better than their SC/ ST/ OBC counterparts.

Exclusivity often hampers learning. Discriminatory practices based on issues like caste, religion, gender, disability etc force children to miss classes eventually leading to their dropping out of schools. Inclusivity in education should not only end all forms of discrimination from and within the school system but should also cater to the learning needs of children from disadvantaged background. For this, not just teachers, school staff and communities but even children need to be sensitized and trained to be inclusive

Besides focusing on the current policies and their implementation, the NEP should also define the future vision and pathway for the RTE act so that its coverage can be extended to children in the age group of 0-6 years and 14-18 years.

Though formal education begins much later, the role of quality pre-school education in enhancing learning outcomes at elementary levels cannot be disputed. It is at this stage that children develop their basic skills and focus on learning. Early childhood care and education provided through ICDS needs to emphasize the early stimulation and development of children, in contrast to simply being a vehicle for supplementary nutrition.

Children falling in the 14-18 years bracket are most prone to dropping out of schools due to several factors. These children in turn become most vulnerable to child marriage; trafficking and child labor, particularly girls. This downward and upward extension of the RTE act would entail state ownership of secondary education in terms of access and availability to the most marginalized along with adequate public spending

Education is not simply a preparation for the future but an investment on our children in the present. This is why it is important to ensure an effective interplay of a range of supportive factors; an enabling policy and an enabling home, community and school environment. Guaranteeing this would require the strong will of all stakeholders particularly the government. The NEP therefore has a tremendous potential to change the educational landscape of the country and provide a framework of education for children in its entirety

 

Soha Moitra

Director – Child Rights and You

(Read how CRY works towards eliminating the root causes behind these statistics to help create access to education for every child here)

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