‘Need a revolution in Indian education system’

Image: Sapan Kapoor, NewsGram

New Delhi: Taking a dim view of the ‘faulty’ Right to Education Act 2009, the seventh School Choice National Conference in the national capital on Saturday demanded a new ‘Right to Quality Education Act 2016’ so as to ensure imparting of quality education not just by private unaided schools but also by government schools.

This comes as the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) is currently developing the New Education Policy (NEP) in a bid to make India a knowledge superpower by equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge to eliminate the shortage of manpower. The last NEP was brought out in 1986 and later amended in 1992.

Slamming the Central Government for ignoring the deteriorating standard of education in its own schools, the distinguished speakers were unanimously of the view that since the adoption of our Constitution, the universal right of every Indian to have access to quality education has remained a privilege for only those who can afford it by sending their children to fee-charging private schools.

“Right to Education (RTE) has totally failed… We need a revolution in our education system,” R C Jain, President of National Independent School Alliance and Delhi State Public Schools’ Management Association said at the Conference organized at the India Habitat Centre.

“Up until now I have written over 10,000 letters all over India talking about the lacunas in the RTE Act. Moreover, I represent around 4,000 schools in Delhi. They regret that they came to this field and I understand their pain… At least, give teachers the respect they deserve,” Jain said, adding, “The government should not impose rules and restrictions on the private schools, for it is important to keep their autonomy intact.”

ALSO READ: ‘Can’t recommend higher education in Indian languages’

The Quality Education Forum of India has also written a petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that comes down heavily on the RTE Act 2009, seeking a new ‘Right to Quality Education Act 2016’.

“What we would like to see is in the New Education Policy is that we have not essentially focused much on the quality of education. We have talked about and somewhat addressed the access issue by looking at the enrollment numbers. We have somewhat managed to solve the equity issue, which could be social or gender equity. Now we have to move the discourse towards the quality of education,” Rohan Joshi, the Head of the Research vertical of Centre for Civil Society, told NewsGram.

Joshi said the parental choice was a very important factor in education.

Do parents have the choice to choose the right school for their children? This includes essentially the poor parents who can make rational choices. Do they have the opportunity to exercise the choices, the choice between government school or private schools, low-cost private schools or high-cost private schools?

“The Government should facilitate parental choice and not regulate it. The policy should actually create a roadmap on how they can facilitate choices in education, in particularly, strengthen the parental choice. There are ways to do it. How we expect the government to do it? They should create information dissemination platforms where the parents can get information regarding different kinds of schools available to them… The government should also fund students who attend the schools of their choice. It could be a government school. It could be a private school.”

The New Education Policy ought to focus upon, Joshi said, transparency as well. How can they make the entire process of delivery and regulation of education far more transparent?

Another expectation from the policy is the overall change in the role of government in education.

“Currently, government supplies and provides education through running its own schools. Government funds education by the means of scholarships or 25% reservation for children to attend private schools. So they also play a role of financier. The third role that they also play is of making rules for the entire sector. The Government needs to separate out these three roles. The Government should have same rules for government schools in terms of RTE compliance or opening or closing of the school as they have for private schools. The regulatory body itself should comprise government as well as some representation of academicians or experts so that there is some pragmatic approach to the regulation. That role needs to be separated out.

“And financing should happen on the basis of actual expenditures and the cost should be calculated as well as expenditure should happen on the basis of per child expenditure and not funding the institutions that is schools because we know from data number of government schools actually have enrollment below twenty. Is it really worthwhile to run schools with so low enrollments something which we need to look at closely.”

One of the primary expectations is that the education policy should not just focus on solving the problems but also should look in the future and plan for next 20 years, he said. They have to envisage a greater role for technology in education because technology in the past 20 years has practically entered into every other field and has revolutionized every other field, except education sector. The government must promote technology and innovation.

“We really want the government to make the draft public and give enough time to the people to critique it and make their suggestions as the future of India’s children is at stake.”