Friday December 14, 2018

‘Corruption biggest hurdle in India’s quest for quality education’

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New Delhi: Corruption remains the biggest hurdle in the realization of the long-awaited quest of Indians to receive free-of-cost quality education, noted speakers and representatives of schools associations rued at the seventh School Choice National Conference in the national capital on Saturday.

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.

While speaking at the Conference at the Indian Habitat Centre, Ekta Sodha, the CEO of Sodha Schools in Gujarat, narrated her “frustrating” experience when “one minor typo error” delayed her in opening a school in the state for a year.

“We talk about policies and a lot of things, but this is not how we see it by working day in, day out at the grassroots level. How does corruption happen? It happens through discretion… Someone told me recently that in Gujarat the system of transfer of teachers has become very transparent. I asked him how. He replied that everything is done online now. There is a platform where the teachers can apply for transfers directly and it gets done in a time-bound manner. However, a teacher who came to my office a few days ago shared a different story. He told me that earlier a teacher was required to pay a bribe of only Rs 10,000 to 15,000 at a local level, but now they are supposed to go to Gandhinagar and pay Rs 50,000 for transfers,” Lodha said, as the gathering burst into peals of laughter.

Lodha also threw some light upon the rampant corruption in the Gujarat government’s endeavor to build ‘model schools’ that were meant to compete with any of the private schools in terms of providing quality education.

The model schools are being set up under the centrally sponsored scheme ‘Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan’ (RMSA), where the central government provides 72 per cent funds while the rest 28 percent is contributed by the state government.

“Gujarat is talking about model schools. They say they’ll open what a model school will look like and a lot of grant has been passed for that… So, there is a school nearby (from where I am in Gujarat) and grant of around Rs four crores have been passed for that. I have a friend who is associated with that project. They have nearly spent Rs four crores on the school yet even plastering work has not been done on the building. They will apply for more grant, I am sure.”

Lodha also told the gathering that the teacher training programme in Gujarat remains only on the paper.

“When teachers of my schools go to these government training centres, they are made to get photographed with the trainer, offered food and then asked to leave… There is no training,” she narrated.

R C Jain, President of National Independent School Alliance and Delhi State Public Schools’ Management Association, also narrated the hurdles faced by the people in the education sector due to red-tapism, accusing the government of imposing unnecessary rules over the private schools where 30 per cent children of India study.

“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.”

Jain said the government through RTE Act set a limit in the number of students in a class but did not provide infrastructure to schools to accommodate them.

The speakers rued that the Right to Education Act 2009 under section (6) directs the government to establish new schools in areas where they do not exist. Contrary to this provision of the Act, various states are shutting down thousands of government schools due to falling enrolments, which is a clear indicator that more and more people prefer to send their children to private schools for education rather than free-of-cost government schools.

“In 2014-15, Rajasthan closed down 18000 government schools, Maharashtra closed down 4000 government schools and Chhattisgarh closed down 2913 government schools,” Professor Geeta Gandhi Kingdom said.

On the other hand, in accordance with Section 19 of the Act, thousands of private unaided schools which are not able to fulfill stringent infrastructure norms specified in the Act, despite producing higher learning outcomes, have also been forced to shut down. According to a National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) report of March 2014, since the implementation of the RTE Act, 19,414 private unaided schools have been shut down or issued notice of closure (affecting the education of nearly 40 lakh children), she said.

“There should be a change at the grassroots level.”

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Conventional vs Unconventional Classroom

So where would you be learning, conventional or an unconventional classroom?

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Unlike the conventional learning in a classroom, online training makes the content available for students digitally. Flickr

Learning is the process of acquiring new skills or knowledge and for quite some time students have followed the process of enrolling in an offline centre to learn and study from the material provided but now, there is a new and an unconventional approach to upskilling yourself and that is through online learning.

While I was growing up, if I ever wanted to learn a new skill, I had to travel a minimum of 2-3 kms to the nearest learning or tuition centre to enquire and then enrol for the desired training. Though there were interactions with the teacher, but inhibitions got the better of me and with time, because of all the unresolved doubts, the learning started to become monotonous and I lost interest. But online learning has made that journey for a student interesting, fun and a cakewalk. You can relax in your seat while the knowledge is displayed on your screen and ask all that you wish to.

To begin with, what is online learning?

Unlike the conventional learning in a classroom, online learning makes the content available for students digitally. Students can learn online, anywhere and anytime. Instead of physical copies of books, e-learning uses visual content and gamification.

To help you understand the differences better I would like to compare both the classrooms and the learning associated on the basis of parameters that are essential for an overall learning.

1.       Affordability: 

In offline centres or conventional classrooms there are a lot of miscellaneous expenses incurred and hence the fee structure is designed accordingly.

Whereas in online learning, students’ aim is to learn so companies spend resources only on developing the content and thereby lowering the cost of the training.

From text to graphics, this software does it all. Pixabay
In offline centres or conventional classrooms there are a lot of miscellaneous expenses incurred and hence the fee structure is designed accordingly. Pixabay

2.       Flexibility and convenience:

In a conventional classroom, if you miss a class it gets difficult to grasp the topic and understand what is being taught. The classes have to be attended on fixed days
and timings, offering almost no flexibility. Whereas in online learning, the classes can be taken as per your availability and thus giving you an opportunity to design your own curriculum. You could also watch the classes over and understand the topics in-depth.

3.       Answers to your questions:

While learning, doubts might arise about the topic being taught but students usually hesitate in asking questions in a classroom. Whereas in online learning, you are an anonymous user and your doubts, as frivolous they may be, can be asked without any hesitation.
4.       Practical experience:
The learning journey in a conventional classroom is about reading and grasping, it involves little or none practical applications of the learnings. Whereas in online learning, the training is designed in such a manner that the content is informative and involves practical applications as well. The test and assignments in the module are made to ensure that the student has a holistic growth.

Also Read- Apple Watch Helps Users in US Take ECG

Only 20 percent of the five million students who graduate every year get employed, industry lobby Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) said in a report, published last year.

The competition is stiff and is going to get worse with time so It essential to make yourself stand out from the rest to increase your chances of getting hired. The certificate you will receive at the successful completion of the training will help in making the employer realise that you have relevant skills and in-depth knowledge about the subject.

So where would you be learning, conventional or an unconventional classroom?

About the Author: Sarvesh Agrawal is the Founder and CEO of Internshala, an internship and trainings platform. (Internshala.com)