Tuesday November 21, 2017

‘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.”

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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.”

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How will India look with Free Education and Healthcare ?

Education and healthcare are one of the biggest revenue generators for the country but some sects of the country's population have little or no access to proper facilities

Representational Image. Pixabay.

Nov 17, 2016: In a country where people satiate their hunger and fulfil their basic needs on little wages, higher education is a luxury only a few can afford. Even though the public institutions charge a very subsidized amount compared to the other private institutions, the amount requested by them are beyond the reach of many.

The Right to Education act passed on 1 April 2010 allows children between the ages of 6 and 14 to receive free and compulsory education but the problem for these young minds begin after they walk into adolescence. The families which are poor and every member has to fend for themselves cannot afford higher education for their children. This pushes the young, green saplings into the world to earn money for the family. They start to become the bread-earners of the family and lose all time, opportunity and zeal to receive better education.

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The commercialization of education over the nation has resulted in robbing these aspiring children from their dreams. “Expensive coaching centers, schools and colleges do not ever give a chance to the underprivileged as they are too busy minting money for themselves” says Rashmi, a homemaker.

For a long time, various NGOs and independent workers have been trying to improve the condition of education in India and have also succeeded to some extent. The IITs have decided to provide students of classes 11 and 12 for free over DTH or internet. This initiative starting in January,  will expand the base of aspirants as it is more possible for some students to gain access to internet and DTH than enrolling for coaching centers. The IITs will record over 200 hours for each subject and the students will also contribute to this as assistants for free. This is an example of how if all the citizens tried together to bridge the gaps, this country could be a lot more developed.

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At a Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry consultation for Members of Parliament (MPs) on the New Education Policy (NEP), on which the government is working emphasis was placed on free and compulsory education till Class 12.

If education at undergraduate level is devoid of all cost, the countries literacy rates would shoot up resulting in a much greater national revenue than ever before. This could also lead to more students staying in the country to complete their academics only to repay the country later by contributing to its development. “There would be less pressure on each student as they would be able to put in more sincere efforts because they would not have to worry about their funds” said a student from a university in Bangalore.

These steps could help indecisive students find their goal as they could experience different options before excelling at one. This would not be possible to do today with the soaring prices of education.

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Apart from education, health care is a major factor denoting a country’s development. Good health care facilities are a necessity especially, in India. The ones to benefit most from healthcare being free would be the downtrodden and poor. They would not have to wait at long queues at affordable hospitals, instead they could get treated at any hospital. Some people would not have to wait for enough money to be accumulated so that they could get their illness treated nor would they have to borrow money from people.

Such free clinics should be opened at regular intervals so that it is convenient for people to get help in times of emergencies. “I was so surprised. It was all so quick and easy. It’s a real luxury to have a clinic close to my home instead of wasting a whole day at a hospital,” Wazir, a daily wager told the South China Morning Post. Better and free health care ensures the decrease in the mortality rate in our country due to medical reasons.

Even though the government did not declare free health care as a fundamental right, it is taking steps toward free or heavily subsidized healthcare. The health ministry proposed the increase in India’s health budget from 1.87 percent of the GDP to 2.5 percent to achieve its ambition to provide a basic package of healthcare services for free. Free healthcare means that the families in the country could invest this money in the development of the nation and hence, resulting in their own development.

– by Shivam Thaker of NewsGram. Twitter: @Shivam_Thaker

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NGO Care India urges Free Education for all Children in a Safe and Secure Environment

Care India recommended a focus on ensuring that children learn in a time-bound manner where classroom processes are equitable and promote learning.

Picture of students at a school in Chattisgarh. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 11, 2016: Education should be free for all children in a safe and secure environment, according to a statement released by leading NGO Care India here on Friday.

“Children between 0-6 years age group and 14-18 years age group should come under the ambit of Right To Education (RTE) and education must be strictly owned by the state,” it said.

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 “In view of the large number of out-of-school children in the country, there is a need to spell out a systematic and clear approach or strategy to address their needs and how they will be mainstreamed into formal schools,” the statement added.

Care India demanded a gender transformative approach and emphasis on quality teachers in a safe, secure… Click To Tweet

The National Policy on Education was formulated in 1986 and then underwent modifications in 1992.

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Care India recommended a focus on ensuring that children learn in a time-bound manner where classroom processes are equitable and promote learning.

“The new policy must focus on a highlighted use of multilingual resources and pedagogy to help children acquire early literacy and language skills,” the statement said.

Noting that more than 50 per cent children who are attending school, Care India recommended to recognize that children are out of school due to social, pedagogical and systemic factors, hence customized and contextualized education needs to be developed, inclusive of an empowering gender, social inclusive curriculum and teacher development program based on it.

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According to Care India, school curriculum should be localized for the diverse country where mother tongue-based education is promoted in both urban and rural areas.

“One of the important focus areas has to be recruitment of quality teachers with adequate resources to implement a complex early literacy and language program with a strong gender and equity component at all levels.” (IANS)

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MGNREGA to employ at least 52 million Indians in the next 20 years

Image source: nregs-mp.org/

New Delhi: There is a 14-percent rise in the programme run under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the 2016-17 Budget, the world’s largest state-run jobs plan, after a decade of operation continues to be India’s top poverty mitigation programme.

MGNREGA, which guarantees 100 days of work to unskilled people in villages of India, will employ at least 52 million people and provide livelihoods to their families. That means about 260 million (considering an average family of five) will depend on it over the next 20 years, according to an analysis.

In three years MGNREGA funding has raised up to 18%. Unlike last year, though, when the programme exhausted its money by December, it is unclear what might happen this year when — which is more likely than if — the money runs out.

In 2015-16, there was a cushion of Rs5,000 crore in case the ministry over its money, but New Delhi released only Rs.2,000 crore of that money, according to Aruna Nikhil Roy of the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee, a Delhi-based NGO.

More Indians are still poor than the population of Indonesia. The unqualified number of poor as well as the proportion of poor below the poverty line (according to the Tendulkar poverty line) has been declining over two decades, as we reported.

But about 270 million are still below the poverty line, more than the population of Indonesia (255 million), the world’s fifth-most populated country. The poverty line is the ability to spend Rs.47 per day per person in urban areas and Rs 32 in rural areas.

MGNREGA is being lauded for its achievements in the past decade. Around 277.9 million people are registered under the scheme, and 98.3 million of them are active workers. The programme covers all adults from rural households who seek employment.

The “work” under MGNREGA covers “unskilled manual labour”, providing an opportunity to every person who needs employment. Without skills, young Indians in rural areas will need MGNREGA.

To know exactly how many Indians will need employment in the coming years, the illiterate rural population was scrutinised, according to the 2011 census. There are 51.7 million illiterate people aged 16 to 30.

Since they will not benefit from the Right to Education, which guarantees free and compulsory elementary education till age 14, this population will not be a part of India’s skilled labour force.

According to this International Labour Organisation definition, skills require at least five years of schooling. So, for at least 20 years, MGNREGA will likely need to support this group of Indians.

A word of caution: This 52 million (rounded-off) population includes only illiterates from the Census 2011 data. There are many among the literate population who have basic reading and writing skills but are not skilled enough to work in industry.

MGNREGA critics contend that the scheme does not help pare poverty because of corruption and poor implementation. “From a policy point of view, we should be interested in the efficiency of transferring incomes to the poor,” economist Surjit Bhalla wrote in a column recently.

With no cost-benefit valuation of MGNREGA work and no technical support, the programme struggles to create assets or infrastructure in rural areas, which it should, Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi) economics professor Reetika Khera, wrote in a recent column.

MGNREGA is short of funds- 17 percent of its budget went into paying wages and material from the previous financial year, according to a letter from Ministry of Rural Development to the Ministry of Finance.

The actual allocation for MGNREGA this year is around Rs.29,000 crore ($4.6 billion).

This fund squeeze for MGNREGA is not new and has been evident under both the United Progressive Alliance II and the National Democratic Alliance regimes. Ending the year with pending obligations, which effectively means workers’ wages are unpaid, has been a consistent trend.

As much as 95 percent of the budgetary allocation for the current financial year (2015-16) was exhausted by December 30, 2015. Further, as per the Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Finance calculations, state governments require at least an additional Rs.6,300 crore to pay wages and other expenses.

The drought-affected states of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh will provide 150 days of employment against the normal 100-but there is no extra money evident, from Delhi or in their budgets.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget for MGNREGA may not be enough. Under the devolution recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, India’s states have been given more money, and hence more powers, to decide how they want to finance social welfare.

The one-time Planning Commission had 66 centrally sponsored schemes, reduced to 30 under the NITI Aayog, the body that has replaced the Planning Commission. MGNREGA is one of these 30.

Even though the central government has transferred social welfare to the states through “devolution” (transfer of powers-fiscal or administrative-from higher level of government to lower level of government), it will pay for important programmes, such as NREGA and rural roads.

Jaitley said in his budget speech: “In spite of the consequential reduced fiscal space for the Centre, the government has decided to continue supporting important national priorities such as agriculture, education, health, MGNREGA, and rural infrastructure including roads.” (IANS)