Today, India has around250 million children going to around 1 million schools and 30% to 40% of these studentsare enrolled in private schools. While in 2001, just 18% of Indian studentswere enrolled in private schools and it is assessed that by 2025, 75% studentswill opt for them, if the present pattern of dissatisfaction with government schools’proceeds. In many countries, the state assumes the responsibility to educate students.In UK 93%, in USA 92%, in Finland 98% and in Sri Lanka 97% of the kids areenrolled in government funded schools. Private schools over the world have beenthe preserve of the elite class, who trust that the mass state funded schooltraining framework does not meet the all-round improvement needs of their children,who were born privileged; and thus they are expected to live in privilege.
The two landmark reformsinitiated by government of India include Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rightto Education (RTE). Though these reforms helped in raising enrolment numbers,they could not address the issue of quality of education. The Education systemshould confirm to three important factors, i.e. Access, Equity and Quality.India successfully addresses the first two with much success, but the thirdrequires great attention.
Indians seem to have lost their trust and faith inpublic schools because of abject educational delivery across most states. Withlesser number of good teachers willing to teach and inadequate infrastructure,the teacher-student ratios continue to drop. According to Global Post, only a quarter of public school teachers are presentin class, and only 50% of them actually teach.
According to a report by Times of India, there has been a fall inthe percentage of fifth grade students to be able to complete second gradelevel readings from 50.3% in 2009 to 41.1 % in 2013 and further decline in 2016to 30.5%. Around one-third of the schools lack proper infrastructure and basicmaterials such as blackboards, chalks etc. The continued deterioration of theIndian public education system is the result of the poor implementation of RTEAct.
Thus the Indian PublicEducation system needs to be restructured altogether. There is an urgent needfor the reforms to restructure the public education system that can help Indiaachieve the ultimate goal of delivering efficient education in the nation. Someof the reforms that should be taken into consideration are:1. Public-Private Partnership: Thereexists a vacuum of quality in education and one way to correct this massivevacuum is through privatising. Public schools can be run on the partnershipbetween public and private sector. The private sector needs to consistentlydeliver high quality education at competitive prices in order to survive themarket forces.
Also, if the private schools fail to deliver on quality as wellas on price, they can’t survive and parents will choose other schools.Unfortunately, there exists a restriction on intervention of private sector inthe government funded schools due to regulatory mechanisms as education is a “notfor profit” field. This leads to loss of public-private collaboration. Thus,this major reform pertains to Charter School Movement in India, i.e. theschools are run on public-private partnership model, where the school is fundedby the government but it operates independently of the established publicsystem offering greater flexibility in the operations and also accountability forthe academic performance of the students.
Over the world, the charter schoolchains have been able to produce better results at a more cost efficientstructure than the country’s public education system. Prime Minister along withthe Education Ministry can think of launching a pilot project in one state andframe guidelines for providing licenses & the operation of charter schoolsin that state. 2. Improving Accountability:The performance of the public school students in the board exams has beenabysmal over the many years in the past. There are some schools in Punjab wherenot even a single student could pass Class X board examination.
In Haryana, thepass percentage over the years has been around 49%. The situation is somewhatsimilar in Himachal Pradesh. But surprisingly, none of these public schoolswerecalled upon to account for such low performance of the students. Thus, the focuson improving the performance of students in the absence of any risk-reward orincentive for the teachers is very minimal. Effectively,the teachers and unions should be reached out and should be convinced to doaway with the tenure-based promotions and adopt a system that gives importanceto the outcome, something like an outcome based career advancement structurecould work.
This will focus on incentivising teachers to perform in theclassrooms and focus on the performance of the students as their growth willdepend on it. This may also lead to teachers taking their in-service trainingmore seriously and also at the same time they would attend the schools everyday. 3. InfrastructuralDevelopment: The recent survey by Millennium IndiaEducation Foundation conducted in 780 Government schools across 13 IndianStates, the key infrastructural facilities such as toilets, drinking water etc.were mostly found missing or in a very poor condition.
Less than 5% of theschools have all the 9 facilities as mentioned in the RTE Act. There were notoilets in more than 30% of the schools and it is considered one of the majorreason for dropping out of schools. Thedevelopment of basic infrastructure in every government school should be mademandatory and also it should be noted that schools follow the mandatedguidelines as per the RTE Act in terms of infrastructure. 4.
Course Correction: Thestudent dropout rates have been increasing at the secondary level education inthe public sector schools in India. One of the major reason for this isstudents from the low income families believe that higher education will nothelp them land in a job. Thereexists an urgent need for bringing changes in the course such as introductionof vocational studies at the higher secondary level. Also, rather than makingstudents study general subjects until their undergraduate education, subjectslike retail, nursing, hospitality should be taught in the higher secondaryeducation. India has a long termvision of being a world leader in the 21st century, but it seemsvery unlikely without an education system that keeps abreast with therequirements and needs of our future citizens. Public-Private partnerships inthe education can unleash the true reality and potential of Indian citizens ina very high competitive environment.
Audit, accountability and clear guidelinesis very important and necessary for such an endeavour to succeed.To quote the PrimeMinster, “Enabling, rather than regulating” is the need of the hour. Otherwisewe are falling in a deep, deep abyss in school education.