We need Education for All, and a Drastic Policy Re-Think

Published on: January 6, 2016
all levels even at the elementary stage.  Coming in sequel of another flopped “flagship programme”, SSA, and in the same way as it, the RTEA too pledges to universalise elementary education from Classes (Standards) 1 to 8 and does not bother for children   below 6 and above 14 years.  

Two. The RTEA 2009 thus abdicates the government from funding education at least at those stages.  Who then will shoulder that responsibility?  The RTEA straightaway paves the path for private investors to get into the scene for unchecked privatization of pre-6 year education of children; it legalizes privatization and commercialization of education. After bringing in a law that gives space to these private players, the policymakers are now shedding crocodile tears for mushrooming of pre primary/ play school industry.

Three. It follows the system of multi-grade teaching with the labels “child centered” and “activity oriented” approach stuck to them as stipulated in the DPEP and SSA, offspring programmes of the World Bank and IMF. Forget about the few shining Kendriya Vidyalaya of the metropolis and other cities. In the vast hinterland of the country, a single teacher, may be a para-teacher, appointed on contract basis, and figured as a ‘class room manager’ (mind it, not class teacher) would look after a number of classes, may  be  even in a single room. These teachers are supposed to work for 45 hours a week, and would have to work for, as and when required and compulsorily, to do census duty, election duty, disaster relief work etc.; would have to prepare midday meals for students, keep accounts of the groceries, fuel and such other items, even chase after students across fields to lure them back to school. It befalls on students to learn by themselves.

Four.  The RTEA, 2009 legalizes no pass-fail system up to the level of class VIII and   admission of students according to their age, a 14 year child to Class VIII, and not according to his or her prevailing academic  standard. 

Five. The RTE Act pertains to government- run or general aided -schools. The one under high-priced private control will be exempt from all government controls and restrictions, making room for only the rich to enjoy the best of facilities for education. They will get the best of amenities and will have the examination system for checking and improving performance. They will retain the class promotion system as usual. The RTE Act thus stands out as highly discriminatory giving way to catering to the Minimum Level Learning (MLL) education for a vast work force and Optimum Level Learning (OLL) education  for a handful of elites from private schools.

It (Right to Education Act) does not cover all students, education at all levels even at the elementary stage.  Coming in sequel of another failed “flagship programme”, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), and in the same way as it, the RTEA too pledges to universalise elementary education from Classes (Standards) 1 to 8 onwards. It is illogically silent on the basic, fundamental needs of educationfor children below 6 years and above 14 years of age.  

 The whole outreach programme for secondary level education in the proposed education policy (Theme 2), a programme for ‘near universalisation of secondary education’ as a ‘logical next step’ (page 5)  hinges upon such a deceitful, discriminatory measure of the RTE Act that is detrimental to students, teachers and education as a whole.  Theme 2 further adds RMSA as a new ingredient professing holistic education on the basis of a single comprehensive scheme; at this stage it can only be apprehended that the RMSA does not prove as another failed attempt just like the  earlier ones of DPEP, SSA! 
It is no denial a fact that teachers play a pivotal role in any education system. It has been earlier indicated how miserable the picture of our situation is, where taking the country as a whole, nearly one and a half lakh of  posts of teachers lie vacant in schools.

Yet the document  contains a Theme V on Re-vamping Teacher Education for Quality Teachers. It says that the quality of teachers has been ‘a major cause of worry’ or ‘Competence of teachers and their motivation is crucial for improving the quality’. They admit ‘issues of large number of vacancies’, problems of ‘untrained teachers’, ‘lack of professionalism in teacher training institutions’, ‘teacher absenteeism and teacher accountability’ and ‘involvement of teachers in non- teaching activities’ all need to be addressed. They say ‘several initiatives are being taken’ by the Central and State governments, through  different tests like the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) introduced by the CBSE or TETs by the state Governments are being held.

Then they pose questions inviting suggestions on how teachers can be recruited or their quality improved etc. They , however, do not spell out anything about  why  the government,   or other  initiatives have miserably failed in their efforts, so far  in the  past and even  in the present, ultimately giving  birth to the present situation; why the so-called recruitment Tests have now  become synonymous with and infamous for corruption; why teachers are being compelled to carry out non-teaching jobs like arranging for mid-day meals etc; who other than the governments engage teachers in such jobs; why rampant political or other interference and intervention take place, allegedly involving fat sums of money in the process  of  teachers recruitment under the very nose of governments etc.  etc.

Without any hint on these, rather maintaining a complete silence on these points, have made the above-mentioned quotes from the document not just totally baseless, even dubious. For any national education policy  to operate genuinely for people’s interest, it must be  pronounced unambiguously  that education institutions at all levels must be given the unstinted autonomy in every concern, starting from  the processes and policies on teachers and employees recruitment,  administration,  admission of students, academic affairs including framing of syllabus etc.

These affairs cannot remain merely in the hands of such agencies, government or not, exclusively made up of bureaucrats or their nominees, which, in our present situations, remain susceptible to political interference, corruption stemming from greed for pelf arising out of the privileged positions of power. 

Theme III is entitled Strengthening of Vocational Education . It laments that in India, general education and vocational education are exclusively separated. It asserts that knowledgeable and skilled workforce are the most important human capital required for the development of a country. Both vocational education and skill development are known to increase productivity of individuals, profitability of employers and national growth. ‘Given that only 7 to 10 per cent of population is engaged in formal sector of economy’, development of vocational education will provide skilled labour force for the informal unorganized sector and to inculcate self employment skills.  Based on this approach vocationalisation of secondary education scheme was revised in 2014 to address the issue. Efforts are now on to revamp the education system to make skill development an integral part of the curriculum at all stages, laying greater emphasis on integrating skills in education with a renewed focus on vocational education in secondary education.

So, this theme lays bare the outlook and approach of the policymakers towards education. Despite all tall talks of  ethics and value-based education and despite the HRDM herself calling upon students to follow the teachings of Swami Vivekananda for character development  (The Statesman Kolkata, February 13, 2015), the aim of education, they fix at  productivity of individuals, profitability of employers and national growth. This bluntly corporate-savvy that is pro-monopolist approach has no place in the transformative and emancipator role that education needs to play in any society.