After RTE, enrollments are up, but learning has plummeted. This was the consensus at a panel discussion on 'The National Policy on Education needs to be redrawn,' as part of the Think Edu Conclave organized by The New Indian Express on Thursday. Said Rakesh Mittal co-chairman, Bharti Foundation, "Since the Right to Education Act in 2010, government schools have increased from 1.18 per village to 1.66, private schools have gone up from 16 per cent to 24 per cent and over 96 per cent of all children in the six to 14 age group in India are in schools." However, he added, "The irony is that the learning level of Class 5 and 8 students has gone down in the last couple of years." This, Mittal attributed to the 'no detention policy' under the Act. Referring to the clause, he stated, "When you have no exams till Class 8, not only do the students stop taking their studies seriously but the teachers stop preparing for classes."
With a mass shortage in teaching faculty, this seems a shame. Panelist R Govinda, vice-chancellor, National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) raised a pertinent point, "India spends one of the lowest when it comes to investing in quality teachers." And the teacher is the primary resource when it comes to education, if not the only one, the speaker added. "In some villages, you only have a teacher - no textbook," stresses Govinda.
In fact, added J S Rajput, former director, NCERT (National Council Of Educational Research And Training), "If you compare the 1992 policy on education and the 1996 one, not one word has been changed on the section of teachers." In the end, a new National Policy on Education did not seem foremost on anybody's mind. Instead private-public partnership was put forward as the need of the day. "We need to be the change," said former IPS officer, Kiran Bedi simply. She took the audience through slides of a sprawling slum that she had come across while Police Commissioner in North Delhi. "I think it had as many children as it had flies," Bedi recalled. "But we brought together the entire community of rich men and women in the area, and started 165 gulley schools!" Other obstacles that were highlighted were social discrimination in schools and a high drop out rate. Bedi shared that her 3 S formula has been most effective in tackling the latter.
"Siksha, Sanskar and skills," the social activist who heads the Navjyoti India Foundation elaborated. To shows it works, she added, "The national dropout rate is 48 per cent, the Delhi drop out rate is 23 per cent, our dropout rate is 3 per cent." Standout quote: Despite 'neighbouring schools' being available to the dalit population in villages, often the school is of a different caste and this means parents cannot send their children - P Sivakami, Former IAS officer and author.
More stories from the Think Edu Conclave: