Educating the Poor
One of the primary goals of India’s education policy is to ensure universal access to quality education by reducing and then eliminating the divide between the rural and urban areas on the one hand and the rich and poor on the other.
There have been constant demands from various stakeholders to increase the share of the education budget in GDP from 3% to 6%.
Education being a concurrent subject, the Center’s contribution to education at the moment is around 1% while there are large inter-state differences in funding, varying from 12%- 15% in most states, to about 25 to 30% in states like Kerala and Delhi. Quite clearly those states which are earmarking more budget for education have harvested greater benefit in terms of learning outcomes.
The New Education Policy (2020) of the Modi government has again reiterated the need for upping the antenna of overall allocation to 6% and allocation of a state to around 25% of the GDP, but the ground realities do not seem to match these expectations.
However, what the Modi government has done is to push the implementation of the various schemes on education. These schemes are the following:
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 provides for access to elementary schools for children of the age group of 6-14 years, within the defined area or limits of neighbourhood.
Section 12 (1)(c) of the RTE Act, 2009 provides for admission of children belonging to disadvantaged groups (DG) and economically weaker sections (EWS) in private unaided schools to the extent of at least 25 percent of the strength of class I or below.
The Department of School Education and Literacy had launched an Integrated Scheme for School Education – Samagra Shiksha with effect from 2018-19. The scheme envisages school education as a continuum from pre-school to senior secondary level and aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all. Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided to States and UTs for undertaking various activities to reduce number of out of school children including opening/strengthening of new schools up to senior secondary level, construction of school buildings & additional classrooms, setting up, up-gradation and running of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBV), setting up of residential schools/hostels, free uniforms, free text books and undertaking enrolment & retention drives.
Further, special training for age appropriate admission of out of school and residential as well as non-residential training for older children, seasonal hostels / residential camps, special training centres at worksites, transport/ escort facilities are also supported to bring out of school children to the formal schooling system.
Also, mid-day meals are provided to students at the elementary level of education.
Besides, under the student oriented component for the children with special needs, financial assistance is provided for identification and assessment of children with special needs, aids and appliances, braille kits and books, appropriate teaching learning material and stipend to girl students with disability etc.
In addition, a Central Sector Scheme ‘National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme (NMMSS)’ was launched in May, 2008 with the objective to award scholarships to meritorious students of economically weaker sections to arrest their drop out at class VIII and encourage them to continue their studies at secondary stage. Under NMMSS, scholarship @ Rs. 12,000/- per annum is given to students belonging to economically weaker sections of the society for study in class IX to XII in a State Government, Government-aided and Local Body schools.
Side by side, teachers in the rural areas are periodically trained to impart the best prevailing way of teaching. Para 5.15 of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 envisages to give continuous opportunities to teachers for self-improvement and to learn the latest innovations and advances in their professions.
Each teacher and school principal is expected to participate in at least 50 hours of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) opportunities every year for their own professional development, driven by their own interests. CPD can be offered in multiple modes, including in the form of local, regional, state, national, and international workshops as well as online teacher development modules.
The Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education launched a National Mission to improve learning outcomes at the Elementary level through an Integrated Teacher Training Programme called NISHTHA – National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement on 21st August, 2019 under the centrally sponsored scheme of “Samagra Shiksha”.
In view of the COVID pandemic, NISHTHA online elementary teachers was launched on 06th October, 2020 and the remaining training of NISHTHA at elementary level was conducted online by the NCERT on the DIKSHA platform using high quality professionally made e-content.
In 2021-22, NISHTHA online has been extended to Secondary level (NISHTHA 2.0) and Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (NISHTHA 3.0) for Secondary, Pre-primary & Primary respectively with a focus on improvement in quality of teachers and learning outcomes of students, as per the vision of the National Education Policy, 2020.
However, despite all this, many leading experts of the country suggest that the government alone cannot ensure quality education, it needs the help of the private sector. It is all the more so as there is now increasing attention to reduce Urban Rural upheavals in education and find ways and means to provide adequate funding by government, corporates and through PPP model.
Prof Satya Narayan Misra, who teaches Economics and Constitution Law to Tribal students, argues that the PPP model is being followed by many Scandinavian countries and Germany with excellent learning outcomes. Unlike the infrastructure sector where profit is the driver, the social sector investment has a long lead time to fructify. Therefore, the private sector must come forward with greater commitment towards educational funding out of CSR and also venture into credible PPP arrangements. The initiatives being shown by Ajim Premji Foundation can hold a template for other business magnets of the country to emulate.
Prof Mishra points out how global leaders like the US have been promoted by big corporations like the Ford, Rockefeller & Bill Gates Foundations. They have been major contributors to research funding grants and promotion of quality education. The Indian corporates must draw a leaf out of the example being set by their US counterparts.