Recommendations for modifications and additions in the education policy of India 2019
“I am a fanatic lover of liberty, considering it as the unique condition under which intelligence, dignity and human happiness can develop and grow”
- Michael Bakunin
India has one of the largest teaching manpower in the world with nearly 8.7 million teachers manning more than 1.5 million schools. The professional class which prepares the young minds for our nation and our economy feels that they have been relegated to the background. Against this background, the government of India has come out with a draft National Education Policy 2019 which is supposed to decide the fate of our schools, our colleges, our universities and the hopeful youths who walk in these schools and colleges dreaming about a bright future, and those hundreds of millions of missing graduates who permanently drop out of our education system by the time they reach tenth grade of school. We should ask the children, these youths, their families and the teachers - what they want from these schools, from these colleges and universities. Hemendra Kothari Foundation and Wildlife Conservation Trust tried to obtain these inputs from teachers, teacher educators and education administrators by organizing consultations in central India, where we work intensively and in Nashik, a tier II city in northern Maharashtra which represents the emergent creed of Tier II urban hubs. We were overwhelmed by the response in terms of numbers of participants who turned up for these consultations and intensity of response to the challenges. The teachers, their teachers and administrators opened up like a volcano, and they came up with some radical solutions to the educational problems of this large, diverse and beautiful country.
The views and recommendations compiled over here came up through extensive discussions held with teachers and other stakeholders from the government aligned system between 13th and 20th July at three locations, viz. Seoni in Madhya Pradesh; Chandrapur and Nashik in Maharashtra. Seoni and Chandrpaur sessions were distinct as the teachers and administrators who came for lengthy discussions belonged to backward tribal pockets of Seoni, Nagpur and Chandrapur districts. Participants in Nashik represented trustees of small sized private institutions that run schools with government aid. The consultation in Nashik was led by Hemendra Kothari Foundation, the sister Trust of Wildlife Conservation Trust, The consultations were led by a team comprising Dr. Sandeep Deshmukh of Wildlife Conservation Trust; Shri Aamod Karkhanis, a teacher educator and social activist; and Dr. Damodar Jain, a faculty at Rajya Shiksha Kendra of Madhya Pradesh government and founder of Shiksha Sandharbha Samuha, a network of innovative and liberal teachers from the state. There is also a small yet critical input from Dr. Chandrakant Raju, a leading mathematician, computation scientist and scholar of the country who has been advocating the case of reorganizing the mathematics curriculum of India on the basis of Indian systems of geometry and calculus. The incorporation of views of Dr. Raju has a history. Hemendra Kothari Foundation, the sister Trust of Wildlife Conservation Trust has supported him through a research grant to evolve the framework of a mathematics curriculum based on Indian systems (Rajju Ganita) for secondary schools. The findings and products of this two year-long experiment are ready for submission to government of India, and it is still facing bottlenecks in coming up for discussion on official forum because of deeply entrenched values of sections of academia. Therefore, we thought it appropriate to include his insights into the recommendations document. Another small section on setting up Centres of Excellence in Education is a gist of consultations held with some of the leading educators under the aegis of Hemendra Kothari Foundation
For the purpose of ease of cross-referencing with the draft national education policy 2019, we have arranged the recommendations from our group of educators under the same sections as in the policy document; though the ideas may not necessarily be limited only to the content of the policy. Wherever necessary, we have taken the liberty to go beyond the immediate ambit of the draft policy document.
Part I: School Education
‘‘How can I distinguish between my boys and the loafers? I am equally responsible for both. The youngsters have come because I have invited them’’
- Mohandas Gandhi
About Critical Thinking and Ethics:
Credit should be offered to a full-fledged course on ethics and life from foundational stage. The relationship between moral values prescribed by diverse religious faiths and ethical judgments by individuals and groups should be kept in sight while designing such a course framework. Ethical decisions which are based on principles of self-preservation, cooperation, directed violence and sharing are important in a modern society where an individual and a social group face many crises. We need to create ability among our citizens to make well considered decisions about different life situations and possess skills to exercise those. Therefore, the course framework should be a combination of critical thinking and ethical behavior. This can be the basis of excellence as evidenced in the studies carried out by Harvard School of Education. With advance of middle level, the ethical aspects of knowledge creation, sharing and application should be brought within the perspective of young learners. (Part I: School Education, section 1: Early childhood care and education – the foundation of learning)
On mathematics education:
The ‘Draft National Education Policy 2019’ is silent on the question of decolonization of education. This is a grave omission. Are the formulators of this document totally unfamiliar with the issue of decolonization of education which has been raging across the world? The document just states some homilies about the objectives of education. But in fact it sticks to the core of colonial education. It is never once mentioned that colonial education came to us as Western education, designed and developed not for the benefit of the student, but for its own political goals. So, what should one actually do? Revert to the pre-colonial model of education provided by Indian heritage? Not exactly any which way. In the last two decades, the effort to decolonise mathematics have challenged the supposed superiority of Western ethno-mathematics (also called formal mathematics). Pedagogical experiments have been carried out to teach an alternative decolonized calculus at university level using a different philosophy of mathematics, and the new calculus course has even been formally introduced into the syllabus of one Indian university. It has been demonstrated that this new way of teaching calculus as it developed in India enables students to solve harder problems not covered in usual calculus courses. Similarly, the false myth of “Euclid”, found in our NCERT school texts, and the related utterly confused teaching of geometry has been repeatedly challenged, and a detailed grievance lodged against the NCERT. NCERT is unable to supply any primary evidence for Euclid. The teaching of axiomatic geometry is not compatible with the teaching of compass-box geometry, but this incompatibility is never explained to students, leaving them bewildered. Meanwhile, it has also been pointed out that Indian sulba sutra geometry based on a flexible string, rather than the compass box, provides a much more practical approach to geometry (as in measuring the area of a field with curved boundaries). A series of pedagogical experiments and workshops, were carried out, and a text book has now been prepared along with a teacher’s manual. As such an easier and better alternative is available in school geometry. While the Draft NEP 2019 has paid lip service to Indian heritage, it has nowhere considered the possibility that Indian ganita (rajju ganita, and calculus) could be superior to Western ethno-mathematics. (Part I: School Education, section 2: Foundational literacy and numeracy)
Nutrition and health:
The ability to learn and be productive is directly proportional to quality of nutrition and health condition of an individual. There should be a shift from prescriptive, supplementary nutrition to exploration; self-assessment based nutritional development in the life of citizens in our country. In the cities where there is a constraint of space, this can be achieved through community gardens dedicated to growing nutritional vegetarian food. In the rural areas, schools and Cluster Resource Centres have ample space to create nutritional gardens. If practical work in school gardens and home fields is made mandatory, it would help teach not only nutrition but also fundamentals of scientific cultivation of land. The formal component of nutrition education should be accompanied by creating informal modules for family members of school going children. These should be practical in orientation than merely information laden. If the anganawadis are being merged with education department, then the anganwadi workers can be redeployed as community nutrition and health educators with updated skills and knowledge. (Part I: School Education, section 4: curriculum and pedagogy in schools, sub-section 4.2.: nutrition and health)
Right to work of children:
Humans develop by applying their faculties through their limbs. Our current state of teaching systems does not allow this. The dichotomy between childhood and adulthood is a notion we have borrowed without much thought from the west. As tried out successfully by Gandhi ji and Tolstoy through their educational projects, we can trust the ability of children to organize selves into working teams and do meaningful activities that help their families and neighborhoods. By acknowledging the labor of children and their family members in economic system, we would be enshrining the Dignity of Labor (Shram Pratistha) in the core of our culture. The right to work along with ethical dialogue with children would lead to responsible and productive citizenry of our country. (Part I: School Education, section 4: curriculum and pedagogy in school, sub-section 4.2.: holistic development of students)
Promotion of National Voluntary Cadre:
In a society that is going through rapid urbanization, the erosion of harmonious communal mode of social organization needs to be compensated. The compensation would be in the form of volunteerism. The value and habit of helping others in making life comfortable by giving time, labor and affection is important in a society where personal bonds are breaking away. Therefore, existing cadre based corps in schools such as scouts, road safety patrol; national cadet corps must be scaled up. As if this is not enough, we can create new corps such as Green/Climate Corps (environment conservation); land and water corps (which works for rejuvenation and protection of land and water), disaster management corps (to handle disasters) in secondary grades. (Part I: School Education, section 4: curriculum and pedagogy in school, sub-section 4.2.: holistic development of students)
Freedom of teacher:
a. Accountability of teacher is dependent on his or her freedom to choose paths and tools that can be adopted to achieve educational goals. He or she should take the decisions through a productive dialogue with the primary stakeholders like the student and her family on the choice of curricula, syllabus, textbooks, period for completion and methods. The dialogue between a teacher and other stakeholders can be both at individual and collective level. If there is enough number of stakeholders with whom a teacher arrives at an agreement about the choices to be made on the components mentioned here, then local authorities notify so to all those who are party to the agreement. The teacher would raise demand for standard resources for completion of course and it is responsibility of management of a school complex to make it available to him or her. The progress of education of each and every participant under such agreement will be constantly monitored by representative bodies of parents, teacher unions and officials. The performance appraisal of a teacher can be linked to the cumulative performance of his or her students. This would allow implementation of the diversified curriculum system that addresses the individual needs and aspirations of a learner and realization of core competence of a teacher. This scenario is in contradiction to the current scenario which often results in teachers teaching subjects and skills that they do not possess. The officials and Teachers Unions will also coordinate with industry associations and human resource planning agencies of government on the kind of skills and knowledge levels needed from time to time. The teacher will also keep developing his or her capability through individual effort and by taking up advanced course work.
b. We teachers also wish a reduction in manualizing of teaching. One of the important steps towards this would be to do away with the set of questions after every lesson. The lesson and question template of textbooks has naturally reduced the attention scope of teachers and students. There is an inherent tendency to conform to written text than discovering knowledge through discussion and dialogue. In fact, the pattern of readymade content and questions has negatively impacted the ability to form questions among teachers and children.
c. The number of children in a class should be reduced to 30 or below. This would allow a teacher to prepare a teaching plan customized to learning needs of each and every child. The teaching plan would have a heavy component of remedial teaching for slow learners and enhanced pace component for gifted children. A rich supply of tools, kits and materials should be made available to a teacher on demand within a reasonable time and at a manageable distance. There should be provision of time and space for teachers to make extra preparations. The plans that require critical resources should be reviewed by a team of experts in pedagogy, psychology and concerned subjects. (Part I: School Education, section 4: curriculum and pedagogy in schools, sub-section 4.1.: a new curricular and pedagogical structure for school education)
Teachers and media:
We have a large professional force of teachers with nearly 8.7 million teachers servicing above 1.5 million schools. This is a workforce that is qualified and yields tremendous influence on the minds of children and their families, and through the families on the neighborhoods. The sum of neighborhoods makes up this nation. So the teachers are a social and political force. The teachers are a politically aware, organized class with several trade unions voicing their concerns and interests. The other side of the profession is made up of university faculty, who again number in hundreds of thousands. This class of people is galvanizing India into a knowledge power which can complement existing global knowledge hubs. There is need to create a government supported, teacher owned knowledge platform which brings forth individual developments in school sector, political issues affecting education at all levels. What could be more suitable than starting some of the conventional media formats like a dedicated newspaper, newsletter and a journal cutting across regional boundaries? Teachers may be encouraged to start such endeavors on their own and institutional grants should be extended by government to these. If these endeavors work successfully, in future government should consider setting up a dedicated radio and TV channel service for teachers and those in allied professions. (Part I: School Education, section 5: teacher, sub-section 5.4.: career management)
Strengthening STEM education:
India is a rapidly growing market economy with the potential of becoming the third largest economy of the world in less than a decade. We need to gear up for that opportunity through series of reform measures on front of economics, finances, social equality and governance. The science status report (National Council for Applied Economic Research, New Delhi, 2006) alerted public of India against the major gaps in demand for highly skilled manpower for emerging industries and reform mode agriculture and the actual supply on ground. The National Curriculum Framework (2005) failed to take note of these gaps and did not address the issue of drastic makeover of education in science, mathematics, and engineering. Neither any of the state curriculum frameworks addressed the issue of STEM Education cohesively and substantially. By indulging in this oversight, are we wasting away our demographic dividend? The downslide may be stopped in its course immediately by taking drastic measures such as incentivizing science teaching among prospective graduates, re-skilling some of the serving teachers in the age group 20-40 years as STEM teachers through methodical coursework and accreditation; creating a network of STEM education hubs at different levels – starting from village up to national level; instituting a STEM teaching focused volunteering program among science and technology graduates which will afford them an extra weightage in assessment; motivating engineering industries and scientific establishments to adopt rural districts for STEM education support. (Part I: School Education, section 5: Teachers, sub-section 5.1.: Effective teacher recruitment and deployment)
Role of secondary principals:
As the policy proposes an enhancement in the functions of a principal, there should be a systematic skills upgrading program for them. Promotions to the senior most position of Head of a school complex should be held on basis of merit more than seniority. There should also be a mechanism of rotation of the responsibility of SC Head among Principals in a manner similar to university departments. If suitable candidates are not available from within the ranks, there should be freedom at the district level to choose the SC Head from market. Parity would be kept in the criteria for appointment of external candidates with those for the internal candidates. Appointment of an external candidate could be on contract for a certain period before he or she is considered for a regular appointment. At the level of CRC, the Deputy Principal (second rank senior principals who are below the head of the SC) should play a strong leadership role in academic matters on a daily basis. This would include handling regular research and training of teacher responsibilities besides their own teaching and administrative duties. A credit points system may be used to assess the performance of principals at both SC and CRC level. The credit points would convert into economic benefits and promotions through service grades. (Part I: School Education, section 5: Teachers, sub-section 5.3.: continuous professional development)
The scope of mental sciences in pre-service training:
The current coursework under B.Ed. does not cover the cultural, social and psychological aspects of a child adequately. This reflects in constrained evaluation tools which do not inform the teacher and teacher supervisors on the pre-disposition of a child towards specific academic areas and the cultural systems that influence this pre-disposition. Therefore, advanced papers in psychology, psychometry, anthropology, nutrition, growth and development may be included in the pre-service courses. This would enable creation of reliable evaluation tools. (Part I: School education, section 5: teachers, sub-section 5.1.: effective teacher recruitment and deployment)
Excellence in all educational work and all walks of life:
The proposed policy speaks about picking up the best talent from the market for teaching profession. This is a narrow premise which excludes a majority the right to pursue a career of liking. It is duty of the State to create conditions that will nurture diverse types of talents among our youth which are necessary for our teaching profession. We need teachers that can do excellently in variety of things such as agriculture, engineering, design, aesthetic vocations, ethics, philosophy, basic sciences, mathematics, and languages and so on and so forth. The entry point for teaching courses should be multi-stage, like examinations for the elite courses and services, which helps the aspirants to prepare well and give their best performance at every stage. They can be selected on basis of their aggregate performance. The doctrine of elimination in services should be substituted by doctrine of aggregation where the best talents required for our social, cultural, technological and economic are scouted, cultivated in schools and then inducted in the educational services. Excellence is not a still standard that is owned by a gifted elite minority. Excellence should be built in each and every person in our society. Excellence is a dynamic progression of knowledge, sensitivity and self-awareness among individuals and collectives which must be strengthened by giving access to necessary resources and opportunities in public and private domains. Through consistent efforts, over the past ten years, pair of philanthropic foundations, Hemendra Kothari Foundation and Wildlife Conservation Trust, has managed to facilitate the onset of excellence in school communities. The approach which centers on ‘ownership of excellence by teacher’ has seen major changes in the deep hinterlands of Ranthambhore, Bundelkhand, central India and Nilgiris and tier II cities like Nasik. Similar endeavors through voluntary networks have been undertaken by teachers and education administrators in other parts such as the Shiksha Sandharbha Samuha in Madhya Pradesh.
Excellence is a goal that should be imbibed on present cadre of teachers and administrators also through systematic activities centered on skill sophistication and ethical aspects of work. A pool of management experts should be provided at every district for this purpose who will advise local administration on measures for excellence. The management advisors will continuously share the data on movement towards excellence on a national platform. A national level team of management professionals and academicians should build insights from this ever evolving data and input the Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog for further executive decisions. (Part I: School Education, section 5: Teacher, sub-section 5.5.: Approach to teacher education)
1. Teachers are dragged into non-academic duties too often and in too many places. The policy calls for an immediate end to this practice but without any concrete solutions. We have to submit few solutions.
a. A separate department of student welfare or school administration should be created that takes care of all administrative matters. Or
b. A separate cadre of administrative staff to be deployed at the CRC and School Complex who will take care of each and every aspect of data collection, processing and report generation. They will report to an administrative officer under the senior principal of a school complex, and they will not seek assistance from teachers unless the matter has a bearing on academic issues and teachers agree to do that.
c. Teachers will not be asked to get into electoral duties for very long.
d. As the teachers are called into non educational duties, other departments like police should also help the education department in monitoring of delinquent behavior among children. In all, there is a need for integration of tasks of many departments with education such as agriculture, labor, forestry, industries etc.
e. Promotions to teachers are protracted. Therefore, there is a need to institute departmental examinations for promotion, which will be conducted at a regular interval.
f. Treat posting in remote rural areas as a high risk appointment. Teachers and their families have to sacrifice a lot because of these postings. Government can compensate teachers by a mandatory relocation to urban area or a preferred relocation after a stipulated period and reward the teachers both in kind, financially and socially. The relocation and promotion policy can be implemented through a credit point system.
2. Competing agencies are doing education such as tribal development department, social welfare and religious boards. Schools run so far by these disparate bodies should be brought under single umbrella of education department. These departments can transfer their funds to education department. There should be an end to opening new private schools. Rather, private investment and direct CSR funds to government schools should be allowed. This along with stakes of parents in schools would usher in a new era of cooperative management of school system in contrast to either State hegemony or profiteering privatization. Teachers from demobilized private schools should be absorbed in emergent School Complexes and in teacher pool at Block level.
3. There should be dedicated quarters and transport facilities for teachers for free or at a subsidized rate in rural interiors.
4. Reallocation of teachers should be done first at district level, under supervision of District Collector. Objection by any party about transfers can be raised with a state level or sub-regional level ombudsman.
5. Teacher transfers in government schools are fraught with unhealthy tendencies. Therefore, there is a need for mechanisms that would ensure transparency and fairness in teacher postings and transfers. These mechanisms should be based on principles of modern management. Teachers Unions can be involved in monitoring these transfers. They should be given veto rights to minimize unhealthy practices. They can approach education ombudsman if transfers are forced in an unfair manner.
6. Services of the Block level Resource Persons should be regularized. They can be absorbed either as teachers or teacher educators with a different salary band in the School complex, depending on their qualifications and competence.
7. Benefits for students should reach their accounts directly. There is no need to route them through schools as it potentially causes delays and leakages. The school management committees, self -help groups or cooperative societies can be given the responsibility to monitor and audit the supplies and cash transfers, in case a separate student welfare wing is not created. (Part I: School Education, section 5: Teachers, sub-section 5.2.: school environment and culture that is conducive to quality education)
In-service training, performance and development:
a. The intent to allow mobility of teachers as expressed in the draft policy should be accompanied by concrete mechanisms that address the three aspects of in – service training, performance assessment and professional development together. There should be a full proof educational system available to the teacher to keep acquiring new skills and knowledge in various fields through level based courses. There should be freedom and support to the teacher to learn new subjects other than their basic qualifications. The process has to be fully standardized and after completion of equivalent of three years of bachelor’s degree and two years master’s degree, teachers can be fully switched from one stream to another. This provision has to be linked with the current stream and teaching responsibilities of a teacher. Permission to continue pursuance of advanced stream is allowed only after consistently excellent performance by a teacher in his or her present stream. Likewise teachers can move from elementary to secondary and secondary to higher education.
b. Individual appraisal has to be linked with group performance of a school, a CRC and a School Complex.
c. Salaries should be dependent on performance of teachers. Two components to salaries are advised, viz. basic and additional. The additional component is variable and linked to outcome of performance assessment.
d. There should be parity in the salary structure between school teachers and undergraduate level faculty. This can be complementary to point (a) above.
e. Strong measures in the form of talent cultivation for teaching profession, advertisement and higher economic incentives would help restore prestige of the profession. (Part I: School Education, section 5: Teacher, sub-section 5.3.: continuous professional development)
Knowledge Hubs for teachers, students and other stakeholders:
The schools are scattered over a vast and diversified geography in India. The draft policy has already spoken about the thinning of manpower due to universalization of elementary schools over a large territory, and the consequent isolation of teachers, especially those from smaller schools in rural areas. The solution for the problem lies at doorsteps. In part on efficiency of resources the policy already speaks about creating school complexes, but does not tell how the SC will work as a well-oiled organization for offering formal education and development related education. Without an executable plan of operation, the idea of SC will become another experiment which will destroy existing potential knowledge points which can be knowledge hubs. These points are the Cluster Resource Centre, the Block Resource Centre and the District Institute of Education & Training. The primacy of these institutions cannot be superseded by a school complex, which is essentially an administrative setup as described in the policy. It needs to be ensured that the SC becomes an important level in an ‘autonomous knowledge system’ whose apex should be the DIET. Our experimental project in capacity building of fifteen Cluster Resource Centres under eight Block Resource Centres and three DIETS in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashra during the period 2017 and 2019 shows that these three levels of knowledge sharing in a district can work in complete synergy and it drastically impacts learning outcomes on the ground. Another expectation from these three knowledge centres is related to lifelong learning needs of an individual. Those who pass out of the school and perhaps college system would have complex and diverse learning needs at different stages of life. The existing schools and colleges do not satisfy these needs pertaining to emotional health, social progress and economic development. It will take quite some of an effort and time to reposition the schools and colleges to play that role in rural areas. Therefore, a localized knowledge network ought to be created with CRC, BRC OR BITE (Block Institute and DIET forming the frame that supports a larger knowledge generation and sharing body. The local colleges, universities, research institutes, technology development centres, extension agencies and voluntary groups should be directly linked up with each of these three centres. This will ensure a direct connect between educational programs and development aspirations and cultural needs of a large population that shares history and geography and sets it apart to a great extent from other adjoining areas. The Principal / Executive Head of a School Complex should report to the Head of DIET. This will avoid relegation of the academic functions of the principal to the background and dominance of administrative functions. Another important aspect that needs to be nurtured through this knowledge network is in the form of knowledge generation. Here we are talking about knowledge pertaining to pedagogy, curriculum as well as other branches of knowledge such as humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, mathematics and philosophy. This would truly achieve the goal of integrating aesthetics with scientific temperament at the grassroots level. (Part I: School education, section 7: efficient resourcing and effective governance through school complexes, sub-section 7.1.: ending the isolation of small schools through school complexes)
Financial independence to the schools:
The schools should have as much financial independence as possible. At present entire budget of the government schools is administered through the district education officer. Who in turn works as per the directive of the department? Instead the school should have budget of its own and should have a freedom to use in the best way the Head Master and School Management Committee feels. Only the salaries of the teachers should be administered through district office. At present the budget given to the schools is split and given under different heads or schemes and have to be spent only under that head/ scheme irrespective of the priorities the school may have. Similarly the department of education administers many schemes and supplies different educational material centrally. This practice is not yielding results. These should be decentralized. 2. Academic independence to the schools: Today the syllabus and textbooks have become the most important thing. Although we have been saying the objective is to build certain abilities what actually happens is strict adherence to text books only. Also most of the states declare a time table (what should be taught in which moth). This trend needs to be reversed. The school (and the teacher) should have freedom to decide what should be taught when. The draft document has given four stages of child’s development; the SCERTs should declare a syllabus (or a list of learning objectives) to be completed within that development stage (5-3-3-4). The evaluation should be only at the end of each stage and it is not necessary to control the school progress every month. Let the teacher decide how much time to devote to what. This way the pressure to complete the ‘syllabus ’ will not be there and the teacher will be able to see to it that the students understand the subject than just notionally completing the “portion”. Even the text books should not be binding on the teacher. 3. Monitoring the schools: Along with such freedom there is always a question on misusing the freedom and question of how to monitor the functioning. A convenient argument made in favour of uniform timetable is ease of monitoring. It is quite incorrect to sacrifice education for ease of monitoring. At present the BRPs and other education department staff which visits the school for monitoring are not academically strong enough to check the real progress and help the teacher. Hence the monitoring is reduced to checking whether certain mundane procedures are followed. The practice of teachers monthly meetings needs to be strengthened and has to be more academic oriented. The purpose of these monthly meets should be to exchange the status and progress with the peers and not reporting the progress. The department staff present at the meetings should and must contribute to the meeting academically. The administrative matters should take minimum time in such meetings. (Part I: school education, section 7: efficient resourcing and effective governance through school complexes, sub-section 7.7: effective governance and management of individual schools within school complexes)
Converting Cluster Resource Centres into Smart Work-stations:
The proposed policy broadly speaks about creating excellent learning facilities for teachers in their efforts for self-development. Here government may sympathetically consider the experiment by Wildlife Conservation Trust, a philanthropic foundation of Mumbai, in eleven tiger reserves from five states. In partnership with the education administration, WCT has transformed CRCs in remote locations, which were working at a quarter of their capacity, into Smart Work-stations (SWSs). The smartness of these CRCs lies in their laboratories which hold departments in science, mathematics, engineering, robotics, environment education; a well-stocked library; working electrified kitchen; audio-visual amenities; convening facilities which allows arrangement of trainings, seminars, public speaking events in proximity of the communities; assured water and power supply; clean sanitation. On basis of occasional needs, other facilities like a book shop, tool room for agricultural engineering, educational supplies corner, and agriculture demonstration plot are added to the campus. The SWS would be manned by a qualified and competent young person who leads practice and theory sessions for teachers, students and youths inside the Station and inside the schools. The SWS is further linked with the upgraded block level Smart Work-station. The complex of cluster and block level SWSs can be further linked up with local District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs). We have witnessed addition of following critical functions in this complex such as visiting faculty program, research fellowships to teachers; travel and study grants to CRC Coordinators and Block Resource Persons which would enhance their connectivity with academic establishment. The SWSs not only end up satisfying the needs of formal school system, they also cater the occupational, cultural and psychological needs of a much more diverse learner population through a well-structured continuing or lifelong education program. The model if studied further can be scaled up throughout the country which would create a huge crop of local innovators and innovative teachers throughout the country. A district STEM complex can be linked up with university departments, colleges, research institutes and industries through long standing contracts and a shared course framework. (Part I: school education, section 7: efficient resourcing and effective governance through school complexes, sub-section 7.4.: Improved support to school teachers through school complexes)
Legal responsibility of parents and incentivizing education:
Though the Right to Education Act speaks about responsibility of parents to complete elementary education of their children, the provisions are not executed in letter and spirit, which is understandable. This bottleneck can be removed by offering incentives and disincentives of economic nature to parents at least up to completion of tenth standard education of the child. Successful and fruitful completion of education of a child cannot be whole responsibility of either parents or teachers. The provision for incentives and disincentives has to be transparent and periodically reviewed by a third party agency like corporates or civil society organizations. Another layer of parents’ responsibility could be in the form of giving stakes to parents in managing school complexes. The body of parents can be organized in a syndicate like a farmers’ user group or a consumer body. They can reach an agreement with the officials managing the school complex to use it as a multi-purpose complex for non-formal education and social purposes, where several activities can be run in a revenue mode. The revenue can be used for the up-keep and upgrading of the school complex. (Part I: School education, section 7: efficient resourcing and effective governance through school complexes, sub-section 7.2.: Better resourcing of schools through school complexes)
Teacher and class ratio:
There should be subject based teaching and appointment of subject specialist teachers from the preparatory stage. The degree acquired by a teacher before doing Diploma or degree in education build an inherent preference for that subject while teaching. This fact should be considered as an asset than a constraint in performance. Thus specialization based appointment of teachers in preparatory grades would require recruitment of additional teachers at that level.
A strong academic ambience should be provided at the level of School Complex and CRC where a teacher gains access to well stocked libraries, study rooms, internet, laboratories, tool rooms, and modest machine workshop. The skills upgrading process should have a strong mentoring dimension. (Part I: School education, section 7: efficient resourcing and effective governance, sub-section 7.2.: better resourcing of schools through school complexes)
Syndication of private schools:
There are a large proportion of private schools in both vernacular and English medium in Maharashtra. Uttar Pradesh followed by Uttara Khand is another state which follows Maharashtra in holding a substantial number of private schools. The policy needs to address the inter-linked issue of survival and functionality of the two most populous states of India. In Maharashtra, a sizable proportion of schools (nearly 21 %) are run by educational trusts which are aided by state government. And, most of these schools are located in the rural area. It is a challenge for turning around these schools into private, self-sustaining entities. There are major concerns in general public against the quality of service in aided and unaided private schools in spite of a growing craze for them. There is a perception among trustees of private aided schools in tier II cities and rural areas of Maharashtra that the draft education policy (2019) is ambiguous about the fate of these schools under the scheme of reorganizing rural schools into School Complexes. As a remedial measure, government may take them under the wings of education department or local bodies. Another route that can be followed is to provide a strong quality building support for a specific period to these schools. The quality building support could be in the form of permission to run vocational courses and lifelong education courses on their premises under the same certificate; use parts of their premises for commercial purpose and earn revenue for sustainability. If the second route is followed, then the smaller trusts may be allowed to syndicate their resources among themselves and with education department or local bodies, a relationship that can be formalized through federation of private schools. The federation can run on basis of principles of cooperative societies. (Part I: school education, section 7: efficient resourcing and effective governance through school complexes, sub-section 7.5.: administration and management of school complexes)
Part II: Higher Education
“Anything that is theoretically possible will be achieved in practice, no matter what the technical difficulties are, if it is desired greatly enough”
- Arthur C Clarke
Teacher education is a problem of skewed demand and supply:
There are 16,062(more than sixteen thousand) Teacher Education Institutions in India (year 2013). They offer a range of government recognized courses between Diplomas in Early Childhood and M.Ed. The allowed student intake for all courses together is 12,17,784 (above twelve lacs) every year. The reality shows another picture.
· Shortage of teachers: To teach a student population of two hundred and seventy million (2017 figure) we need a minimum workforce of nine million teachers (at the rate of one teacher per thirty students). That means we are still short of 3 lac teachers. Moreover, every year a certain number of teachers leave because of retirement, termination of contracts etc. If one adds these unknown numbers to the base shortage of 3 lacs, the total manpower deficit is staggering. For example, UP, Bihar, W. Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh together have vacancies of nearly eight lac teachers who are professionally qualified (2013 figure).
· Low supply of aspirants for teaching jobs: The supply of aspiring teachers is on short side therefore, the average teacher education college never recruits students to the capacity. This has led to a crisis in states like Maharashtra where many colleges are on the verge of closure.
· Slowing of school recruitment: Over the past ten years Maharashtra has seen a decreasing student supply to teacher education colleges because of reduced recruitment of teachers. (Part II: Higher Education, section 15: Teacher Education, sub-section 15.2: moving teacher education into multidisciplinary colleges and universities)
Crisis of huge in-house demand and low supply:
The problems of shortage of teachers become acute when we move onto in – service training to teachers. There are 666 districts in India holding a teacher workforce of 77 lacs (figures of 2013). There are 931 teacher education institutes sanctioned by government for training of this workforce. Against this, only 790 are functional. This leaves every institution with a staggering 9746 supply of working teachers every year. Even if an in-service institute would work for 240 days in an academic year, there will be 40 teachers visiting an institute every year. Standard training practices recommend 20 participants in a training program at a time. If one adds the vacancies of 8 lac teachers in the north Indian States mentioned above then an average in-service training institute will be burdened with 10,759 teachers every year.
Even if all 931 sanctioned institutes start functioning, even then the burden will decrease to training 8270 teachers every year which is still a tough number. This will leave all faculty members without time for self-study, research, professional training and personal leaves. In short they will be fatigued leading to a break-down of in-service training.
Shortage of teacher educators:
Typically all teacher education institutes suffer from shortage of faculty. Here the shortage is much severe than schools. A study conducted by Hemendra Kothari Foundation (2013) showed that usually District Institutes for Education & Training (DIET) and Block Resource Centres (BRC) under them work at half the require workforce. So it implies that every in-service training institute in reality is catering to 80 teacher trainees in a day against a recommended level of 20.
Impact of shortage on learning achievements:
There is a scope to infer that shortage of teachers and teacher educators adversely affects achievement levels. Though the trends since 2003 show a progress in mathematics, languages, social studies and environmental sciences yet the increase in achievement is incremental ( a rise of typically 2 to 3 percent of students able to perform a task). This is based on data compiled by government. If one counters this with ASER findings of Pratham, then much remains to be questioned on ground. ASER reports every year show major gaps in learning achievements by students.
The entire spectrum of conditions on ground stated above calls for
· Augmenting capacity for in-service training through creating multiple delivery platforms, especially teacher education institutes of globally competitive quality
· Integrating teacher education courses in mainstream degree courses in existing colleges and postgraduate centres
· Creating a national register for enrollment of subject experts in various fields who can be hired for teacher education at all levels on a call basis. This should be a highly monetized vertical else the best talent from industry would not find it attractive enough. (Part II: Higher Education, section 15: Teacher education, sub-section 15.4: Faculty for teacher education)
Creation of Centres of excellence in education:
The education sector in India is a rapidly growing one. The growth encompasses on the one hand deep outreach of elementary education through government schools and on the other hand burgeoning of private endeavors at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. The rapid growth in the last two decades has created both convergence and stress. Convergence is a positive development which is visible in the tendency towards integration of discrete agencies under single umbrella of policy and administration. Convergence needs to be used for the economy of resources while stress needs to be addressed on a war footing.
Where is the stress? The stress is visible in the form of gaps between needs and resources; demand and supply; and real vis-à-vis potential performance. The phenomenon is profound as some of the ailments glare in our faces -
· Lack of vision about place of Education in a developed future
· Lack of equation between skills required in different sectors and education
· Weak culture of innovation in teaching and management
· Lack of interdisciplinary approach to education
· Inadequate number of teachers
· Low quality of teaching, training, research and management skills among teachers
· Lack of a specially trained and accredited cadre of education managers
We propose to address the national crisis by creating a grid of Centers of Educational Excellence across the country. The huge stress on our educational apparatus can be relieved by creating regional centres for excellence which would operate autonomously and in public-private partnership mode. These could be located somewhere between the Regional Institute of Education and District Institutes of Education & Training. The group of institutions will be autonomous and funded by private donors and government. These will work as local think tank and service stations for education sector in specific geographies.
The common thread between all Centers will be that each CEE will have a composite focus viz. servicing the local needs of education sector through a diverse range of customized products and feeding to the global research and thinking on education. This is the first fold of the proposed grid system. Each regional CEE would have horizontal linkages with the local government and non – government apparatus. The second fold will be in the form of two-pronged engagement of the CEE. It will possess both horizontal and vertical linkages. Horizontally it will deal with global, national institutions including regional CEEs whereas vertically downward it will deal with State agencies. (Part II: Higher Education, Section 15: Teacher Education, sub-section 15.1: restoring integrity to teacher education)
What functions to be played by the CEE?
Research: Interdisciplinary research in all branches of natural sciences, nuclear sciences, mathematics, humanities, social sciences with focus on improving instruction systems.
Education and Training: A wide range of coursework and certification for prevalent and emergent vocations in education sector.
Consultancy: The CEEs will individually and collectively advise public policy and decision making. It will also provide customized solutions to corporate entities as a revenue source.
Incubation of innovations: The CEEs will develop battery of practices and principles that would enable different vocations including studentship in the education ecosystem locally and nationally. The activity will be implemented through adoption of large sized and challenged school blocks.
Knowledge dissemination: This vocation will be undertaken systematically through a responsible and market smart extension system. (Part II: Higher Education, section 9: Quality universities and colleges)
Faculty shortfall in higher education institutions
There is a huge shortfall of faculty at all levels of education - especially so at graduate level and upwards. In our view the problem of shortage is partially due to lack of teacher education facilities and more due to mismatch between existing human resources and requirements. For example, there are many PhDs in India who might have not received the academic jobs at the appropriate moment in their career. So they had to settle for the second best options available to them. Thus we have a large force of practicing academicians and a good number of them are capable to contribute to the academic mainstream of their respective disciplines and many others. We are sure that there are thousands of people with strong academic moorings and non - academic background who want to and can contribute substantially to the academic mainstream. How do we involve them to address the issue of having not only a gap filling but also bring in more applied aspects of different disciplines in our academic discourses in colleges and universities? We suggest the Ministry of HRD, creates a National Register of all such persons with academic credentials and willing to contribute the mainstream. The ministry could create a link where all such persons can register themselves. They should be allowed to give their choices of teaching and research while registering. Age should not be a bar. (Part II: Higher Education, Section 15: Teacher Education, sub-section 15.5: faculty in higher education)
Part IV: Transforming education:
“All ran to meet their chains thinking they secured their freedom”
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Criticality of Teacher Unions:
There is apparently little or marginal interface between State and Teacher Unions/Associations as per statistics of 2017 (Labour Bureau, Government of India). There were only 59 Unions in education sector that were filing returns under Trade Unions Act and cumulatively held 109,000 members. Compared to the size of workforce in school system this is an extremely small fraction. To strengthen democracy and plurality in our education sector, government needs to make concerted effort by engaging with the groups of teacher unions / associations on issues of quality of teaching, recruitment, performance appraisal and compensation, general expansion of education system and education reforms. This could be achieved in a constructive way by creating syndicates or teacher councils at district, state and national level. All registered associations can participate in these councils. These syndicates will enter into agreement with State on specific legislations or administrative decisions through democratic dialogue, even participate in creating the roadmap to the policy goals, and allowed to be part of management.
There should also be a secure constituency for teachers in assemblies and parliament where direct representation is exercised. (Part IV: Transforming education, section 23: Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog)
Dr. Sandeep Deshmukh
For a consortium of organizations and teacher groups