The area of school level education (K12) in India is highly inadequate and under-developed. With the passing of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act in 2009, an apparent milestone was reached in Indian education policy. Despite this, India’s vision of universalized quality education is far from being achieved owing to a focus on outputs rather than inputs. This outlook has failed to address problems of high teacher absenteeism and low student learning levels. The average English reading ability of a grade 5 government school student in India is barely that of a grade 2 private school student. But the government’s dependence on out-dated and poorly composed statistical data, due to lack of adequate resources, justifies the limited action taken in this area.
Artificial supply crunch – An artificial supply crunch is created due to several license raj era legislations that give government officials the discretionary authority to control the entry of private players into the field. This authority is arbitrarily used to stifle competition and prevent the free interaction of market forces leading to the poor quality of education.
Lack of accurate and updated statistical data – It is common knowledge that private unaided schools, including low cost schools, are “mushrooming” across the country. But official data shows private education as an entirely insignificant part of the educational landscape in India. This information gap has led to the closure of many of these private unaided schools rather than come up with a more innovative policy aimed at capitalising on the existing institutions. In order to bridge this gap, the pioneering study by India Institute in a tier-II city, Private School Revolution in Bihar: Findings from a survey in Patna Urban, is an extensive study involving the use of GPS technology to map almost every school in the city and allows all stakeholders including the government to take note of the greatly ignored private school sector in the state. The findings proved that 64% of the students in Patna alone were enrolled in private unrecognized schools while government statistics showed that Our research was able to secure continuity of quality English medium education to over 150,000 students in Patna alone after the Bihar government acknowledged our work and reversed their policy regarding school education. It further brought public attention to educational provisions in Tier-II cities in India that contribute to over 60% of the urban population of India.
Focus on inputs – The RTE Act aims at achieving universalized education but does not take into consideration any measures to ensure quality of this education. In accordance with it, recognition is accorded to schools with a focus on inputs rather than outcomes. This has caused the Act to lay down infrastructural and managerial requirements but none to curb the problems of poor quality of teaching.
Closure of unrecognized schools – Article 18 of the RTE Act, 2009 requires that all unrecognized schools in the country be closed down within three years of the Act coming into force. This would mean shutting down almost all private unaided schools which will result in a host of problems. If unrecognised schools were to close down, finding space for two thirds of the city’s children who attend these schools in government ones that are said to be operating to capacity serving the other one third is impossible.
- We recommend that the role of the state should be of a facilitator and not a controller, especially when it comes to the setting up of schools.
- A review of the need for the recognition process is necessary before schools are closed down.
- Performance based pay should be introduced for government school teachers to improve the attendance and teaching quality through competition.
- The government must bring low-cost private schools into the legal ambit by devising criteria that focuses on learning output rather than inputs alone. This could include student performance, teacher attendance and a small range of essential safety and comfort features.
- The RTE Act should not be implemented in haste , especially in case of shutting down unrecognised schools without taking into consideration the vast majority of students enrolled therein.
- Imaginative solutions to institute quality ratings mechanisms could be adopted to ensure improvement in the standards of education being imparted in the country.
- Objections & suggestions to the proposed amendments to the Delhi School Education Act and Rules, 1973. Submitted to Department of Education, Government of Delhi, 15 June 2015
- Delhi School Education Agenda. Presented to the Chief Minister of Delhi, 24 April 2015