By Devanik Saha:
I won’t start the article with statistics about education related problems in India. I am sure you must have read a lot of posts/articles which tell us about the poor scenario of primary education in India.
The recent announcement of Azim Premji Foundation (APF) has created waves across India: They want to launch 1300 schools across various districts in India which will impart education in local languages and will be affiliated with the state board. They would be from preschool to class 12th, same as government schools but the major difference would be in the quality, as per Premji. The Rs. 9000 crore project will also focus on the overall development of the students such as health and nutrition which makes us assume that they would also be given mid-day meals like in municipal schools in Delhi and other areas. And if all goes good, all the 1300 schools will be up and running by 2025.
According to Dileep Ranjekar, CEO, Azim Premji Foundation, teachers from rural areas will be staffed into these schools but after a written test and interview only. What makes me curious is who will interview these teachers, and who will design the training module for them?
Even teachers in municipal schools are well qualified, have rigorous training programs and are supposed to clear tests and an interview to become regulated teachers but what’s the outcome so far? 70 % of grade 5 kids from MCD Schools don’t know how to write their names in English. But being an APF initiative, things will probably be much better given the investment that APF is putting in. Also, I assume the teachers’ salaries would be rewarding enough to keep up their motivation to teach, which is a vital factor for the school students to succeed.
THE LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION
The medium of instruction in these schools would be in the local language. In this age, where English speaking skills can decide your fate in any interview, I disagree with APF on this point. I feel that medium of instruction should be English even in primary classes because it would set a base for the students for their future in an increasingly global environment. I am not saying that their local languages should be discarded, the students should definitely learn their local language but at the same the medium of instruction should be English to help them build skills from an early age and by the time they complete schooling they have impeccable English speaking skills to compete with any other private school student.
ARE PRIVATE SCHOOLS ENOUGH TO SOLVE THE PUZZLE?
Such a big initiative is absolutely commendable by APF but the question is if the private sector has enough resources to solve educational inequity of enormous magnitude? 1300 schools are amazing but if we see the bigger picture, its just solving a handful of the problems. So I strongly feel that we need to create a synergy between government and private sector because there are lot of issues and sectors the private sector can’t penetrate into and that is where the government can play a major role. Creating a mix of strengths of both will help scale up this concept much faster and reach more people, not only in education but also other sectors.
What do you think?
Devanik is a columnist with Youth Ki Awaaz. He is a Teach For India 2011 Fellow teaching 3rd grade in a low income school in New Delhi, India. He is interested in market based approaches to solve global issues like education, healthcare, clean water, sanitation, etc. Devanik holds a B.Tech Electronics & Communication from Vellore Institute of Technology, India. He is also Director, Youth For Policy & Dialogue, a think tank comprising entirely of youth.