“If we can impart better education, then within one generation we can eradicate poverty, unemployment and can develop this city,” said Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on May 2nd, when he discussed his plan to revamp the education system of the city. He discussed his plans to create a Delhi-specific education board to improve the quality of the existing schools so they would be “better than the private schools in five years.” He talked about both the standards and infrastructure of existing schools, in the interaction with all the principals of government schools at the Thyagaraj stadium.
It is past time that the quality of education is addressed as an issue, rather than enrollment, which has so far been the primary focus the government. The Right to Education planned to start with accessibility of education; which while sound in theory, (as well as successful: as of 2014, 96.7% of children age 6-14 are enrolled in school in rural India) has not translated to a corresponding increase in the level of education. In fact, the numbers show a plummet in the level of education of kids in government schools. Less than half of grade V students can read at the grade II level, which is an unsteady drop from the 2009 statistics. Only half of the students in grade V can perform basic subtractions, a dismal state of affairs. There is a lack of basic skill imparted, which means that further learning will eventually hit a roadblock. So, while access is fundamental to making education available to the grassroots, it is not the only factor for better education.
The quality of education is generally higher in private institutions, for both reading and math, and there’s no surprise consequently if there is an increase in total students choosing private schools over government ones. The number of students in rural areas choosing private schools is around 30% (with wide geographic variation), and it is decidedly higher in urban areas. Another factor is the continuance of education.
Looking at enrollment at different levels, it is obvious enrollment at primary levels under the RTE has not been sufficient for either a minimum standard of education imparted, or as a way to ensure a greater interest in continual education. The advisability of the Union government’s current focus at more higher learning institutions being set up must be questioned, when only 19.4% of total students are being enrolled for higher education.
While some experts are questioning Kejriwal and Sisodia’s desire to separate the Delhi education from the CBSE board, it is still a more direct way to achieve reform in the system; to be judged on the basis of academic performance and parents’ satisfaction as a way to measure the functionality as a baseline. In the announcement, non-academic work such as election duty and filing registers is to be taken away from the teachers. Welcomed by the principals and hailed as a great step forward, if this succeeds, it will be a model for the rest of the nation to follow.