As The New Education Policy Arrives, Here’s What You Need To Know About India’s Schools

When it comes to the education system of our country, we all know that there is not much to boast about. Our government schools lack quality education while our private schools are even termed as the shiksha (education) mafia. We need to understand what sabotage the governments has been trying to overcome for years and yet, they are stuck in one place.

The problems lie in our education policies itself. The new education policy is being implemented in the country after a long wait of 33 years. It is expected that the policies of this time will be able to repair the education infrastructure, which may improve the crippled situation of primary and higher education in our country.

The draft of the new education policy has been submitted to Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and will soon be shaped and implemented. It’s time to think whether these policies will provide any oxygen to the country’s dying education system? Were the objectives in the previous education policies fulfilled?

Let us see how far we have come in the efforts of improving education, and how much further we have to go.

Delhi’s Deputy CM Manish Sisodia examines a class room. The Delhi Government’s Happiness Curriculum has changed how government schools are educating their students. Over a span of five years, a commitment to positive transformation has created ripples in NCR’s schools.

What We Have Achieved Till Yet

1) We have progressed since 1968 in terms of making education accessible to every child in the country. The objective of making primary education accessible to all was bolstered by the Right to Education (RTE) and now the latest reports from Annual States of Education (ASER-2014) and UDISE state that 96.7% of children in the country are enrolled in schools. This is the biggest achievement of the 1968 education policy so far.

2) The share of public investment in education has increased over the years. However, it is still less than 6% of the GDP.

In the last five years itself, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has increased the budget from ₹31,906 crore to ₹54,735 crore. The government spends an average of ₹11,225 a year on the education of a student.

Since 2014, the government has started levying a 2% cess on the Elementary Education Fund. However, it has been observed that a large part of the elementary education fund is saved from spending every year and the amount of money deposited in the fund increases, but this reflects the government’s readiness for the Education To All policy.

3) In the policies of 1968 and 1986, the emphasis was on improving the infrastructure of schools and it has been largely successful. While the number of primary schools was 8,45,007 in 2001, the number has now increased to 14,48,712 in 2014.

98% of the rural areas have reached the goal of having a school within one kilometre from the village. 18% of the SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) budget is being spent on school infrastructure and about 65% of the schools in the country follow the RTE guidelines and this number is increasing every year.

Where We Lag Behind

1) According to the 2014 MHRD report, 3.2% children are out of school and 50% out of these, who were enrolled in school at some point of time, dropped schooling before completing Class 8.

The problem is the transitioning of children from primary schools to secondary schools after Class 5. The figures for girls, and students from minorities are the worst.

The Out Of School Survey report released by MHRD states that only 12% of the children admitted to schools at the elementary level have access to higher education. This gap between elementary education (96.7%) and secondary education (12%) is huge.

2) According to ASER 2014 and NAS 2014 report, about 45% children studying in Class 5 in government schools across the country cannot write, read or do simple calculations in mathematics.

In 2009, the states of Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of OECD, an international level assessment program identifying the quality of education in children.

Surprisingly, in its result, the rank of Indian states was 72 and 73 among 74 countries of the world. That is, the second and third from below.Quality education is not defined in any of our education policies, despite quality being crucial to education.

3) What the role of private schools in the education system of the country is, remains undecided. There is always a locked-horn situation between private and government schools in the country. Government schools provide free education, mid-day meal, free school dress and books and numerous other benefits, while the private schools charge hefty fee for the same, yet, the parents’ interest have shifted towards private schools, for the sake of better education.

According to the ASER 2014 report, between 2010 and 2014, enrollment of children in government schools decreased by 6.2% while that of private schools increased by 6.5%. The role of private schools along with the government schools for the betterment of education, needs attention.

We can only hope that the New Education Policy will refuel the engines of education. It should not happen so that several future generations succumb to the poor education system of the country.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Danish Siddiqui for Reuters.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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