Experts Call for Reforms in Education System
Experts stressed on the risks posed by the introduction of a New Education Policy while the country still struggles to effectively implement the RTE Act at a consultation held at the Madras School of Social Work today. The one-day consultation was organised by the National Coalition for Education and World Vision India, along with the PG Department of Development Management, MSSW, in collaboration with its NGO partners, and was attended by eminent educationists, government officials, NGO representatives, students and members of the civil society. Teachers from Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka participated in the consultation as well.
The Consultation saw panelists discuss the pros and cons of the implementation of the RTE Act and the nuances of the New Education Policy. Delivering the keynote address, renowned educationist Dr V Vasanthi Devi said that "In neo-liberal India, the commerce-driven education system that exists today is in total denial of the values laid out by the constitution. It seems today that our government schools are run mainly for the powerless, voiceless and the ones with least economic standing. We need to push for a common school system with neighbourhood schools - a norm in most developed countries - where irrespective of class, caste or gender all students will receive the same quality of education."
Other speakers too shared similar opinions. "Today we see private schools mushrooming in every nook and corner of the country, whereas government schools are shutting down. Private schools are largely unregulated and effectively functions beyond the scope of RTE in reality," said Dr K Shanmughavelayudham from Tamil Nadu Forum for Creche and Childcare Services (TNFORCES).
From a measly budget allocation for education to failure at RTE implementation, India's school system is ailed by a range of factors. Bodies like School Management Committees (SMCs) are meant to be key catalysts to boost efficiency of the government initiatives. These committees enhance community participation in the whole process of education, thereby strengthening the systems for better functionality. "The role of SMCs is critical in giving life to the RTE Act. Functional SMCs ensure a platform for parents to share learning outcomes at the end of every month, which greatly enhances the overall quality of the learning process. Unfortunately, neither the government nor the schools give the required importance to SMCs currently," said K. Murthy, from TN RTE Forum.
Reni Jacob, Advocacy Director, World Vision India, said that the education policy needs to cover from preschool till higher secondary, and also stress on life skills. "According to UNESCO, 10 lakh children are out of school. The education policy should focus on the most vulnerable children who are out of school also," he added. Recommendations to the government regarding these issues were discussed and finalized towards the end of the event. Ramakant Rai from the National Coalition for Education said, "We have still not reached the 6% GDP spend for Education; we are still looming on around 3.6 percent, which is among the lowest in BRIC countries." Concluding the event, Prof Jesuin from MSSW said that this consultation would result in a document that would influence in shaping the new education policy to be more comprehensive and address the issues related to equitable quality - which are already enshrined in the constitutional rights under the RTE Act 2009.