Reservation as right: The Delhi model of education
Mahatma Gandhi secured the participation of thousands of households in the freedom struggle when he launched the civil disobedience movement. For every household today, rich or poor, education has the same relevance as salt did in 1930. This is seen in the resounding verdict given by the Delhi electorate in the Assembly election to the present government, which built its governance model around education.
Importance of Education:
Education is an important aspect of society which plays a very important role in the modern and industrialized world. Many scholars view education as an indispensable means to maintain their existence in the current competitive era. Education not only helps us to find better and innovative solutions to our problems but it is also helpful in improving the standard of living of a person and in running the society systematically and smoothly. By eliminating poverty through education, it can be ensured that every citizen of the country can play its role in the development of India.
Delhi model of education: Quality education is a necessity, not a luxury:
In the last five years, the Delhi model of education has caught the attention of people in Delhi and beyond. It built a model which essentially has five major components and is supported by nearly 25% of the State Budget. The validation of this model now creates a pathway for the next set of reforms. For too long, there have been two kinds of education models in the country: one for the classes and another for the masses. The government in Delhi sought to bridge this gap. Its approach stems from the belief that quality education is a necessity, not a luxury.
Key components of the model recent Delhi model of education:
The first component of the education model is the Transformation of school infrastructure:
- Dilapidated school buildings that lack basic facilities not only indicate the apathy of the government, but also significantly lower the motivation of teachers and the enthusiasm of students.
- The government sought to change this by building new, aesthetically designed classrooms equipped with furniture, smart boards, staff rooms, auditoriums, laboratories, libraries, sports facilities and so on.
The second component is the training of teachers and principals:
- Apart from the fact that a forum was created to encourage peer learning among them, several opportunities were given to teachers for their professional growth.
- They visited Cambridge University; the National Institute of Education, Singapore; IIM Ahmedabad; and other models of excellence in India.
- The exposure to new pedagogy and leadership training enabled Delhi to gradually move away from a uniform training model for all to learning from the best practices in India and abroad.
The third component involved engaging with the community by Reconstituting school management committees (SMC):
- The annual budget of each SMC is Rs.5-7 lakh. The SMCs can spend this money on any material or activity, such as even hiring teachers on a short-term basis.
- Regular dialogue between teachers and parents was initiated through mega parent-teacher meetings.
- Guidelines are provided on how to engage with parents. Invitations for meetings are sent through FM radio, newspaper advertisements, etc.
Four, there have been major curricular reforms in teaching learning:
- In 2016, the government noted that there was a nearly 50% failure rate in Class 9 and admitted that the poor foundational skills of children could be the reason for it.
- Special initiatives to ensure that all children learn to read, write and do basic mathematics was launched and made part of regular teaching learning activities in schools.
- Similarly, a ‘happiness curriculum’ was introduced for all children between nursery and Class 8 for their emotional well-being.
- Further, an ‘entrepreneurship mindset curriculum’ was introduced to develop the problem-solving and critical thinking abilities of children in Classes 9 to 12.
- Apart from these new curricular initiatives, the focus on existing subjects too ensured better performance in Board examinations by Classes 10 and 12.
Fifth, there was no fee increase in private schools:
- While the first four components impacted nearly 34% of children in Delhi’s government schools, arbitrary fee hikes earlier impacted about 40% children who go to private schools.
- In the past, almost all the schools increased their fee 8-15% annually.
- The government not only ensured the refund of about Rs.32 crore to parents which was excessively charged by private schools, it also ensured that any fee hike proposal was examined by authorised chartered accountants.
- Thus, for two years no school was allowed to raise its fee.
Way Forward: Agenda 2.0:
The Delhi model of education from “having built the foundation of education”, the focus now will shift to “education as foundation”.
Going forward, there will be three key areas of reform apart from consolidating the gains of the past.
First, the syllabus of Classes 1 to 8 will be reviewed to emphasise foundational learning skills, the ‘happiness curriculum’ and the ‘deshbhakti’ curriculum.
Thus, apart from ensuring that all children can fluently read, write and do mathematics, the focus will be to build emotional resilience in children and ensure that they internalise our core constitutional values by the time they complete eight years of schooling.
Apart from that, early childhood care and education will be deepened further through Anganwadis. There will also be nurseries in all government schools.
Second, a Delhi Education Board will be set up to promote learning that encourages critical thinking, problem solving and application of knowledge among children.
This will prepare them to tackle the challenges of the 21st century with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Additionally, for those who have graduated from Delhi schools in the recent past, programmes like spoken English, soft skills and so on will be initiated to raise their employability opportunities.
Third, specialised schools will be created in each of the 29 zones of Delhi to nurture the aptitude and talent of children in the areas of science and technology, literature and language, visual and performing arts, and sports.
Now that Delhi has decisively acknowledged education as a top agenda of governance, the natural expectation from the government would be to ensure that all children get education that passes the test of quality, opportunity and equity.