EXPLAINED NATIONAL

Education Reforms – A Tool to Empower Tomorrow

Education

As an integral part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s overarching message, ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ has been the vision of ‘Education of All’. Access to affordable and quality education at all levels, right from primary school onwards, has been a perpetual challenge in India. There was a need to first acknowledge the problem and then address it through a solution-driven approach.

Multiple initiatives, which have the potential to transform the education system in India, have been undertaken from 2014 onwards. Here we highlight them in the below article:

Swachh Vidyalaya – Encouraging Girls to Study Further

Sanitation is a public good, and it is the first time that there is a concerted focus on recognizing its role towards shaping societal trends and future. Reportedly, lack of sanitation facility at schools acts as a deterrent towards the education of a girl child. Further, an increase in the drop-out rates of young girls may also lead to an increase in the instances of early marriage, and loss of productivity due to adolescent pregnancies.

Further, the annual average dropout rate of girls is 16.88% which is less than the dropout rate of boys of 17.21%.

  • The Department of School Education and Literacy launched ‘Swachh Bharat: Swachh Vidyalaya’ campaign in 2014.
  • Under this initiative, more than 4 lakh toilets were constructed and made functional in around 2.6 lakh schools in a period of just one year, up to August 15, 2015. With this, India achieved the target of providing 100% access to functional toilets in all the government schools across the country
  • ‘Swachh Vidyalaya’ was also recognized as one of the priority programmes for ‘Prime Minister’s Excellence Award’ for the year 2016.
  • Swachhta Pakhwada of Higher Educational Institutions was held on September 14, 2017.
  • Also, under the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan programme, District Collectors were asked to complete Open Defecation Free (ODF) with facility for solid and liquid waste management in at least 1 village adopted by the educational institution in their district.

Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA)

This programme attempts to provide quality secondary education within a reasonable distance of communities by removal of gender, socio-economic and disability barriers.

  • Novel initiatives under RMSA include construction of new secondary schools, construction of teacher’s quarters, self-defence training, adolescent education programmes, separate toilets and hostels for girls.
  • Achievements under RMSA have been shown in the below graph:

Amendment of Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009

The amendment to the RTE Act – 2009 was brought in by the Modi Government in 2017, after which a regular examination will be held in class 5 and class 8 and a provision of re-examination is provided. If a student fails in the re-examination, the relevant central or state government may decide to allow schools to detain the child. This reform aims to improve the quality of education and improve the overall learning levels. It was believed that ‘no detention’ would lead to lower dropout rates. However, the decline in learning levels in elementary education was observed by the Central Advisory Board on Education.

Subsequently, in a report of Central Advisory Board of Education in the context of the ‘no detention’ provision in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory/ Education Act – 2009, which recommended that an assessment of learning outcomes is required to determine promotion to the next class.  This would also improve accountability of schools and teachers to deliver quality education.  Further, many states requested changes in the RTE Act to allow detention of children with poor learning outcomes.

Indian Institute of Management Act

This was a landmark step towards extending higher autonomy to educational institutions of India. Against the backdrop of repeated instances of friction, the incumbent Government took cognizance of the existing challenges and true to its nature acted upon them through long-term policy interventions. Prominent features of the IIM Act are listed below:

  • The Act lists IIMs as ‘Institutes of national importance’. As against the practice of extending Diplomas, the Act empowers IIMs to grant Degrees.
  • While the Directors of IITs and AIIMS continue to be appointed by the Central Government, IIMs have been entrusted with higher autonomy and responsibility. The Bill (passed in Rajya Sabha in December 2019) provides higher autonomy to the IIM Board, which includes the appointment of the Chairperson, their Directors, and their compensation.
  • The Board is vested with the responsibility to review the performance of IIMs.
  • Accounts of IIMs will be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Setting up of National Digital Library (NDL)

This is a virtual repository of learning resources. With around 15 million digital books and journals available, 31 lakh learners are using this facility.

Other Important Initiatives
  • Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, which are residential schools for girls at upper primary level, has also been sanctioned for improving access to education for the marginalized sections of the society.
  • All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) launched a scheme to provide assistance for the advancement of girls’ participation in technical education. The scheme grants 4,000 scholarships per annum. It is aimed at improving the participation of girls in the field of technical education and further empowers their future.
  • Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching scheme was launched in 2014 to address issues of supply of qualified teachers, attracting talent into the teaching profession, raising the quality teaching in schools and colleges.
  • Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) is a Rs.1,000 crore fund created using government equity, which is expected to finance academic and research infrastructure projects through a 10-year
  • Automated Monitoring System to collect real-time data of Mid-Day Meal Scheme. Reports to monitor real-time performance at National/State/District/Block level can be generated through this system.
Conclusion

Focusing on laying emphasis on creating a learning environment beyond books and syllabus, many other reforms have been introduced by the Modi Government to further the cause of education in India. Like all other long-term initiatives, these reforms ask for collaboration from States and other stakeholders. With an overarching theme directed to providing a holistic approach towards imparting education, such as building capacity for teachers, using technology to overcome the cost and physical barriers, these reforms will prove transformational and decisive for future.