Re-construction of Government Schools in Delhi
Keyoor Pathak (Post-Doctorate from CSD, Hyderabad)
In the last few days there has been a heated debate over a column of New York Times appraising the schooling system of Government of Delhi. Many of us perceived it as a paid column. Here, argument is not about the politics of publication rather we need to evaluate the schooling system of Delhi beyond our political inclination. During my Post-Doctoral Research at CSD (Council for Social Development), Hyderabad, I used to visit the districts of Telangana to probe the reasons of very low number of student’s enrolment in the government schools of the state. Both, students, and their parents were found to be reluctant to get enrolment in government schools compared to private schools, while their experiences of private schools were also not satisfactory; they lamented over the robbery of the private schools as these schools do in the name of providing quality-education. However, many parents had taken loans to get their children enrolled in the private schools. Their opinion over the government schools seemed to be very adverse as these schools do not have affordable infrastructure and quality-education. Those who already enrolled in the government schools were worried of their future, but they do not have sufficient money to get enrolled in private schools. A father of a child asked- “I am a farmer. I have a lot of debt already so how can I send my son for a private school. The schools demand much money. I just want him to learn and write a little somehow to survive merely. Government should think about our struggles”. More or less, similar situation is being found in other parts of India. A large population in the country does not have enough capacity to get enrolled their children in the private schools. It is very clear private school are set up merely to make money so how will they think about the problems of the deprived class! The core philosophy of the private schools revolves around maximum benefit rather than offering affordable and quality education to all the classes of the society. Therefore, the role of the states has always been of utmost importance to provide an inclusive education policy. In this context, initiatives of Delhi government have been globally appreciated as it has offered a model of education to other states, where state’s schools are dying in the age of global market. Delhi government, through huge public investment in education, has brought a massive transformation to provide quality and affordable education. Despite infrastructure, innovative curriculum in the schools helped much in developing various skills like empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration among children to construct meaningful relationship in the society, which are the soul goal of education. Because of the education model of the state, the literacy rate is also improved, and the gap has been decreasing. An upward trend in terms of literacy rate can be noticed among both male and female members of the state.
Notably, Infrastructure is the biggest thing that is predominantly poor in government’s schools. A good and clean infrastructure attracts the students to be in the schools. The clean and good building of the schools makes an environment of creativity and innovation. Delhi government has appreciable contribution in terms of school infrastructure. For example, high quality infrastructure like smart-classes, swimming pools, classroom libraries, vocational laboratories and other facilities have been introduced by the state. 20 new pucca school building and more than 8000 additional classrooms have been constructed in existing school building by the state. For the sake of safety in the schools, during the period of 2019-20, CCTV camera were installed in 459 schools. And 4513 of classroom libraries have been set up in primary section of the various schools, and at least 733874 books have been purchased for the libraries. All schools have separate clean toilets for both boys and girls. Water facilities, electricity, and boundary is also set up properly. These did not happen on its own, but additional efforts were made. The state increased its budgetary allocation for the education. The total expenditure on education along with sports, arts and other activities has been increased by the state from 6555 crore (2014-15) to 15102 crore (2020-20). The gradual and consistent increased expenditure on education from 2014 to 2021 can easily be seen in the Economic Survey of Delhi (2020-21). If we compare the investment on education as ratio to aggregate expenditure comparing to other states, we find a better situation of the state. In 2014-15 only Assam was performing better than Delhi having 24.7 percent. Delhi’s expenditure was 21.2 percent. And astonishingly it was far better than Kerala which expensed only 16.4 percent. Gujrat, Haryana, Karnataka, Uttar-Pradesh had respectively 15.2, 16.9, 14.3 and 15 percent which were far behind. In 2020-21, Delhi left all the states behind in terms of expenditure and reached at 23.2 percent. Gujrat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Assam, Uttar Pradesh had respectively 13, 15.9, 12.2, 13.6, 16.8, 18.7, 12.9 percent.
This investment induced children to be enrolled in the schools that can be seen in the gross enrolment ratio for academic year 2018-19. Yet, Delhi’s performance is much better than all India performance. At primary level in Delhi, it was 120.15 percent while India as a whole had only 101.25 percent. Similarly, at upper primary, elementary, secondary, and higher secondary in Delhi it was respectively 120.15, 120.15, 110.43 and 70.07 percent, while India as a whole was respectively 87.74, 96.1, 76.90 and 50.14 percent.
To uplift the condition of the government schools the state took some other major initiatives such as Entrepreneurship Development Programme, Pratibha Fellowship for promotion of Digital Learning, Happiness Curriculum (to develop a relationship and behaviour with family, parents, friends etc). Seeing the need of English language, the state also launched a programme; under these some 40000 special classes on communicative competence were conducted through outsourcing. No contention over the importance of vernacular languages as to develop a learning and thought process among children, but simultaneously new age is flanked with global market so the need of English as a language of global communication cannot be overlooked. As I too observed in my personal field visit that people of Telangana were yearning English education to their children and for that purpose, they were willing to send their children to private schools. Recently some chief ministers and other veteran politicians have also given special remarks for English education.
Notably, the special focus on the government school is not an innovation of the Delhi government, but has been clearly depicted in our constitution, and practised since independence by all the states as well, unfortunately in the last few decades in most of the states these schools have faced a rapid and grave deterioration due to unavailability of resources and mistreatment by the states. The contribution of Delhi government is they understood the importance and worked to re-start it. Most of our population is surviving in scarce. They have neither sufficient food nor shelter. So, this extra inclusive approach in education is undoubtedly an effort which must be followed by the other states.