Ajay Maken must blame Congress, not AAP for Delhi's education crisis

It is time his party introspects and allows itself to be, occasionally, touched by evidence and truth.

 |  5-minute read |   24-08-2016
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An article by Congress Delhi president Ajay Maken, published by Indian Express this week, has occasioned a closer examination of Delhi's education system and I thank him for giving all of us a chance to engage in a dialogue around the most important issue: our children's education.

mid-day_660_07301311_082416045545.jpg SMCs have played an indispensable role in improving the quality of mid-day meals, sanitation and the mainstreaming of out-of-school children.

Let me begin by articulating the truth about the status of education in the city that Congress ruled for 15 years. Assessments conducted with the support of Pratham, a not-for-profit organisation, bring to light something that has been widely known, but denied by governments - our failing government school system.

The baseline assessment of class 6 students reveals:

1.   Nearly three-fourth (74 per cent) students could not read a paragraph from their own Hindi textbook

2.   Nearly half of our students (46 per cent) could not read a simple story of grade 2 level Hindi text.

3.   Two third (67 per cent) of our children could not do simple 3 digits by 1 digit division.

4.   Nearly half (44 per cent) of our children could not do 2 digits subtraction with borrowing.

5.   Three-fourth (75 per cent) children could not read a story of grade 2 level text in English.Results of class 7 and 8 are not substantially different. The directorate of education data shows more than 1,30,000 of our students have failed in class 9 in the last three years.

All of this would indicate years of accumulated learning deficit. It is a criminal offence against children and the nation that is incapable of teaching them basic reading and arithmetic skills, hence destroying their future - which both the BJP and the Congress need to accept responsibility for.

In Delhi, the majority of primary schools is run by MCD, which has been under the BJP's control for more than nine years.Instead of the introspection and apology that Congress owes to the children, Maken writes an article devoid of facts, research, accompanied with a constructive suggestion, but an abundance of cynicism!

It is time the Congress introspects and allows itself to be, occasionally, touched by evidence, research and truth.

The AAP government has been teaching everyone an important lesson in governance.

One of its most significant contributions is to make education a subject of public discourse. This move by AAP has generated public interest, excitement, involvement and even scrutiny - the elements that make change possible.

A press release by directorate of education dated August 9, 2016 publishes the statistics of the sorry state of affairs and the mess the government has inherited. It is in this context, where our children can't even read grade 2 text, that the government has launched Chunauti 2018, a step that needs to be welcomed by anyone interested in education. If not for Congress, the mess wouldn't have existed in the first place.

The AAP government constituted School Management Committees (SMCs) in all the 1011 schools within the first few months of coming to power in line with the Right to Education mandate and its commitment to decentralisation of power.

Delhi had the worst record in this regard under the Congress rule. The SMCs have been instrumental in improving, substantially, the attendance of the students - the first step towards ensuring learning.

It has gone up by more than 15 per cent. SMCs have played an indispensable role in improving the quality of mid-day meals, sanitation and the mainstreaming of out-of-school children.

Recently, a summer camp for more than 45,000 students was organised with the help of SMCs.

The government has partnered with several expert organisations for principal leadership development, teachers' training, and curriculum reforms.

Acknowledging the deficit in the teachers' ability to offer lessons, the government has increased the teacher training budget by more than 1000 per cent!

Curriculum reforms have been initiated to include arts, drama, sports and music and cut down the parts of the syllabus that are outdated. This has allowed the teachers and students to engage with the concepts deeply and meaningfully. Research by Harvard Professor Lant Pritchett and several others points out the negative consequences of the ambitious syllabus.

Interventions in the form of CCTVs have been brought in, very scientifically, in partnership with J-PAL, a premier research network, to enforce mechanisms to improve teaching practices by generating feedback reports for teachers about classroom management and pedagogical practices.

The intervention is only a pilot and its scale-up is subject to positive results, which will be independently evaluated by J-PAL.

Maken was quick to point out the alarming number of vacancies, numbered at 12,000. One might ask how these vacancies developed if the Congress had held timely recruitment drives. Because they didn't!

It is Congress that is responsible for the vacancies. The AAP government has completed the recruitment process for nearly 8,000 teachers, who would be in class in less than three months from today, a fact the Congress state president has omitted conveniently.

Delhi government issued orders to relieve teachers of non-academic duties, appointed estate managers to rid principals of non-academic duties, sanctioned clerical staff to streamline and smoothen the administrative and financial processes - all in a year.

Government teachers now have a support system in the form of mentor teachers to reach out for advice, training and support.The gestation period required for reaping the fruits of the reforms in education is longer than any other sector and it is too early to assess the AAP government in terms of outcome.

However, the inputs and processes are aligned to produce the outcomes that are worthy of a great city and a great nation. Each reform the government has initiated needs to be sustained by means of constant and consistent review, consultation and involvement for the Chunauti presented is quite formidable and stakes our children!

Writer

Anurag Kundu Anurag Kundu @anuragkunduak

Founder of Election Promises Tracker, an initiative that tracks the performance of elected governments against their electoral promises in the fields of education, health, governance, economy and agriculture.

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