Why every state in India must follow AAP government's education model
In the past five years, the only state which has made positive headlines in matters of public education is Delhi.
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There is a unanimous consensus over the fact that education is important and yet, since Independence, India's education system has seen a steady deterioration in its standards.
When India was born as a new nation in 1947, the education system was state-sponsored, but with time, privatisation started taking over the education sector.
While the private education centres have blossomed over time, government schools across India have only witnessed broken roofs, dirty toilets, poisonous mid-day meals and absence of teachers.
In the past five years, however, the only state which has made positive headlines in matters of public education is Delhi. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has made education its primary focus and also allocated about 26 per cent of its budget to education. This is the highest budgetary allocation any state government in India has made for education.
In 2013, the AAP rode to power on the back of a massive anti-corruption movement spearheaded by Anna Hazare. The government was in power only for 49 days but had to resign due to unavoidable circumstances.
In 2015, the AAP returned to power in Delhi by winning 67 out of 70 Assembly seats. During its election campaign, the AAP promised to work on providing people with uninterrupted power and water supply along with a corruption-less government. After coming to power, the government not only worked on its electoral promises, but also worked tirelessly on providing quality and affordable school education.
The education department, which is headed by deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, took several steps to change the state of education in the state's government schools.
Many features of the work done by the AAP government in the education sector became talking points all over India. But there are some significant works which have been less discussed and one such area is the decentralisation of School Management Committees (SMC).
SMCs act as a critical conduit between the community and the school. Most importantly, it provides an oversight to ensure all basic requirements of the school are being met as per the Right to Education Guidelines 2009.
The Delhi government has revived and empowered SMCs in Delhi over the past few years with success. Before the AAP government came to power, centralised monitoring of schools at the district level was not very efficient.
Even an effectual monitoring officer in-charge of 100 schools would take more than 90 days to circle back to a school. The Delhi government reorganised SMCs through elections at the end of the two-year term of parent members.
Since 2015, SMCs have been leading from the front in organising parent-teacher meetings, reading melas, streamlining the admission process and ensuring attendance of irregular students. The SMCs are not doing this unaided. They are provided Rs 5 lakh per annum to carry out their work. Members are also provided regular training.
Under this system, SMCs are now decentralised empowering tools that involve parents in the education of their children and close the feedback loop.
It is important to understand that for every school, parents are the key stakeholders. Since it concerns their children, they are bothered about the outcome. Despite the Right to Education Act, however, parents enjoy little say in the education of their children.
Parents have more often than not been found protesting outside private schools every time they have not been involved in the decision-making process of the schools. This was not seen in government schools and this is precisely the gap that the Delhi government has been successful in filling.
We must not think that because parents who send their children to government schools are from a lower economic strata, they should not have a stake in their children's education.
The SMCs are proof that empowerment is not class-centric.
Every state government should follow this decentralisation model because this is the best way to improve the state of government schools.
It is high time elections in India were fought in the name of education, and not religion or caste, because education alone can solve the country's myriad problems.