According to the Government, the focus of the New Education Policy is on the ‘four pillars’ of Access, Equity, Quality and Accountability. These are self-explanatory in themselves. Officialdom and the schools are having a hard time conforming to these standards. A large number of educationists and school managements are having to change their old ways, and restructure how they deliver education to students. It is expected that this will be accomplished within a reasonable period of time. The policy has to be applied uniformly over the diverse education system in the country where there are government, private, charitable, and ‘minority’ run schools, each with their advantages and shortcomings. Traditionally, government schools have been sub-par, with some exceptions, which has been the greatest obstacle to equitable access. Truth be told, if these begin functioning as they should, the space for the other kinds of schools would be considerably reduced.
The Uttarakhand Government is undertaking a review of its educational model and, hopefully, that will have a positive outcome. It should be understood however that at the heart of education – after all the talk – is the teacher. Without quality teachers, the best organisation and infrastructure are a waste. Government school teachers are well-paid but have to serve in difficult conditions and mostly teach students from underprivileged communities. Their students do not have the kind of parental support and other advantages as do those of private schools. This gets evened out at the college and university level, which is why admission to government institutions is most sought after when students leave school.
The focus, therefore, has to be on providing teachers the training and means to improve their performance. This is more possible in the present age of connectivity and the internet. The best ideas on how this is to be done will actually come from the teachers themselves.
It must also be understood that the content of what is taught has to be rooted in the local communities. The same information has to be passed on in different ways. The child in the village already knows much about nature, crops and survival issues. Maths and science has to be communicated through that knowledge. The ‘practical’ information that the urban child has is of an entirely different kind. If teachers are on the correct wavelength, children will benefit greatly and perform more confidently.
The advantage of the so-called Delhi Model is that it has, owing to its location, the best qualified teachers available, which the remote regions of the country do not. So, any comparisons made are cruel and insensitive. But, give the teachers their due and watch the change happen.