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Education – surviving during and thriving after #Covid19

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By ANURAG SANGAL

Unarguably, education is one of major challenges of the Covid19 pandemic; and different countries, India included, have attempted to complete the transaction of teaching-learning by moving to digital platforms. We in India, with our many divides including digital, find that our public education, both at school and college has been the worst hit; with ‘learning of the student’ being the single largest and most significant casualty, on a here and now basis.

My fear is that digital may become the new umbrella with the beacon to conveniently forget what was wrong and the need to fix it. That would be catastrophic. Digital will surely help a percentage of our children to keep learning during the Lockdown; but otherwise there are just about too many wrongful policies and practices that have crept into our Public Education system to contaminate it and literally, steal the future of our children, viz.,

1. Shortage of Teachers
2. Improper deployment of Teachers
3. Poor attitude of Teachers
4. Absence of Academic Leadership
5. Lack of Administrative Administration
6. Inadequate infrastructure
7. Wasteful usage of public funds
8. Lack of Vision and Mission in the Education Department(s).

Let us attempt to address them in a simple Task Oriented TO-DO manner.
Status as of Now
Public Education is primarily delivered vide Govt-Aided and Govt owned Schools and Colleges.

Govt-Aided Schools and Colleges
Where infrastructure is owned and managed by a Private Promoter; Govt allocates Staff and pays for them, grants funds for specific projects of infrastructure enhancement. Fees are minimal.
This must have been a noble idea at some point in time, but has become infructuous and wasteful today for the reason that –
i) Govt does not allocate enough Teachers; the ratio of ‘allocated to required’ is not better than 1:3
ii) Private Promoter appoints about 50% of the Rest
iii) Balance shortage remains – in perpetuity
iv) Govt Teachers get Govt Salaries
v) Promoter appointed Teachers get not more than 15-20% of the that
vi) Both for doing the same work in the same place in the same hours!
vii) Govt Teachers are not accountable to Promoter Management
viii) Govt Teachers don’t work because they are not accountable; Private Teachers don’t work because they are not paid properly!
ix) Private Promoter does not have the money for proper infrastructure enhancement
x) Govt grants for infrastructure are too little and always late.

Govt owned Schools and Colleges
No parent willingly sends their children to them; they have become the epitome of neglect, carelessness and inefficiency; perhaps because –
i) Not enough Teachers at any institution
ii) Teachers deployed for anything and everything viz., census, elections, polling, counting, meetings during academic hours etc.
iii) Improper Training – no investment in capability development and attitude improvement
iv) No accountability.

Suggested Solution
1. Govt aided College and School
i) Abolish this concept
ii) Stop giving them Teachers at Govt Cost
iii) Relocate existing Teachers to select Govt Schools and Colleges
iv) Promoter Management can run the institution on their own.
This is not new – the Govt of Rajasthan did this in 2011 and the results have been remarkable.

2. Govt College and School
Reimagine and redesign them for any of the three options –
i) Owned and run by Govt – Zero Fee; with Full Allocation of Teachers
ii) Handover to NGO – Zero Fee; enough NGOs using premises for evening schools and classes; everything at their own cost; funded, as at the present, by donations and CSR
iii) Handover to Private School – with 50% Zero Fee; Private Promoters can be entrepreneurial and develop self sustaining Schools.
None of the above are new; Gujarat Government did this about 20 years ago and the results are remarkable; this is actually a replication of ‘Akshay Patra’, the mid-day meal programme outsourced by many State Govts to ISKCON; making it a huge success

3. Private Schools under RTE
i) Expand the coverage of Schools under RTE
ii) No exemption of coverage to Minority institutions, etc.
iii) RTE cess from Boarding Schools – collect a Flat Amount per month per students from Boarding Schools in lieu of exemption from RTE

4. Stop hiring of more Govt Teachers – they are just a waste

5. Reduce Govt Education Departments – they are a drain on the system; they do not know what needs to be done; they do not do what needs to be done

6. Govt now will have a much less number of institutions to focus on and it should be easier and simpler to enhance Teacher Quality by –
i) Attendance
ii) Punctuality
iii) Training – focused and outcome oriented
iv) Appraisal – professional and enhancing
v) Non-essential work – to be eliminated
vi) Meetings during academic hours – to be banned.

7. Professional assistance for Academic Leadership and Academic Administration – like what the Delhi Government has done so wonderfully; there will be many like-minded, experienced, well intentioned Education Practitioners willing the serve.

Outcome
1. Adequate and enough Teachers in Govt run institutions after their relocation from the so far Govt-aided set ups.
2. Higher amount of funds available per Govt run institution; after absence of Govt-aided and handing over some to NGOs and Private Promoters.
3. Enhanced coverage under RTE.
4. Reduced spread of Govt attention, manpower and funds; recipe for better achievement of Policy.
5. Professional engagement for supplementing and enhancing Quality of Education … not only to survive during Covid, but to actually thrive after it.

(Anurag Sangal is a Chartered Accountant, Teacher, Education Development Consultant and Social Entrepreneur.)