Equity Unaddressed: A Civil Society Response to the Draft Approach Paper - 12th Five Year Plan
The publication is a compilation of responses from civil society organisations to the Draft Approach Paper to the 12th Five-Year Plan. It presents a detailed critique of the Approach Paper in areas such as education, gender, youth development, land issues, water and sanitation, among others.
Given the vast and diverse Indian elementary education system, significant progress has been made towards the achievement of the goals laid out in the Constitution and in the National Policy on Education. These include significantly higher levels of funding, access, enrollment, infrastructure and the recently legislated Right to Education Act (RTE). Despite these developments, critical challenges remain in retention, quality and equitable opportunities for all.
The consultation facilitated by the Planning Commission is likely to yield multiple, diverse recommendations. To ensure that the resulting plan is meaningful and manageable, we must:
(i) Focus on Execution, not Policy: Education policies are largely appropriate and do not suffer from any major lacunae. The critical gaps lie in implementation and execution of policy.
(ii) Recognise Limitations of Private Partnerships: The role of private partners and private capital in education has been given much importance in recent times. This is a fundamental flaw. Given the scale, diversity and deep inequities in India, private entities can only have a minor role to play in providing education (primary or higher). It is the government that must spearhead the effort to provide good education at all levels — private partners can only play a limited supplementary role in specific and specialised areas of expertise.
(iii) Focus on the Vital Few: While many proposed interventions may be valid and well–intentioned, concentrating energy and resources on a few critical ones will yield better results than attempting too many things simultaneously.
Four vital interventions can lead to systemic and sustainable improvements.
1) Radical Overhaul of Teacher Education: The pre– service and in–service teacher education systems in India are in disarray. An estimated 80 percent of existing BEd colleges is defunct, with uncontrolled mushrooming of low–quality teacher training institutes. The curriculum, pedagogy, leadership and regulation of teacher education must be revamped and revitalised urgently.
2) Focus on Education Leadership and Management: About 5–7 percent of government schools provide high quality education to their students — largely because of the leadership, motivation and competence of the teachers and head teachers involved. However, there is currently no system that provides systematic leadership skills training to head teachers to equip them to lead their school to quality performance. This needs to be urgently addressed.
3) Rejuvenation of Institutional Structures for Academic Support: The institutional structures for teacher development and academic support are in shambles. Educational structures like the State Council Educational Research and Training (SCERT), SIEMAT, and District Institutes of Education and Training (DIET s) etc must be revitalised without delay. Improved leadership quality, higher competencies of academic staff, superior people development and greater autonomy are essential. This will greatly contribute to the development of better teachers, curricula and learning processes in the classroom.
4) Focus on Early Childhood Education (ECE): Children aged between 3 and 6 need to be exposed to a child–friendly learning environment. This will lay the foundation for school education. Therefore, the conceptual, legislative and operational integration of ECE and school education is of critical importance. (MoHRD) should ensure that existing Teacher Eligibility Tests (TET) are based on teaching competencies and not on information recall. The government needs to make required changes in TET in consultation with academic bodies like NCERT, NUEPA and other academic institutions. The TET should change from being a test of information and knowledge to being a test of teaching competencies.
(iv) Teacher Career Development:The MoHRD should establish policies and procedures for setting academic goals for teachers and providing formative feedback and summative performance appraisal. The state education departments should implement such policies while tailoring it to the local context.
(v) Involvement of Teacher Educators: It is vital to include teacher educators sufficiently in the process of reform and change. This inclusion needs the creation of a framework for autonomy and competence at all levels of teacher education —SCERT, DIETs, BRCs, CRCs and teachers.
(Vi) Development of Academic Resources: Develop appropriate material for teachers/teacher educators in a variety of languages (the changed curriculum needs to be supported with the right material/academic resources in various languages).