The Congress Party is firmly committed to accessible and quality public education for all our children and youth. The state of public education has come under much discussion recently in light of the new education policy being mooted by the Center and the widely publicized changes in public schools of Delhi.
Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) will take a considered view on public education in Delhi after a thorough review of the ground situation and consultation with academia, civil society, parents and children. As part of this ongoing exercise, DPCC organized a consultation with some experts, activists and practitioners on Aug 6. The following points emerged in the discussion:
1. There is lack of transparency and apparent arbitrariness in the way policy changes are being initiated in Delhi Government schools. Several reform measures appear to have been taken such as categorising children on the basis of one-time performance into ‘ability’ sections, arbitrary pruning of the syllabus, compelling children to opt for vocational subjects in class XI etc. It is important that the Delhi Government put out a white paper on its approach to education to allow informed public opinion and to ensure that the reforms do not violate RTE norms
2. The Delhi Government must place in the public domain all official communication, new textbooks/supplementary material, teacher training material and expenditure details. Delhi Government also appears to have contracted with many private organisations – the terms of reference along with budgetary allocations and expenditure incurred thus far also need to be put in the public domain. This is also mandated as per the proactive disclosure requirements under Section 4 of the RTI Act.
3. Delhi Govt’s Chunauti Policy in which students under 14 years of age are divided into groups on the basis of their alleged “basic learning skill” is discriminatory, pedagogically not borne out and is against the RTE provisions. This kind of division is likely to lead to students being labeled as “bright” and “weak” students, with some capable’ of pursuing academic subjects while dissuading others, especially female students to continue education. This also harms student psyche and the collegial learning environment in schools
4. The distortion and ostensible dilution of curriculum by the Delhi Government through Pragati books and “focused” syllabus has been done in a non-transparent manner without deliberation with those involved in framing the curriculum in the first place. While the Delhi Government has claimed that Pragati books are supplementary in nature, official circular dated March 31, 2016 make it clear that these books completely supplanted official textbooks in the months of April and May leaving no time to cover official text. The Pragati books themselves lack coherence and under the guise of simplification have been shorn of progressive content crucial for the shaping of curious and critical minds
5. There was also discussion on the larger context of push towards low-cost private schools and “skilling” in which these “reforms” appear to be located. The early segregation of some students into “low expectations” track focusing on low order skills is likely to result in constraining them into low paying jobs while educating those who demonstrate “pratibha”
Chief among those present were Prof Poonam Batra and Prof. Anita Rampal (Department of Education, DU), Prof Janaki Rajan (Jamia Millia Islamia) and Mr Ambarish Rai, (Convener of the National Forum of RTE). Those from the Congress Party included Mr Ajay Maken, President of DPCC and Dr. Kiran Walia, Former Education Minister, Delhi Govt.