[Yojana February Summary] Quality Education for All – Explained, pointwise

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The pandemic highlighted the shortcomings of our education system that is more focused on rote learning. This system pays very low regard to the creativity and mental wellbeing of children indicating lack of quality education. Further, the level of education possessed across regions is not uniform and the disadvantaged sections often have poor education levels.

The Government has undertaken a plethora of steps including the formulation of National Education Policy, 2020 with the vision of delivering quality education to every child. India is also a party to UN Sustainable Development Goals whose Goal 4 aims to deliver quality education for all. Nonetheless, there remain some bottlenecks which need to be duly addressed.

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What is the meaning of Quality Education?

Quality Education is a comprehensive term that includes learners, teachers, learning environment, appropriate curriculum, engaging pedagogy, learning outcomes, continuous formative assessment, and adequate student support.

It warrants inculcation of critical thinking, creativity, scientific temper, communication, collaboration, multilingualism, problem solving skills, ethics, social responsibility, and digital literacy.

Attempt to improve quality of education will succeed only if it goes hand in hand with steps to promote equity and inclusion. This requires schools to be sufficiently equipped and prepared to address the diverse learning needs of all children with a special focus on children belonging to SC, ST, Minorities, Girl child etc.

Another dimension of quality is to address the rural-urban divide and regional disparities as also the digital divide. 

What is need to deliver Quality Education?

Better Employment opportunities: It will allow the children to get jobs and get out of the vicious web of poverty. Further industry will be getting a robust supply of qualified personnel. India Skills Report 2021 estimates that only 45.9% of Indian youth possess sufficient employability skills.

Health and Wellbeing: Quality education covers the aspect of mental and physical well being that would improve health outcomes of the nation. It will also help in reducing the prevalence of suicides in children especially due to severe educational stress.

Reaping Demographic Dividend: India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. This requires delivery of quality education to children or else be prepared to face the brunt of demographic disaster.

Curbing Regional Divide: Some states like U.P and Bihar lack in education levels versus states like Kerala and Karnataka. Further delivery of education is better in urban areas in comparison to rural regions. This gap needs to be addressed by focusing on quality education for all.

Tackling Social Problems: The lack of quality education makes children prone to social evils like Child Labour and Child Marriage. Ensuring quality education will ensure higher retention and decrease dropout rates in schools. As per the latest Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+ 2019-20) report nearly 30% of the students don’t transition from secondary to senior secondary level.

Adapting to Technological Advancements: The 21st century would be an era of Big data, Machine Learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT) and other technological advancements. This means the curriculum, textbooks, pedagogy, and assessment need to be transformed. 

Realization of Fundamental rights: The Constitution of India has provided many fundamental rights like free speech, equality before law, freedom of religion etc. All these rights can be enjoyed in true sense only when a person has been imparted with quality education.

What steps have been taken by the Government for Quality Education?

Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009: It provides free and compulsory elementary education to children. It ensures realization of fundamental rights under Article 21-A.

National Education Policy 2020: It envisions a shift from the traditional teacher centered to learner-centric approach. The policy stresses on the core principles that education must develop. It includes the cognitive skills – both ‘foundational skills’ of literacy and numeracy, and ‘higher-order’ skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. 

It also focuses on social and emotional skills– also referred to as ‘soft skills’, including cultural awareness and empathy, perseverance and grit, teamwork etc.

Samagra Siksha Abhiyan: It is an overarching centrally sponsored scheme for school education that sees learning as a continuum from pre-primary to higher secondary with focus on contextual, experiential, and holistic learning. It subsumed the three erstwhile Centrally Sponsored Schemes of SSA, RMSA and Teacher Education.

Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan (RAA): It aims to connect school-based knowledge to life outside the school, and making learning of Science and Mathematics a joyful and meaningful activity.

Performance Grading Index (PGI): A comprehensive 70 indicator-based matrix  has been developed to grade the States/UTs, against certain common benchmarks and provide them a roadmap for making improvements.

National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA): It is a first of its kind teacher training programme wherein the Government of India, through its academic bodies, NCERT and NIEPA, is taking a lead role in changing the landscape of in-service teacher training.

National Initiative For Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN Bharat): It was launched in July 2021, to ensure that every child in the country attains Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) at Grade 3 by 2026-27.

PM eVidya: It is a comprehensive initiative under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Programme, which unifies all efforts related to digital/online/on-air education to enable coherent multi-mode access to education.

It includes access to a variety of e-resources in 33 languages including Indian Sign Language over DIKSHA (One nation; One digital platform), Swayam Prabha DTH TV channels (One Class; one channel for class 1 to 12), Extensive use of Radio, Community radio, and Podcast – ShikshaVani.

What are the gaps in our current education system?

Excessive focus on rote learning: The curriculum tries to encourage memorisation of text rather than cultivating a conceptual understanding of issues.

Exams define intelligence: The current system equates passing of exams and exam scores with a student’s intelligence level. There is an excessive focus on completing the exam cycle rather than learning experience.

Discourages Creativity: Parents and teachers want to see children as doctors, engineers, bureaucrats etc. Children are rarely encouraged to pursue creative fields like writers, artists or adopt any other vocational skill.

Barriers for poor sections: Good quality private schools are not present in rural regions while the fees are very high in urban regions. Further, the 25% reservation for EWS candidates in private schools has also been bypassed by many schools.

Bias against Persons with Disabilities: They are often seen as a liability by many teachers and their special needs are generally ignored. 

Coaching Culture: The proliferation of coaching institutions shows the deteriorating quality of education in India. Many school teachers also engage in teaching in coaching institutions after regular school hours for extra compensation.

Lack of Vernacular content: Good quality books and material is still unavailable in the vernacular medium that creates hardships for many students and impedes learning.

What are the constraints impeding delivery of quality education?

Financial Crunch: A recent World Bank study notes that India spent 14.1 % of its budget on education, compared to 18.5% in Vietnam and 20.6% in Indonesia, countries with similar levels of GDP. This hinders creation of quality infrastructure and retention of good talent in the education sector.

Quality of Personnel: The quality of teachers in many schools is still not up to the mark. Further, many teachers struggle to deliver lectures through the online medium as observed during the pandemic.

Digital Divide: The digital systems of many schools and universities are using obsolete technology. Further, many universities lack basic infrastructure to deliver quality education thereby impeding delivery in hinterland regions. Similarly many people don’t have access to digital devices like mobile phones and internet routers.

Adult Illiteracy: The lack of adult literacy allows individuals to focus on short term incomes via child labour and forgo long term good career options after inculcation of quality education.

Further, many are unable to operate the digital devices that hampered their children’s education during the pandemic times. 

What are the remedial measures?

First, the Government should adopt a new system of education that is fair, robust, and removes the dependency on time-tabled exams. This is required to tackle any future pandemics or contingencies like disasters that disrupt the normal cycle. A mix of hybrid (online + offline) teaching should be promoted.  

Second, the focus should be on learning through activities, discovery, and exploration in a child-friendly and child-specific manner

Third, the assessment of students must be based on an integrated approach rather than mere textbook exams. Under this weightage should be given to indicators like peer interaction, curiosity potential, creativity acumen etc. 

Fourth, to implement all these measures there is a need to support the education sector with adequate budgetary resources. Hence, it is important to increase the share of education to 6% of GDP as envisaged by NEP 2020. 

The Government should make a significant headway from earlier policies by putting quality education as the top most agenda, strengthening the foundations of education, catering to the educational needs of the most disadvantaged, and making it a global leader in education. All this is desired to truly realize the vision of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’.

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