Meeting of National Coalition on the Education Emergency – 29 January 2022

Members of the coalition met on 29th January 2022 to review the work done so far, share the situation in different states across the country and discuss the priorities of the NCEE going forward.

Agenda:
1. Introduction
2. A brief presentation on the work done so far by the NCEE
3. Discussion on the situation in different states and overall
4. Any other suggestions you may have for the NCEE’s work going forward?
5. How can the NCEE support the work / your work in various states?
6. Way forward

Attendees:
Anusha Sharma, Enakshi Ganguly, Gurumurthy Kasinathan, Jean Dreze, Marzia Ibrahim, Niranjan Aradhya, Ramanujam, Rishikesh, Sajitha Bashir, Sayantani Gaddam, Shantha Sinha, Shubhra Chatterjee, Srirranjani Ranganathan, Uma Kogekar, Venita Kaul

Highlights:
This summary contains the highlights from the discussions listed in the agenda. The first part covers agenda items 4,5 and 6 and the second part covers item 3.

Suggested Coalition Priorities and Way Forward

  1. NCEE should network with various groups and bring back RTE on the discussion table.
  • Interaction with UNICEF/WB/UNESCO and such multilaterals on the issue. Identify and work with other individuals, organizations and groups working on similar issues. Coordination needed with not only RTE forum, teachers groups, SDMCs, but other associations social movements and groups – workers, students, womens rights groups, dalit groups all need to come together. Need a critical mass. Use the collective voices to make a difference.
  • Need to have elite consensus on the issue. Need to engage with bureaucrats and corporates. Map out people who think like us among elites.
  • Pre-covid situation was also bad in terms of inequality but now worse. In the last 7 years there have been hardly any discussions on RTE. RTE compliance gap is huge. NEP talks about 3-18yrs but no legal entitlement and not much has been done yet.
  • It is important for the group to have a clear ideological framework. The belief in school as an instrument to break cycle of poverty, for social transformation, an institution for democratizing India.

2. Participation of state governments in a national convention with NCEE playing the role of facilitating discussions and collaboration

  • Approaching Tamil Nadu government to spearhead this. There can be peer learning between states. Each state has to formulate their own strategy but there is a lot to learn from each other.
  • How do we bring back the spirit of education being a priority for the next few years: making education a national priority, going beyond syllabus and exams to supporting actual learning in an inclusive manner and focus on equity
  • National program for digital detoxification needed. parents (marginalized groups) have complained that their children are on phones whole day but they do not know what they are doing with the phones
  • Last 6-8 months we have had a lot of outcomes while engaging with governments. Wherever we can work with the govt. a lot can be driven through Ministers, Secerataries, Commissioners.

3. More work with the media

  • There has to be some space for emotive arguments putting children at the center. Focus on the damage being caused by children going to work. Injuries/hunger/starvation.
  • Print/audio-visual/translations – production of materials very important. Short videos in many languages needed.

4. Influencing the implementation of rational policies for resuming and restructuring school education.

  • Middle school is in no mans land. Very few concerns and discussions. Children and teachers are lost. Find ways to intervene here.
  • Even at HS, HSS level the focus is on exams. But teaching and syllabus must be dynamic and focus on the contexts and learning levels of children. Ignoring this and merely completing the syllabus will only mean that children from vulnerable groups who lost most due to school closure, will simply drop out from the school (or will continue in the school, promoted from grade to grade, without much learning -this danger is very real)
  • NAS results and passing all students in exams – the implications
  • Many residential programs across the country have all been closed (KGBV, ashramshalas). Need coordination to see that they are taken care of. Small population of children but sends a message that they have to be protected.
  • Set up a “thought leadership” on model for total education. Communities and families and teachers need to know what to do when schools shut or when there is uncertainty. There are orgs working in this but we don’t know how to operationalize this despite ebb and flow

5. Looking into education funding

  • State and central budgets and World Bank loan/external financing and trying to influence its priority towards the Education Emergency

6. Small high frequency surveys

  • Have been piloted in Karnataka, Telangana and Tamil Nadu to get actual information on the ground for evidence based action. Need help on ground to carry them out in other states.

7. Plan to have a larger meeting of the coalition in February.

Perspectives from across the country

  1. Tamil Nadu:
    There are 2 initiatives from the govt.
    • Illam Thedi Kalvi – activity centers run by volunteers, ~ 1 lakh centers across the state. envisaged as a 6 month program to help primary and middle school children to provided the support they need.
    • Ennum Ezhuthum : Formulated as a 3 year program focusing on foundational literacy and numeracy. By June 2025, all children till the age of 8(class 3) to achieve desired levels of literacy and numeracy and it will be sustained by integrating with school system.
      Teaching children at their levels, reshaping of curriculum, pedagogy, will be undertaken.
      System has good intentions. Need to see how the vision will be actually realized, but it’s a step in the right direction.
  2. Delhi:
    • In 2015 , SCERT took up the role to set up a play based pre-primary curriculum. Ahvaan was involved in this effort. It took shape in 2019-20. Contingency Worksheets in Hindi, Eng, Math were developed staring from KG level up to grade 1. NEP aligned ECCE curriculum for grades 1 and 2.
    • 50 specialist master trainers were trained by Ahwaan and are leading the training of teachers in the classroom.
  3. Tripura:
    • Working on the framework of how to roll out foundational literacy and numeracy. NIPUN Bharath implementation, anganwadi integration is underway.
  4. Telangana:
    • Schools closed right now, hopefully will open on Feb 5. Govt. has announced that all schools would be English medium, and is pushing digitization.
    • Community / social mobilization is good. Tracking of students through gram panchayats for back to school program is underway. Dist. Collectors working well with teachers.
    • Mid day meal kitchens, infrastructure, transportation, child labour, child marriage are challenges
  5. Andhra Pradesh:
    • Vaccinations for students and teachers in full force (93% children, 100% teachers).
    • Talks of merging schools and closing down redundant schools. Teacher unions working diligently.
    • There is a fancy for English medium schools but there is thinking about promoting Urdu, Odiya, Kannada medium schools as well. A lot to learn from the AP experience.
  6. Maharashtra:
    • Variability in approach in different districts in terms of opening schools. Decision making lies with the dist. officials depending on case load, etc. Some districts open, some say Feb 7th.
    • No road map given to teachers on how to bridge learning gap in children. No focus on level based learning, FLN. Teachers are saying bridge course did not help at all. In Nov, when schools reopened, teachers were asked to assess students but there was no uniform method prescribed.
    • In some dist which are remote, have more migration/ more farm labour, a large percentage of children haven’t returned to schools.
    • Vaccine hesitancy – teachers say this is not seen to be a problem for parents to send children to schools.
    • Teachers are saying lot of dos and donts are given to them. Teachers are scared to take any steps based on their own initiative for fear of action being taken against them/ backlash. Who’s going to take initiative and be accountable is unclear
    • No systemic approach to build parent awareness. No effort to educate parents on why sending to school is imp (only done by teachers ad hoc)
    • Opening-shutting-opening – teachers are flummoxed how to continue each time school opens.
    • CEQUE developed FLN materials based on NIPUN Bharat. SCERT in the 1st year of pandemic had launched a learn from home package – TV programs to watch, links, and DIKSHA app were shared, but now no such efforts. Teachers are expressing helplessness.
  7. Karnataka:
    • Schools currently closed but plan to open on 31 Jan. There has been continuous engagement with govt. to pressurize them and to make them understand why school opening is important. Mid day meal program was restarted after interactions with the dept.
    • We emphasized that there should be a decentralized approach. In the last circular issued last week, govt. has acknowledged that decision making should be at the local level
      EN and Kannada media carried many articles supporting school opening – Hindu, Indian Express, TOI, Deccan Herald + popular Kannada dailies
    • SDMC coordination forum has helped and is being implementing in other districts as well.
      In Karnataka it was agreed that online mode is not optimal and Vidyagama was started where students are divided into smaller groups of 15 to 20 and allowed to come to schools for half a day with parental consent.
    • Child labour, child marriage has increased.
    • As part of position paper preparation, we had FGDs with communities across the state and we heard from parents that learning is in a pathetic state and that technology is not really helping in any way.
    • 22381 teacher vacancies currently and parents voiced their concerns on non-availability/ shortage of teachers.
    • DSERT workshops – to make them understand why school reopening cannot be in the usual way and need to additional support and resources.
    • Teachers are helpless, Need to look at how to support them and how we need to move forward
  8. Jharkhand:
    • Primary schools closed since the start of the pandemic, no efforts to help children learn as well. There are some talks on re-opening schools but govt. unclear on how to go about it.
      We also need to prepare for the possibility that schools may close down again.
    • When schools reopen in Jharkhand, children will be promoted by 3 years. A child who was in class 2 and has forgotten everything will now be in class 5. This is very difficult to comprehend.
    • ITK efforts in TN very important. It’s an additional layer of safety for children being left out by the school system.
    • Having additional facility outside the schools for children who are on the verge of dropping out is important. If something like this can be done in Jharkhand it would be very useful
    • Promotion of children 2-3 years ahead is not even being discussed/questioned. All children can be given an additional year, parents would welcome this except perhaps the elite.
  9. West Bengal
    • One of the very few states where schools have firmly remained closed. Only HS, HSS opened in November. In other states at least there was intermittent opening. Organizations like ours who tried to conduct community classes faced roadblocks. We were questioned for organizing groups of children and trying to do some learning activities.
    • Worksheets, ration were distributed by govt. but the worksheets were at grade level and children were unable to do it. Soft copies only were sent. Teachers not given any support to ensure their children get it and are able to work on them.
    • WB is now planning for some ITK kind of initiative. But govt. is in denial about learning loss and are not acknowledging the support that children need. A routinized bridge course may happen after which it will be business as usual.
    • Heard NAS has also been planned. The general impression is that govts. are very busy implementing NIPUN Bharat. No discussion on the challenges children are facing and how to address that.
    • Department of Women & Child Development has been far more sensitive. they have been sending digital content and have reached about 40% households,. Trying different approaches like community radio,promoting volunteerism to help children in neighborhoods
    • East Singhbum district – mobile pathshalas (vans with learning materials, etc) – reach about 100 villages for 3-10 year old children.
  10. Uttar Pradesh:
    • Have been sending out worksheets which are not grade level but condition is still slightly better than WB.
    • Govt prioritizing opening higher grades while the danger is more in lower grades.Teachers are really helpless.

General Comments: The situation of extreme crisis and complete denial is shocking. Heard that MOE is developing action plan for school opening, maybe a sequel to NIPUN bharath, but this would mean a very centralized approach, a trend we’ve been witnessing more of in the past few years.
Nobody is thinking ten years down the line – what will happen to the children? What is going on inside the schools? Even if they open we need to talk about what is happening.

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