Newsletter on the Education Emergency

June 2023

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Community Participation for Universal Quality Education

The need and importance of community participation in the education system has been  part of the discourse on education in India since the 1960s. The Kothari Commission advocated for the Common School System which aimed to promote decentralised planning and strengthen the role of parents and local bodies in the school development process.  Although, after decades, it became part of policy through the RTE mandate and led to efforts such as the formation of SMCs, the actual involvement of the community in children’s education is still far from what has been envisioned.

While on the one hand systemic factors are a barrier to parental involvement in the school processes and their children's’ education, the perception of public education being a ‘benefit’ or even a ‘favour’ being offered by the government is another key aspect preventing poor parents from taking ownership, participating in decision-making processes and holding the system accountable for its policies and practices. Although the RTE embodies a rights based approach in its conceptualization and implementation, the status of RTE compliance across states reveals that significant efforts are still needed to strengthen the socio-political consciousness of the community and understand education as a constitutional entitlement.

An effort in this direction has been the formation of the South Indian Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education (SIAfFRE) which aims to vigorously work towards strengthening community participation and the school-community relationship. Instead of chasing ‘public-private partnerships’, the education system must invest in this ‘public-public partnership’, connecting the 'public school system' with the 'public', which can rejuvenate the education system and lead to sustainable improvement in the quality of education. Activists from Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Puducherry, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu gathered in Bengaluru to identify and address the malaise in the Public Education system, and formally laid foundations of SIAfFRE as a people’s movement, on the 13th anniversary of the RTE Act.

Read the Bengaluru Declaration and watch its first press briefing here.

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A Ground Research Reveals Sorry State of Schools in Bihar

The Jan Jagran Shashakti Sangathan, conducted a survey in February 2023 to study the state of schooling, in 81 lower and upper primary public schools in north Bihar, with the participation of the NCEE. The study looked at the conditions of public schools, the issues with education policy, and the post-covid challenges. The study report will be released in the first half of July 2023 through a press conference and a national webinar.

Our previous study report on the state of schooling in Jharkhand has been covered by multiple publications, and consequent protests have persuaded the Jharkhand government to act to address the lack of teachers in Jharkhand’s public schools. “We are aware of the shortage of teachers … we are trying to recruit teachers in large numbers.”, CM Soren said, announcing the recruitment of 25,000 teachers.

Read its coverage in The India Forum here.


Parents and Children Protest in Jharkhand against Single-Teacher Schools

Our study in Jharkhand revealed the dismal state of public education infrastructure, raising widespread awareness and prompting social mobilisation. Parents, students, and teachers protested against single-teacher schools in Garu, Latehar, travelling long distances even during the peak Mahua collection season. The protests were organised by Sanyukta Gram Sabha Manch, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti. An open letter was sent to Chief Minister Hemant Soren, demanding additional teaching staff as per RTE norms. Prof Jean Drèze, present at the protest, decried the 30 percent of government primary schools having a single teacher as a flagrant violation of the law and a terrible injustice to the children of the state.

Please go through its wide coverage by the local and national media: ThePrint, IndianExpress, TelegraphIndia, NewsClick, RuralIndiaOnline, News18 etc.

The ‘Operation Successful, Patient Dead’ Tragicomedy

Why does our education system prioritise examinations over learning? Gurumurthy Kasinathan, NCEE, argues how centralised examinations undermine the purpose of education by promoting rote learning and neglecting individual learner needs. Instead of focusing on holistic development and formative assessments, the system risks becoming a tragicomedy of 'teaching the syllabus' rather than 'teaching the learner' where the students will write and even pass the examination, without really learning. Whereas the focus, especially given the education deprivation owing to the school closures during the pandemic, should be on supporting the teacher to employ multi-level materials and diverse pedagogies to address heterogeneous learners.

Read the article here.

Academics Write to Karnataka CM, Seek Restructuring School Education

NCEE member and senior academician V P Niranjanaradhya and others met the Karnataka CM, demanding restructuring of the education system in the state. These include timely completion of teacher recruitment, appointment of guest teachers, ensuring the timely supply of uniforms, textbooks, shoes, socks, and bus passes, allocating 20% of the state's budget to education, and curbing privatization.

Read more on it here and here.

One in Seven Indian Primary Schools Run by a Single Teacher

This article co-authored by NCEE member Jean Dereze highlights the prevalence of and dangers from single teacher schools across India. In these schools, one teacher is responsible for teaching all subjects to all grades, often with little or no support, which makes it difficult for teachers to provide quality education, and leads to high levels of stress and burnout. Single teacher schools often have large class sizes, at times over 100 students. This situation results in serious negative consequences for students, leading to learning gaps and hindering of academic progress. Students in these schools are more likely to drop out of school, and perform poorer on assessments.

The authors call for a second wave of the movement for the right to education.

Take an inside look at single-teacher Schools here.
“It’s difficult to concentrate on your task when sir teaches other classes”. Asked to write ‘Umbrella’, she cannot go beyond the letter U, and is quickly embarrassed. Two-digit multiplication is a near impossibility, while her textbook has chapters on linear equations and algebra, English prose and Poetry.
“Between departmental reporting, administrative work, and managing classrooms, I hardly give my students the attention they deserve. With limited resources and time, I make three columns on the board and teach two to three classes simultaneously.”
News about the education emergency

Realising a Child's Right to Education: Going Beyond the Brick and Mortar

Do we simply want a ‘Right’, in terms of defining legal entitlements, or do we also want the realisation of this ‘Right’? In this article, Jyotsna Jha, who leads the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, delves into the core aspects of realising a child's right to education, transcending the limitations of physical infrastructure and emphasising the importance of holistic educational reform. While the RTE Act has granted children access to essential physical infrastructure, such as classrooms, toilets, and playgrounds, these are inadequate.
She likens the widespread phenomenon of teachers skipping the pedagogic content in the books that require students to ask questions or to develop critical thinking and views as required by the RTE,  deleting such chapters from the syllabus. Epithets like ‘slow-learner’ and ‘dullard’, coupled with experiences of corporal punishment create ‘fear, trauma and anxiety’ which are opposite to what RTE guarantees.

It is time for us to talk about the Right to Education Act with reference to its letter and spirit, and not get lost in only ensuring compliance to easily measurable provisions.

No Drinking Water in 87 Govt. Schools, No Toilets in 464 Schools in Karnataka

The High Court of Karnataka has called it a "sorry state of affairs" that 464 government schools in the state do not have toilets and 87 schools do not have drinking water facilities. The court has asked the state government to take immediate steps to provide these facilities in all government schools. The lack of these basic facilities is a major barrier to education for children, especially girls, in these schools. Children are often forced to defecate in the open, which can lead to health problems.
Another article based on a quick survey suggests that government assurances of widespread compliance with RTE needs to be cross-checked, as it may not be reflected in ground realities.

Language Education as a Catalyst for Inclusivity: Empowering Migrant Workers and Preserving Cultural Identity

Two remarkable projects in Kerala aim to bridge language gaps and empower migrant workers and students. In Thrissur, Kerala’s Changathi project, by teaching Malayalam and Hindi to migrant workers, in order to facilitate their inclusion in Kerala society. Simultaneously, a Parent-Teacher Association in Kochi has worked together to start Odia language classes, equipping native Odia students with essential language skills for future opportunities in their home state.

Getting The Inclusion Puzzle Right

Shouldn't schools be designed to cater to the needs of every child, irrespective of their abilities, strengths, and challenges? Inclusion in education goes beyond mere words. In her article, Rajani Padmanabhan explores the dynamics of inclusive schools and the challenges they face in catering to diverse learners. She lays out essential characteristics of inclusive education: participation, achievement, and a sense of belonging, integration and inclusion of every child in society, consideration of their therapeutic needs in addition to constant collaboration with stakeholders, ongoing teacher development, mental health professionals, and multimodal assessments.

Karnataka is Not Only Collecting Aadhaar of Students, but Sharing it Among Departments

This article by Prajwal Bhat sheds light on the privacy implications while questioning the need for mandatory Aadhaar validation in the education system. The potential breach of data stokes safety and privacy concerns, as the Karnataka Education Department plans to share students' Aadhaar data with other government departments. In the pursuit of tracking academic progress and preventing duplications, the Education Department aims to link Aadhaar numbers to the Student Achievement Tracking System.

Mining Children: Why Dataveillance in the Name of Education or Health Must Stop

In an era of data colonialism and compromised privacy, the intrusion of various technologies and agencies into children's lives has intensified. From wearables and apps to invasive surveillance, children have become the most vulnerable targets of this surveillance capitalism. With references to unsettling global and national cases, like the use of GSR bracelets to measure students' emotions and teachers' performance, eminent educator Anita Rampal uncovers the dangers of data mining and its impact on our humanity. Examining the unequal power dynamics that exacerbate these risks, she emphasises the urgent obligation to halt what she terms ‘dataveillance’ in the name of education and health. Discover the disturbing reality of how our children are being subjected to relentless monitoring and the profound implications it has on their development. This has worsened post the pandemic as the EdTech has become more intrusive into our lives.
A series of webinars on different EdTech themes is being planned to develop a critical understanding of EdTech and build a community of scholars, practitioners, and civil society actors. A Telegram group called 'EdTech India Watch' has been set up to form a network of individuals and organizations for regular communication and updates. Those interested in joining can use the link provided.

Tamil Nadu School Breakfast Scheme: A Model for India

In a country grappling with malnutrition and low educational outcomes, Tamil Nadu has set an example by supplementing the nationwide mid-day meal initiative with its own breakfast scheme. The pilot program has already shown promising results, with increased attendance in primary schools. However, this article raises questions about why this successful initiative hasn't been adopted on a national scale. With India ranked 107th on the Global Hunger Index, it is essential to implement social welfare schemes like this as a nationwide act to combat malnutrition and improve children's overall health, enhance learning abilities and concentration levels, while also addressing issues of school dropout rates and female literacy.
Media articles are updated regularly and are available on the Education Emergency portal.

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