Newsletter on the Education Emergency
March 2023

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Few states go to elections this year, the nation in 2024. Implementing RTE Must be part of manifesto

Equitable quality education is the foundation of a country's development and social transformation. Therefore, guaranteeing equitable quality education and ensuring the Right to Education to all children from zero to eighteen years should be a non-negotiable promise in political party manifestos.

School Management Committees (SMC) are ideal platforms to build grassroots support for demanding such a promise because there are crores of parents whose children study in government schools in the country and can form the critical mass of people required to build a movement for universal quality education. If they can come together to say "we will only vote for a quality public education system," they can set the agenda for political parties.

The implementation of the RTE has been poor, with only 13% of Indian schools being RTE compliant even after 13 years of its implementation. This makes a mockery of a fundamental right. The overall public spending on education in India is grossly inadequate and far behind the recommended 6% of GDP which has been reiterated in policy documents since the 1966 Education Commission's report. However, we have never reached anywhere near 6%, and are currently hovering at around half of that number. These facts and arguments need to be presented before political parties and a demand for effective implementation of the RTE should come directly from parents, constituting ‘we the people of India’.

We at NCEE call upon the people of India, as well as SMCs and mass organizations, to flag the RIGHT TO EDUCATION as the foremost priority in forthcoming elections before all political parties and their candidates, and convince them to include it in their manifestos. Let us come together and raise our united voices to make the Right to Education a prime political agenda in the upcoming elections!
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A ground research reveals the appalling state of schooling in Jharkhand

NCEE part supported a study that was undertaken by Jean Drèze and team in collaboration with Gyan Vigyan Samiti Jharkhand on the impact of pandemic-induced lockdowns on government school students in 138 primary and upper-primary schools in 16 districts of Jharkhand.

The findings highlight the dire condition of education infrastructure for poor children in Jharkhand who solely rely on the Public Schooling system. It focuses on the abysmal pupil-teacher ratios, and neglect of schools with prominently Dalit-Adivasi children. About 40% of primary schools are entirely run by para-teachers, who make up the majority (55%) of primary teachers and 37% of upper-primary teachers. Despite being legally mandated, many schools still don't serve eggs and lack adequate funds for the midday meal. Over 50% of surveyed teachers reported children forgetting how to read and write after returning to school, and that government's measures have been grossly inadequate.

The report was released in a recorded webinar on Dec 19, 2022.

The study report can be accessed here: English / Hindi

This work has been featured by many media portals, such as Scroll, NDTV, Outlook, TheWire etc.

A similar study is currently under progress in Bihar.


NCEE and People’s Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education (PAFRE) demand for a well resourced Common School System

For the upcoming Karnataka election, PAFRE has demanded that all political parties make education as one of their top priorities. It has called upon political parties to listen to people’s demands for a adequately resourced Common School system, earmarking 15% of state budget to education, and filling teacher vacancies to promote equal education for all. The 14-point plan from PAFRE includes commitments to effectively implement the Right to Education Act, provide necessary resources to students, build required infrastructure and strengthen and expand public universities. Additionally, PAFRE is calling for the expansion of the mid-day meals program to include eggs daily, and for the meaningful regulation of private and government-aided schools.

Read PAFRE’s 14-point plan in Kannada.

A recording of the Press Release can be accessed here.

This campaign has been extensively covered by Kannada and English media: TheHindu, TheHindu, TOI.

Let us discuss these issues in our networks, so that elections can debate people’s concerns and priorities.


Ed-Tech Financing Webinar: Expecting Venture Capital to fulfill Fundamental Right to Education?

NCEE in collaboration with Oxfam India and TISS CETE organized a webinar on the evolving role of EdTech in Indian Education featuring Anjela Taneja, Gurumurthy Kasinathan, and Binay Pathak.

The Andhra Pradesh government has distributed five lakh android tablets—preloaded with Byju’s educational content—to Class 8 students in government schools. The panel discussion criticized attempts by governments to abdicate in fulfilling the fundamental right of children to the hands of venture capitalists whose priority is profit maximization. It delved into IFC’s investment in private EdTech companies, and how ill-designed EdTech can harm the interests of poor children and their families.

Watch the webinar here.
Read the reports below:

Digital Dollar? An exploratory study of the investments by IFC in the Indian educational technology sector

Educational Technology in School Education in India

Read its media coverage by TheNewsMinute.

Ed-Tech Landscape Webinar: What is out there; should it be like this?

The Comparative Education Society of India, TISS Centre of Excellence in Teacher Education, and National Coalition on the Education Emergency organized a webinar where Prof. Rajaram S Sharma presented his work on the 'Landscape Report on Educational Technology in Schools.' The webinar discussed the context, possibilities, harms, and factors to bear in mind for meaningful integration/adoption of ICT in school education.
The report aims to map the EdTech landscape in India and assess the benefits of using digital technologies in education. It questions the justification for investments in replacing existing technologies with digital ones, and whether newer digital technologies offer significant benefits to learners, teachers, and the schooling process.

Please check the webinar recording and full report.
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.

How education remains out of reach for India’s invisible migrant children

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, migrant children in India faced challenges in accessing education due to differences in state curricula and language of instruction. With an estimated 63 million Indian children being migrants, of which 15 million migrate seasonally, state governments have not mandated programs to aid their transition. Public spending on migrant children is limited even compared to the education of fewer than two million students of central government officials or armed forces.

The National Education Policy fails to address this vulnerable group, and neither the central nor state governments have well-articulated policies to address their education, despite the crisis that followed the Covid-19 lockdown.

What a withdrawn Karnataka memo seeking Rs 100 from parents says about education funding in India

Education is crucial for breaking the cycle of poverty and nurturing an enlightened citizenry, but it is a shame that it should take donations from poor parents to fund it. Karnataka and India must do much much more to ensure people’s Right to Education.
On October 19, Karnataka Commissioner of School Education issued a circular allowing school monitoring committees Rs 100 or more in monthly donations from each parent for the school contingency fund; the department withdrew the circular following criticism.
This move highlights the abysmal state of education financing that falls woefully short of the recommended 6% of GDP. Even without any such circular, teachers in many government schools had taken personal initiative to raise funds across India, while states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Himachal Pradesh have made efforts to support public education.

Need urgent steps to arrest the slide in learning

The Annual Status of Education Report calls for urgent action, say educationists. “We’ve been shouting for months now that the education emergency has not ended because schools re-opened. The two-year school closure is the most extraordinary setback since Independence and requires an extraordinary response in terms of multi-level contextual materials, socio-emotional learning, and space and capacity-building for teachers to be empathetic to learners. Our governments have failed to acknowledge, let alone understand the gravity of the crisis”, said Gurumurthy Kasinathan.
News about the education emergency
Status Report On Education During The Pandemic - Government And Private Schools

Recent Oxfam India report showcases how parents lack a voice in key school decisions and inadequate action is taken in less than 10% of cases when they complain to the education department or the school. Its survey found that 13% of children were denied admission due to their gender or social identity, and 38% of parents paid capitation fees at the time of admission, which goes against RTE rules. It recommends that to ensure transparency and protect the rights of parents and children, private school accounts should be made public, grievance redress processes strengthened, and parents be given a say in all key decisions.
Covid pandemic altered teens’ brains, study finds

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a generation-defining event and a major source of adversity. It's unclear if youths who experienced the pandemic are biologically comparable to their peers pre-pandemic.
Ian Gotlib, first author and senior Professor at Stanford University found it shocking to observe the pandemic affecting the brain physically. Prior to the pandemic, accelerated changes in the brain have appeared only in children who have experienced chronic adversity, whether from violence, neglect, family dysfunction, or a combination of multiple factors.
Sharp drop in reading and arithmetic ability of children in India post-pandemic

The Annual Status of Education Report reveals a significant decline in the basic reading and arithmetic abilities of children aged 5-16 years in 2022. The survey was conducted through a citizen-led rural household survey, covering nearly 7 lakh children in over 19,000 villages across 616 districts.
Basic reading ability dropped to pre-2012 levels, while arithmetic skills declined to 2018 levels. The lockdowns caused by the pandemic were cited as one of the major factors that hampered education, leading to learning loss and a possibility of rising dropout rates.
Pushed out of school in the pandemic, they now stitch shoes

A 2021 UNICEF report noted that in India, the “closure of 1.5 million schools due to the pandemic and lockdowns in 2020 has impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools”. It further estimated that 9 million children were at risk of being pushed into child labour by 2022 end as a result of the pandemic.
Three years after Covid-19 began, its impact can still be felt in the lives of the children who dropped out of school in Agra to join the shoe-making industry.
India's Tuition Republic is bigger than ever. Coaching culture is an epidemic now

The "Tuition Republic" of India has become a thriving industry due to an indifferent rote learning-based school education system, parents' unreasonable ambitions, and a shrinking job market. Children as young as five years old are forced into a grueling lifestyle of attending school and tuition classes for hours each day, with the hope of securing a better future. Psychologists are studying the effects of this lifestyle on children, including stress and lost childhood. The tuition industry has spread into the digital world, and according to data published by the National Sample Survey in 2016, there are 7.1 crore students enrolled in tuitions.
What free food rations hide: A rollback of social security in India

The Indian Government has recently put an end to the PMGKAY, which provided 5 kg of bonus cereal rations per person per month for free to all National Food Security Act cardholders. Reduced food subsidies could mean extra hardship on poor families, who may prioritize spending on food, over education. Mullainathan and Shafir's book 'Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much' reveals deep linkages between food insecurity and education. Individuals struggling to meet their basic needs, such as food and shelter, go through a ‘tunneling effect’ where they get so consumed with managing the immediate crisis that they have limited mental bandwidth or cognitive resources to focus on any other tasks, such as education. It results in an inescapable cycle of poverty, as malnourished/ hungry children find it difficult to concentrate or retain information in school, resulting in lower academic achievement and decreased educational attainment, which may stay for life.
Period poverty and the cycle of neglect

23 million girls drop out of school annually in India due to poor menstrual hygiene management. UNICEF found that 70% of Indian mothers believe menstruation is ‘dirty’. Girls miss school due to the lack of proper facilities and embarrassment. Rhema (14) misses 5 days of school due to her periods, in addition to 5 days she misses during her mother’s period, as her mother can’t enter the kitchen and cook during that time.
Public Spending on School education in Bihar: The Gaps that Covid-19 Highlights

This report by Sukanya Bose and Harshita Sharma prepared for National Coalition for Education analyses the gaps in the public financing of school education, focusing on the Union government and Bihar, with the Covid-19 pandemic as the entry point. The report looks at the structural issues in the public provisioning of school education, discussing them in the context of the lived reality of stakeholders. The report asks what the pre-existing gaps in school education were, what happened to school education expenditure during the pandemic, how well the State protected the education of marginalized children, and what is the way forward.
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