You need some system of accountability: Atishi Marlena

Marlena, advisor to deputy chief minister and education minister Manish Sisodia, talks about the challenges that Delhi government schools are facing

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | June 5, 2017 | New Delhi


#Atishi Marlena   #Annual Status of Education Report   #student teacher ratio   #government schools   #Manish Sisodia   #Aam Aadmi Party   #AAP   #students   #RTE   #Delhi schools   #right to education  
(Photo: Arun Kumar)
(Photo: Arun Kumar)

Giving highest priority to education, the AAP government in Delhi is working towards bringing government schools at par with private schools. Atishi Marlena, advisor to deputy chief minister and education minister Manish Sisodia, talks to Jasleen Kaur about the challenges that government schools are facing.

 
What ails the education in government schools? 

It’s a complex question because there is not one, just one thing; there are multiple reasons for this education crisis. First, education has always been a neglected sector. There are some basic problems like shortage of teachers, infrastructure, etc. Even if you have teachers there is lack of accountability. In addition to that, with the no detention policy (as part of the RTE Act) whatever little accountability that existed in the government schools system has gone.
 
In theory I am a supporter of no detention policy because we want a stress-free education system. But in the large-scale government system, you need some system of accountability.
 
 
Whether the child goes to school regularly or goes for just a few days, he/she will be promoted to the next level. So while we have achieved higher enrolment, there is still a problem of long absenteeism. Also, in the past two decades, enrolment has increased from 60 to 96 percent. But these children are the first-generation learners. When they enter the school at the age of six, they have little or no exposure to written language, as compared to others who have been in the pre-school system and have got good exposure. So, the curriculum and the pedagogy are not suited for them. And this deficit starts at six years of age and is never rectified. So when no detention policy is added to this, it becomes a toxic mix.   
 
So you are saying pre-schooling is essential?

Systematic work on early childhood is essential. There is a need to fundamentally re-look at the early childhood education either as part of schools or through anganwadis. 
 
Also, for children who are already in schools the focus should be on what they are actually learning rather than the completion of the curriculum. We cannot run away from the fact that sixth graders in Delhi government schools cannot read their textbooks. Amendment [proposed in the RTE Act] to include learning outcomes is a step in the right direction. But much more needs to be done.
 
What are your government’s priorities in the education sector?
 
Initially, we were focusing on ensuring adequate infrastructure, including sanitation and drinking water facility. Then we worked hard on getting communities involved in the schools system to ensure teachers are accountable. From the second year onwards our focus has been on the learning outcomes. We have realised that there is a very serious learning deficit. Bridging this learning deficit has been our major focus area. We have introduced ongoing learning assessments which are not based on content or rote but actual learning and skills. We have also started level-wise grouping of children. This grouping is not permanent. It will keep changing based on the improvement of the learnings. We hope that by March 2018 we will be able to bridge the learning gap.
 
Realising that teachers lack adequate training we have initiated a programme called mentor teacher programme for continuous support. Some 200 teachers who are good, motivated and creative have been roped in. Each mentor teacher has been allocated five schools, for visiting once a week.   
 
What makes it difficult to hire teachers?
 
Yes, there is a shortage of teachers, but it is not huge. We have a lot of contractual teachers, who are qualified. We have been trying to bring policies to regularise these contractual teachers but they have been repeatedly turned down by the LG. We had suggested three ways to regularise them.
 
We cannot open out the posts because then 17,000 contractual teachers will be out of job. We do not have a funding problem because we have increased the contract teachers and doubled their salaries. The challenge is to ensure their regularisation. In addition to the existing contract teachers, last year we had created 9,500 new teachers’ positions. For these posts, recruitment is still to happen. Once we fill these posts we will be nowhere to regularise the contractual teachers. Because of the policy paralysis, we will eventually end up hiring more contractual teachers.
 
Are you on track to achieve these targets?
 
We are in a peculiar situation because our schools start from class six. And children coming from MCD schools virtually know very little. So, on an ongoing basis our schools must have some bridging mechanism in class six only, because the older they get, the greater the gap is. With the initiative we have taken, we can see the improvements in the learning outcomes. Hopefully, in next few years, we will be able to improve the situation. To ensure that the curriculum and teaching methodology is as such that the gap does not grow early childhood education has to be introduced. 
 

(The interview appears in the June 1-15, 2017 issue of Governance Now)
 
 
 

Comments

 

Other News

India ramps efforts as COVID-19 cases rise

As COVID -19 cases continue to rise amid a 21-day lockdown, the centre and the states are proactively taking measures to provide aid to the underprivileged and the needy during this unprecedented situation.         By Sunday morning, India had registered 27

Diplomacy in the time of Covid-19

In the thick of battle with the deadly coronavirus, India on March announced a 21-day lockdown till April 14 in its bid to control the spread of virus which has so far led to 10 people’s death and over 600 others falling sick across the country. As per experts, India, which is in the second stage of

Life hacks for Lockdown blues

As the nation battles the Coronavirus outbreak, a billion-plus population is confined at home in the 21-day lockdown, and this is leading to mental health concerns. “It is a tough time and we need to be stable to get thorough. People must rationalise their irrational thoughts without

Doctors, others continue to face vigilantism

Scare following the outbreak of Covid-19 has led some people to turn to vigilantism, harassing people at the frontline of fighting the disease and keeping the country running amid the lockdown. Earlier this week, the medical associations had made representations before home minister Amit Sha

Covid19, lockdown, legal profession: Grief, justice & contingency plans!

Sixteenth March at Hammurabi & Solomon Partners was a usual Monday at work with colleagues starting the week on a turbo-mode. But this Monday was different. It had something unusual about it. A sense of uncertainty kept struggling to look ahead on how the days ahead would flow. Despite



Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter