Biggest achievements of Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal government in Education sector

The Aam Aadmi Party, or AAP for short, is a political party that saw its inception somewhere between 2011 and 2012 during the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement organised by social activist Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and some prominent activists and lawyers, in which a bill known as the ‘Janlokpal Bill‘ or the Citizens Ombudsman Bill was drawn up for the appointment of a Jan Lokpal as an independent body for investigating corruption cases.

The party was formed by Arvind Kejriwal after irreconcilable differences between him and Hazare built up over the fact that latter wanted the movement to be politically neutral, while Kejriwal argued that a direct involvement in politics is the only means to enforce a sense of change.

AAP contested the Delhi Legislative Assembly election twice, in 2013 and 2015, and in the General Election of 2014. In both times that it contested in the Assembly elections, it managed to gain a significant vote share; second highest in 2013 with 28 out of 70 seats, and highest in 2015 with a whopping 67 out of 70 seats.

In the 3 years that the AAP government has held office in Delhi, its biggest contributions were observed in the health and education sectors, but more so in education.

With each year in office, the present Delhi government focused on specifics within the education system; with the emphasis on infrastructure in the first year, training teachers in the second year, and focusing on creative learning methods in the third. The government has also not been shy in allocating a quarter of its budget on education alone. Last year, the government spent Rs. 11,300 crores to the construction of 10,000 classrooms and 400 libraries among other things.

The focus of the education system reforms are concentrated on improving the condition of Government schools in the region. The party’s initiatives for the improvement of education has received praise from various educationists, activists and politicians from within and outside India.

While addressing the ‘India Conference’ at Harvard University, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that the AAP government’s innovations in education and healthcare in Delhi are a model for the rest of India. The ‘Delhi Model’ focuses on raising the quality of human resources through access to high-quality education and healthcare.

In reference to the state of the education system in India, he said, “India has created several public institutions like IIT, IIM and AIIMS that produce professionals of high calibre. But all these institutes currently cater to one to five percent of the population. For the rest of the 95 per cent, the system has completely collapsed.”

“The country’s development depends on the quality of its human resource, its people. And the quality of the human resource depends on their access to high-quality education and healthcare. Delhi’s model of governance addresses this fundamental need,” Sisodia said.

I. Education Budget

The budget for the financial year 2017-2018 saw the Delhi government allocate Rs. 11,300 crores to the education sector, which accounted for 24% of the total budget.

Among other things, the 10,000 classrooms and 400 libraries were constructed. The list of other things included in the budget proposal were; tablets being provided to teachers for tracking students’ progresses, initiating 10 childhood learning centres on a pilot basis, introducing nursery classes in 156 government schools, and erecting four new campuses of Ambedkar University by 2022.

For the financial year 2018-2019, the government allocated Rs. 14,000 crores to the education sector which accounts for 26% of the total budget this year; meaning that a quarter of the budget has been directed towards the education sector alone.

In the budget proposal, the installation of CCTV cameras in school buildings, self-defence training for girls, promotion of sports in schools and setting up a of a world-skill centre are among the things listed.

Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia said that Rs. 175 crores will be allocated to the installation of CCTV cameras in school buildings, where 1.2 lakh cameras will be installed.

Rupees 10 crores will be allocated to self-defence training for girls, 20 crores for promotion of sports and Rs. 315 crores for setting up a world class skill centre in the national capital for training youth for employment.

II. Reforms

1. Changing the Academic Structure and Syllabus

The government introduced changes in the academic structure and syllabuses, under the ‘Chunauti 2018‘ initiative, to the education system in government schools by introducing the following changes:

For classes between 1st and 5th standard (Primary education), there must be only 5 subjects; English, Hindi and state language, Mathematics and social/moral studies. There will be only two exams; first semester and final semester, and there will be no tests or exams in between but only activates related to sports, singing, music, dance, arts and crafts, etc.

For classes, 6th to 10th standard, there must be only 10 subjects; Literature (English/optional language), Mathematics, Social/Moral studies, Science (Physics, Biology and Chemistry), Environmental studies (Preserving nature/Weather change), History and Geography. There will be 3 exams; First semester, second semester and final semester, and there will be tests or exams in between but activities relating to sports, singing, music, dance, arts and crafts, etc.

2. Improved System of Teacher training

AAP substantially altered the teacher training program, an activity undertaken the State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT). This activity was in existence before the AAP government took office in Delhi; where previously, the annual summer program was not followed up with supplementary sessions throughout the year leading to low retention among teachers.

In October 2017, the Delhi government launched a Teacher Development Coordinator (TDC) Program in all schools under the Directorate of Education (DoC) with the intention of creating a platform for peer learning among teachers. The beginning of the academic year of 2017 saw the heads of schools being asked to select one senior teacher for the role of TDC.

According to a government spokesperson, around 50,000 teachers of the DoC were asked, by Deputy CM Sisodia, for contributions in shaping the agenda of teaching and learning in their schools.

Sisodia said that the role of a teacher is not just to ensure that a student learns the subjects taught by them, but also asked them to think about how it their teaching methods can mould them into better human beings.

The government launched the School Leadership Program in 2016, under which groups of 10 school Principals meet once a month, assisted by facilitators, to discuss the challenges of being a school teacher and jointly working out ways of dealing with them.

School Management Committees (SMC), regulated under the Right to Education Act 2009, were non-existent or defunct before September 2015. The government revived this notion by mobilising parents, with the help of civic societies, to participate in these elections. SMCs consist of members who live in the vicinity of the school, thereby being able to visit and monitor the functioning of the school on a regulate basis.

3. Mega PTM (Parent-Teacher Meetings)

Parent-Teacher Meetings are a common practice in private schools, but when it comes to government schools they’ve only existed on paper. Since the current government assumed office in Delhi, PTM’s have been planned and executed as a regular feature of government schools.

The first Mega PTM was held in July 2016 where it was primarily called to explain to parents to explain to the parents; the division of students into performance-based groups under Chunauti 2018.

The 2017 Mega PTM was held in August where students and teachers discussed the Class X board examinations.

4. Private Schools – Excess Fee Refunds

In March 2018, citing the implementation of the 6th Pay Commission, the AAP government directed 575 private schools in the capital to refund excess fees charged by them, with a 9% interest. The tough stand against excess fees levied on private schools, is as part of the government’s initiative  to ‘render education as a service’.

The directive came following the report of a committee in the Delhi High Court for examining the records of private schools in respect to implementation of the 6th Pay Commission.

An order by the Directorate of Education said, “The committee has identified 575 schools in its report to refund excess fees charged by these schools with 9 percent interest. The schools are directed to refund the fees within 7 days and ensure disbursal of pending payments of salaries if any.” It added, “Non-compliance with the order shall be viewed seriously and action shall be taken against errant schools under the provisions of the Delhi School Education Act, 1973.”

III. Initiatives

1. Improved Infrastructures of Govt. Schools

The increased budget enabled the AAP government to allocate enormous government funds towards investments in amenities and classrooms in schools. Since the Delhi government has a relatively less control over land, they found it difficult to obtain NOCs, from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Municipal Corporation in Delhi (MCD), for constructing schools.

This compelled the government to adopt an alternate plan, wherein they started building classrooms in existing schools, along with the new schools for which they got the permission and land for.

As of 2017; 24 news schools have been built or are near completion, and over 10,000 classrooms have been built in existing and new schools.

2. Pilot Schools

The Delhi government selected a number of schools to act as ‘model’ or pilot schools, where the dilapidated buildings got a facelift and new classrooms were built. Work is also being done to expand this aspect to all schools in a phased manner.

The schools have been equipped with smart classrooms having projectors and screens installed. Old, rickety wooden benches have been replaced with modern fibre benches and desk sets. Walls with fresh coats of paint and granite coating have transformed the look of these schools, making the schools virtually unrecognisable from their previous states.

3. One Estate Manager

The AAP government introduced the concept of an Estate Managers with the intentions of providing to school principals and teachers; relief from the burden of sanitation, upkeep, repair and maintenance of government schools. The demography of estate managers in Delhi’s government schools are ex-military-service men who wish to continue to serve society.

Through an android app, estate managers report their findings which are regularly monitored through customised dashboards, by the concerned authority and the Deputy CM himself.

IV. Schemes

Chunauti 2018

The government introduced one comprehensive scheme to tackle the problem of non-readability amongst students in government schools. The scheme, known as ‘Chunauti 2018’, was launched soon after the AAP government came into power in 2016.

Under this scheme, students from classes 6 to 9 would be mapped where the ‘weakest students’ would be identified and provided with ‘special focus’ to enhance learning levels. The ‘weakest students’ of Class IX would be the subject of focus on part of the government to help ensure that they successfully clear Class X, come 2018.

Manish Sisodia, Education Minister and Deputy CM, said that the ‘best and dynamic’ teachers would work on the weakest students in all schools, besides holding extra-remedial classes.

Students from the ‘Nishta‘ level, who achieved reading skills and basic mathematical abilities would be transitioned to their grade appropriate syllabus over the remaining academic year. Those students who weren’t able to read would be given special support and attention to ensure that they acquire the ability to read with comprehension. One hour a day, is set aside for reading related activities and one teacher is assigned for every 30 students who lack reading skills.

1. Adoption of TaRL model (Teaching at the Right Level)

Teaching at the Right Level‘ is the culmination of a decade long collaborative research, initiated by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Lab (J-PAC), aimed at figuring out the ideas that would work for improving learning levels in primary school children.

The programme, according to Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, has been implemented in schools for classes 6 to 8 to bridge children’s learning deficits

2. Every Child Can Read Campaign

The Delhi government, in 2016, organised ‘reading melas’ across various parts of the capital in an effort to raise awareness on the importance of reading; after an assessment report stated that 74% of children in the 6th standard were unable to read their textbooks.

As part of the government’s ‘Every Child Can Read Campaign‘, the melas were organised in parks, community centres, school grounds, among other public spaces at several locations.

Over a period of 8 weeks, more than one lakh children across the capital moved from being non-readers to readers, a lot of them being first generation school-goers.

3. Mentor-Teacher Program

The Mentor-Teacher Program was launched by the Delhi government in 2016 with the aim of harnessing the creative expertise of 200 teachers, to enhance the pedagogic and academic capacities of more than 45,000 teachers working in government schools.

All Mentor-Teachers have been assigned around 5 to 6 schools each, which they have to visit at least once a week. The aim of this program is to assist and support teachers at the school by providing learning and assessment materials, pedagogic assistance, among other things.

3.a. Pragati – Supplementary Learning Materials

Children are unable to read textbooks prescribed by the National Council of Education and Research Training (NCERT), as a consequence of poor learning levels at government schools.

Pragati is a programme developed by a group of Mentor-Teachers to provide supplementary learning materials for teachers to use in classrooms, in order to help children overcome the problems they face due to difficulties in reading.

V. Testimonies

1. Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya

Anuj Kumar, a Class X student of Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya on Deendayal Upadhyaya Marg, said that his school, his teachers, and the method of teaching at said school; have undergone a major transformation in 2 years of the AAP government assuming office in the capital city.

“The ambience in the school was not at all like this till a year ago. Our school was earlier a rundown building, untidy and known for goondaism. All that has changed.”, said Anuj, who opted to study science.”

Around 3,200 girls and 1,752 boys study at the school in morning and evening shifts respectively.

2. Sarvodaya co-ed Senior Secondary School

Harsh Rawat, a Class IX student said that he felt no different studying at a government school than what he used to at a nearby private school where used to pay Rs.2,500 every month. He doesn’t need to pay a school fee now, and feels that his new school is much better than his old school.

“Why should I go to a private school and pay high fees when I’m getting good facilities and quality education in a government school?”, he said.

Rawat is among 900 students, who moved away from private schools and to join the sector 21, government Sarvodaya Vidhyala.

Suresh Kumar, whose daughter Neha studies in Class 11 said, “The private school my daughter went to charged ₹1,500 per month. It was really high but I had to pay it to educate her. But now government schools in the city are becoming better and this school is as good as any private school.”

3. Rajkiya Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya

Shivani Dhanya, Class II said, “My school was not very good. But now we drink chilled water. There are good desks. In fact, I don’t feel like leaving school.”

Her classmate, Phoolbanu chimed in, “Teachers are taking special effort. I never used the washroom earlier, but now they are clean. Earlier, we stood in the sun during assembly, now we have a covered auditorium.”

The school’s metamorphosis is special to Principal Manju Shammi. It was her vision that saw the school being picked for a pilot project along with 53 others in Delhi.

4. Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Burari

Annu Yadav, a Class X student said, “The ways we are being taught are very different and even more interesting. We are excited to get new quality furniture like that of the private schools.”

Reena Kumari, a Class IX student said that she did not like to attend school earlier as she lost interest in studies due to being bored of a daily routine, but now she enjoys studying in a good environment.

Conclusions

From what we have seen so far, the Delhi government has made massive efforts in the last 3 years to propagate the idea of quality education in Delhi’s government schools. Although the government has received harsh criticisms from its Opposition parties over ineffective management of pollution levels in the city, their failure to enact policies to protect women, the propagation of populist policies but inability to fulfil them; like free water and free WIFI services- the Delhi government’s approach to the system of education in government schools is a definite model for the other states of the country.

The mere thought of actually diverting a quarter of the state budget towards education is a task in itself. To actually implement it, is a whole different ball game altogether.

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