NGO questions Centre's education policy and its implementation

Pratham, the NGO which carried out a survey on the status of elementary education in India, has questioned the Centre’s education policy and its implementation.

The survey indicated that there was no improvement in the learning outcomes of children in the last 10 years despite efforts by the government.

“So what happened over the last 10 years? We live in a country that has achieved near universal enrolment, built enough schools, and has appointed teachers and academic support staff. In the same country, we have children in higher grades who cannot read well and cannot comprehend what they read,” Pratham CEO Madhav Chavan said in the 10th annual survey of elementary education (rural), released on Tuesday.

“The experts were busy working out holistic ideals with no clue about how to get them on the ground. It is time to cover the huge backlog in basic skills created by the neglect of at least the last decade,” Chavan added. He said the report clearly indicated that a “large proportion” of children were leaving government schools and seeking other options, including supplementary help.

“It is incomprehensible why governments (past and perhaps the present too) have been unwilling to tackle this learning crisis head on?” he wondered.

He appreciated the National Democratic Alliance government’s “Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat” initiative which aims at creating a base for reading, writing, and math fluency, saying its a good step. It is yet to be seen if the scheme will succeed as envisaged. “Pick up is quite slow,” he added.

Chavan attacked the United Progressive Alliance which had rejected Pratham’s last report questioning its assessment method, saying the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) did not really take interest in learning achievements.

The ministry’s sole focus was then on provisions, inputs and infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, in states where infrastructure issues were not severe, there too states followed the MHRD cue and did nothing significant about basic learning levels,” Chavan said. Teachers who teach Class III to VIII have not clearly stated or focused learning goals to achieve except completing the syllabus in most states.

Chavan also sought to highlight government’s strategy to evade questions in Parliament. Giving reference to many instances, he said many MPs had been raising questions about schooling and education but the responses from the government often did not present a picture that could make sense “in the spirit of the question”.

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