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State must focus on quality education

State must focus on quality education

The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act), provides for School Management Committees to monitor norms and standards prescribed in the schedule of the Karnataka RTE Rules. Also known as the School Development Monitoring Committee (SDMC), it has numerous responsibilities to improve the functioning of the school, safeguard the rights of children, and ensure the efficiency of teachers.

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Last Updated : 25 June 2024, 00:43 IST
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The Karnataka School Examination and Assessment Board announced the results for Class 10 in May 2024. About eight lakh students appeared for the examination, which saw a “pass percentage” of 73.40 per cent—a 10 per cent drop compared to 2023 (83.89 per cent) and a 15 per cent drop from 2022 (85.13 per cent).

The actual pass percentage was touted to be 53 per cent, prompting the state government to reduce the qualifying marks from 35 per cent to 25 per cent and increase the grace marks from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. Adding to the woes, 78 schools recorded 0 per cent results.

Officials attributed the decrease in pass percentage to webcasting, an initiative to reduce malpractice and ensure examination integrity. While the education department has indicated that it will conduct remedial classes to support students, it still fails to address the elephant in the room: the failure to regulate and ensure the quality of education imparted in both public and private schools in Karnataka. 

These results are not surprising, considering ASER 2023, the annual nationwide survey of children’s schooling and learning in India, reported that less than 70 per cent of surveyed students aged 14–16 years in Karnataka (Mysuru) could read a Std II level text in Kannada, and less than 40 per cent could do basic ‘division’.

Based on Class 10 results, the assessment appears to be accurate for students across the state. What measures could then be undertaken by the education department to improve learning outcomes? In short, the ability to monitor and assess the quality of education imparted in schools should take centrestage in rehauling the education system for the better. 

The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act), provides for School Management Committees to monitor norms and standards prescribed in the schedule of the Karnataka RTE Rules. Also known as the School Development Monitoring Committee (SDMC), it has numerous responsibilities to improve the functioning of the school, safeguard the rights of children, and ensure the efficiency of teachers.

It is also mandated to periodically review the performance of teachers and facilitate any need-based training. While Karnataka is one of the few states to have played a crucial role in the strengthening and empowerment of SDMCs, there is still a greater need to build the active presence and capacity of SDMCs in the state.

Block Education Officers can be given the power to carry out audits of the functioning of SDMCs in their jurisdiction to ensure greater accountability while also strengthening the BEO-SDMC relationship. While the RTE Act is currently applicable only until class 8, its proper implementation can improve the education system to yield the desired learning outcomes. 

The government should strive to improve the curricula and pedagogy by making concerted efforts to analyse and understand any shortcomings therein. Such an understanding can aid the department in devising appropriate strategies to improve and adapt the curriculum to ensure that the students of a particular class are able to learn effectively, along with improving the quality and method of classroom teaching.

The government may address these concerns by vesting the responsibility on the BEO, who can suggest appropriate changes to the Department of Public Instruction in consultation with the respective SDMCs. 

Additionally, existing bodies such as the Karnataka School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Council (KSQAAC) and the Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT), which are knowledge experts on academics and assessments, can also help improve the education system.

For instance, KSQAAC is entrusted with the responsibility of assessing the quality of education imparted at primary, higher primary, and secondary level schools through State Achievement Surveys.

These surveys can provide crucial insights into the various aspects of the education system that warrant improvement, and necessary measures may be undertaken to work towards such improvement. KSQAAC can also be the overseeing authority to assess the outcomes of the audits conducted by BEOs across the state. Similarly, DSERT can set up a consortium to initiate R&D in evaluation procedures and in the conduct of examinations.  

State governments must strive to improve the learning outcomes of students. It is laudable that Karnataka introduced a three-board examination system for students in Classes 10 and 12, as it may help reduce the stress on students while also giving them the opportunity to improve their scores.

However, the opportunity to improve scores can only yield benefits when the education system can improve the quality of education imparted in all schools.

(Sneha Priya Yanappa is a senior resident fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. Avinash Reddy Pichhili is the co-founder of DEVISE - Developing Inclusive Education)

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