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A Common School System

By Author: Jill Clevenger
Total Articles: 42

Education systems across democracies promise equality of opportunity, access and success to every child. This raises high hopes and kindles bundles of aspirations, particularly among the weaker sections of society, who have waited for generations for better and dignified human existence. Towards this, to begin with, the first requirement is to create a Common School System (CSS). It means no child can be denied admission by any school in the neighbourhood, irrespective of his/her social or economic background. The next step is to ensure individual attention to every child, ascertain his/her interests and ensure that his/her creativity and curiosity are not hindered. In simple terms, it requires an inviting learning environment, competent, committed and performing teachers, and a right teacher-taught ratio.

India's public education system could not prevent the decline of credibility and acceptability of 'sarkari schools' as the essential spirit of CSS was just ignored. Prominently included in the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1968, CSS did find a place in the subsequent policies of 1986 and 1992, but the system continuously drifted away from honestly implementing it. Post-independence, the experience in Indian educational initiatives and expansion has clearly established that the elite-dominated system of governance even in the presence of political masters invariably succeeds in preserving their interests. This unstated endeavour and attitude resulted in severe decline of public-funded schools, unprecedented mushrooming of private schools and rise in demand for "good quality schools", which became synonymous with high-fee charging schools. Government schools are now patronised only by those, who have no other alternative. This either because of their meagre economic resources or non-availability of a private school nearby. A feeble attempt was made with the enactment of the Right to Education Act, 2009, to reserve 25 per cent seats in initial classes for children of weaker sections. But a majority of schools found "strategies" to hoodwink it. After the first batch of children admitted under this category in 2010 completed Class VIII, schools asked them to pay regular school fees or get lost. Such an obvious concern was ignored by our policy-makers. The psychological and emotional damage inflicted on the learner and his family would be anything but devastating in such cases. This clearly indicates the callous attitude and also prevalent ignorance within the education system on finer and subtle aspects of learning. Is it not amazing, if not agonising, that children of most functionaries responsible for school education policies and its implementation prefer to enroll in private schools only?

Around 60-65 per cent of the school-going children still study in sarkari schools, which are invariably deficient on infrastructure, teachers, learning materials and even in basic professional requirements. Expectedly, most of the surveys and studies on learning outcomes indicate not only low learner attainments but also consistent annual decline. This is indeed worrisome. In spite of such a large chunk of school-going children completing their schooling under deficient conditions and sever impediments and only a small proportion of them getting a place in higher education institutions the educated youth of India are among the most sought-after in the developed countries.

A common school system - The national priority for the investment of public funds must be teacher training and school education. This will ensure highest level of returns. Let the country realise this goal for more information visit: https://www.dailypioneer.com/

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