Three years of Modi: Pro-education policies announced, but impact yet to be seen

Access to basic education and proper nutrition remains the backbone of any developing nation. Making sure that every child acquires a minimum of high-school education is a must and should be treated as a basic right under strict supervision.

Despite various reforms and provisions made for the welfare of the poor and lower-middle class of India since independence, fair and just implementation of these schemes always remained a big challenge because of corruption.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi rose to power three years ago on the agenda of development and eradicating poverty. “If the poor are empowered, then they have enough power to alleviate poverty. Politics can be done by keeping the poor poor. But freedom from poverty can only come by empowerment. The biggest tool for empowerment is education,” he had said in an interview with Network18.

Speaking to Moneycontrol, Rohin Kapoor, Director, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP says, “Over the last 3 years, the Indian education sector has witnessed a series of flagship programme announcements whose on-ground impact is yet to be reported.”

Some of the most popular policy interventions include Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, e-Pathshala, Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyaan for primary/secondary education and SWAYAM, GIAN & domestic ranking framework in higher education, Kapoor says.

“Despite the massive need and requirements of the sector, the public expenditure as a percentage of GDP continues to be low compounded by lack of clarity on announcement of the revised National Policy on Education & role of private/foreign universities,” Kapoor further adds.

For FY18(BE), the budget for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) was increased by Rs 1000 crore, and that for Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), teacher training and adult education, has been increased by Rs 305 crore compared to the revised Budget estimate for FY17.

The mid-day meals scheme, which continues to face problems and much criticism since inception, will get only Rs 300 crore more.

India has decreased its spending on education from 4.4 percent of GDP in 1999 to around 3.71 percent as per this year’s Budget estimate, undermining the work done in getting more children into school, and its prospects for improving its poor quality of education.

RTE Act mandates all the private schools to reserve 25 percent of the seats for children belonging to socially disadvantaged and economically weaker sections. This provision of the Act is aimed at furthering social inclusion for a better India. As per the Right to Education (RTE) forum only 8 percent schools have been made RTE compliant since the Act came 6 years back.

Impact of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan continues to be bogged down by implementation woes although there has been a slight improvement in the overall learning levels for class 3, 5 & 8 as per 2016 survey conducted by NCERT, Kapoor says.

“This claim, however, will undergo a litmus test in 2021 when OECD will declare results of Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test where India is likely to participate after a gap of 9 years. The government had decided to boycott PISA after a dismal performance in 2009,” he further adds.

The ability to do division among across India has continued to drop. This declining trend has been observed since 2010. The proportion of students who could correctly do a 3-digit by 1-digit division problem was 29% in 2010. This number dropped to 20% in  2016.

In 2016, of those who can read words (regardless of grade), roughly 60% could explain the meanings of the words read. Of those who can read sentences, 62.4% in Std V could explain the meaning of the sentences. Both these levels are virtually unchanged since 2014.

At the all India level, enrollment increased for all age groups between 2014 and 2016. Enrollment for the age group 6-14 has been 96% or above since 2009. This proportion increased from 96.7% in 2014 to 96.9% in 2016.  Source: ASER

Higher Education

For higher education, the government has initiated a number of steps to improve quality and infrastructure of institutions. Mandatory accreditation, Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) and the announcement of Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) are some of these laudable initiatives.

Though these measures have brought some relief in the age of exponential technological change, the quality of graduates has not met current industry demands.

“The recent spate of employee retrenchment in technology companies makes it imperative for the entire higher education system to prepare students for “jobs of the future”. This could mean increasing focus on artificial intelligence, nuclear sciences, and internet of things amongst others,” Kapoor opines.

Shortage of Teachers

The shortage of around a million teachers in government-run schools is another challenge the government has not been to tackle in the past three years.

According to data tabled in the Lok Sabha by HRD minister Prakash Javadekar in December 2016, it was revealed that 18 percent positions of teachers in government-run primary schools and 15 percent in secondary schools are vacant nationwide.

Vacant Post of Subject Teachers in Govt. Secondary Schools (Under State Government) in 2016-17:

The reason for shortage as per the statement was the “lack of regular recruitment schedule, non-sanctioning of posts, lack of effective teacher deployment, lack of subject specialist teacher in certain areas, and small school sizes which affect teacher distribution across schools.”

Jharkhand has the most acute secondary school teacher shortage at 70 percent (38 percent for elementary school). The only Indian state with no teaching vacancies either in elementary or secondary schools is Sikkim.