Posted on January 9, 2019 | by Vinod Kakumanu
The curriculum that is deemed to be suitable for an entire nation with differences in language, social mores and culture like no other in the world is a phenomenal entity and Central Board of Secondary Education has been endowed with such recognition giving it its tremendous credibility.
We have discussed CBSE curriculum and its bye-laws etc. at length in our previous posts. In this article I intend to reflect upon the question –How national is the national board i.e. how uniform the standards of CBSE schools are when all regions are taken into account? And what are the options that lay before a CBSE school in any part of India to produce learning outcomes as any other school in any part of the country?
The ‘Progressive’ CBSE Bye-Laws 2018
Through the revision of the bye-laws, CBSE has purportedly eased the process of affiliation and has made its perspective on learning outcome oriented. It has helped certain school promoters as the figures would reveal. But there are questions which some might argue are outside the purview of bye-laws or even CBSE but we can’t help but ask these questions at the behest of several educationists who aspire to be school promoters.
The bye-laws deal with affiliating the schools to CBSE that lay out the conditions for affiliation of a school to CBSE and the new version has, by several accounts, easing the process, but can willing school promoters across India practicably envision opening a CBSE school? Can all the affiliated schools pay salaries and repute to the teachers comparable to their government school counterparts or will it be possible for them to pay them in near future? Can schools do away with the routine attrition and employee turnover that occurs due to the want of ability to pay.
CBSE affiliation– a growing ambition of school promoters
The number of affiliated schools in 2018 was 23311 while in 2017 the figure stood at 19316. There were reports that 8000 new affiliations were made possible just by the revamping of the bye-laws.
So it stands proven that there are a number of schools who desire CBSE curriculum.
Why do they do desire to become a CBSE school? The answer that possibly will not invite much confutation is that they want to affiliate to the national curriculum instead of the regional curriculum. Now, what does it say about Council of Boards of Secondary Education (COBSE) which exists to standardize the curricula with the help of the NCERT and other agencies are not the interest of this article, so we will not pursue it here?
We aim to deliberate upon the points that the disparity in curricula taught in different regions that translate into the academic inequity, disproportionate representation in higher institutions and employment security and whether policymakers and think tanks that inform the curriculum after insightful deliberations are making advances in remedying these anomalies in our national education policy?
Coming back, desiring CBSE curriculum and affiliation is the right of every school and they also have hopes from such association. The question remains if those hopes are grounded in reality.
Indeed, CBSE affiliation will bring in credibility for the school, but regardless of the performance of the school, it will have to bear in mind that it is not going get concessions as far as the conditions in the bye-laws are mentioned which include infrastructural standards etc.
The concessions that are granted are in the recruitment of teachers, their qualifications and the salaries that are paid to them. The remuneration of the teachers, if they are deserving and qualified, is correlated to their motivational levels, trainability, discipline and finally their voluntary tenure in the school.
For school promoters to pay their teacher’s adequate enrollment levels are decisive, so is the consistency of strength of students and the average income level of the parents of the region. The fact remains an affiliated school in north-east cannot compete on these terms with the school say in Delhi NCR or Bangalore.
The bye-laws carry a caveat while extending concessions in the matter of teacher recruitment. It essentially says that the board would allow a school to pay less or employ lesser qualified teachers if the availability of teachers is low in the region but the school has to try to remedy the situation within a couple of years. Until it is convincingly unable to do that the affiliation is extended. We know that all too well that such areas are unfortunately widespread where the qualified teacher is a rare resource. In such cases, the school keeps getting extensions. Now, let’s ask how academic equity can be ensured in this state of affairs.
The Disparity in Educational Opportunities and CBSE’s attention thereto
Let’s shift our gaze towards the government patronized CBSE schools. The Navodayas have student exchange programs, teachers are transferred pan-India. Teacher training is frequent and Facilities are impeccable and the learning experience can almost be contrasted with any private –unaided school. We deliberately took the example of Navodayas as they cater to the underprivileged from remotest undeveloped areas. It helps in bringing the dichotomy to light. With selective intervention at the institutional level the fate of kids in the areas where food security is a problem is altered, on the other hand, schools in some areas, bearing the title of CBSE schools run with evident asymmetrical efficiency and standards.
While the responsibility of school promoters cannot be discounted, their struggles and challenges have to be acknowledged. Concessions are unfortunately necessary an extension of affiliation is justified in many cases but they are not the solution. There are areas where these 30,000 odd schools and nearly a million students studying in them become the beneficiaries of the policies of CBSE that aim at educational equity. What CBSE has done to standardize schooling is that it has instituted the school certificate examination or the board exams. The question is, does that suffice in ensuring learning outcomes of a young nation?
The rationality of the bye-laws may be incontrovertibly proved to be the best possible by citing the national issues of mass poverty and the fact that we are still a developing economy, yet it is difficult for us as humble creators and improvers of unaided schools to see the issues unaddressed for a decade.
Now, the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in junior school level is not being considered extreme by the policymakers and the governing board of CBSE, as the most recent announcement indicates.
And it is both ironic and interesting that the number of schools already affiliated or aspiring for affiliation with the national board is growing at a faster rate in places with marginal urbanization. Indeed, we consider the schools opening in small cities and townships are not only signs of progress their growth is backed by inevitability that we can just encourage, streamline ensuring their sustainability.
Higher Educational institutions ensure academic opportunity through several policies that primarily includes reservations and quotas for regions, for instance, northeast and J&K, but these policies are meant to be self-destructible and for that to happen school education will have to be made equitable.
Posted on September 21, 2018 | by Vinod Kakumanu
India is witnessing an increasing trend in the number of new schools. Starting a new school in India and providing quality education involves meticulous planning and unconditional commitment of the promoter.
An inordinate number of school owners approached me to seek assistance in increasing the number of school admissions. Incidentally, most of them had entrusted the responsibility of setting up and managing the school to veteran academicians and expected the academicians to deliver the revenue goals to sustain the school.
Even before the school completed its first academic year, there were occasions where the services of these incumbent academicians were terminated on the grounds of insufficient admissions and its financial implications on the school project.
I can never approve of such executive decisions, given the root causes I deciphered during my school consultation visits – Promoters themselves sowed the seed for a much deep-rooted issue by barely taking care of the real estate, building and employing founding academicians with an expectation to deliver financial results.
Founding academicians are indispensable for any school, such arbitrary acts seriously compromise the educational objectives of the school, leads to attrition adding fuel to the fire.
Failure cannot be solely attributed to founding academicians, as promoters compromised with the fundamental principles of planning a new school. The role of an academician in the 21st Century school is immense, timely planning ensures significant savings in the school set up and management costs.
The new school caters to the educational needs of the target community, sustaining its position is always a number one priority. A school concept that succeeds in a given circumstance might not work at all in other circumstances. Many promoters ignore the need for planning and learn the hard way.
I strongly advise school promoters to deploy the professional expertise even before they invest the first penny into the new school venture—A school consultancy who can advise you on all aspects of the new school project including devising a suitable concept for the target market in line with your goals, connect missing links between academics and infrastructure to facilitate meaningful 21st century learning, position the school effectively to the target audience; predict inception & growth basis empirical data, bring to reality your dream school and ensure perpetual support for the school.
Posted on September 15, 2018 | by Vinod Kakumanu
No school provides “bad education or good education”, I personally believe every school starts with an intent to provide quality education. The philosophy, methodology, and infrastructure may vary with the founder’s vision.
The school ecosystem comprises of several elements, the administrators, the teachers, the students, the parents, and the support staff to name a few. They work in tandem to operate a 21st century school, demonstrating excellence in their job.
The students, parents, and staff are all brand ambassadors of the school – this can hardly be contested. The school must have a reliable connection with the entire school ecosystem. Schools are expected to deliver their educational promise. Parents perception revolves around several factors.
There is a practice of socializing amongst parents. With the advent of communication technology, the ways to communicate has expanded, Schools have become the talk of the town. In this article, I would like to talk about how the schools can make parents’ critique positive –
Parents hear and watch the school and from subjective opinions. The overall acceptance school earns from the community and the progress it makes by the year complements an increase in student enrollments. It would be remiss of me not to say that ethics, value system and will to excel are the factors that synthesize success of a school.
Posted on August 9, 2018 | by Vinod Kakumanu
If you are thinking to commit CSR funds for improvement of a school and want to go beyond upgrading the infrastructure and add value to the educational ecosystem it is very essential to understand in detail how those who have secured such educational systems in the world actually did it.
In India, to open a school is a challenging task and amidst the need of official permissions and bureaucratic mechanism involved, the average school promoter could hardly find time or will to look at the raised bars of education. When an enterprise is proactively investing CSR funds it must make sure to incorporate what has originally been omitted – sound data on prevalent practices in school education from best practitioner nations.
The information that follows is of great relevance to the entrepreneurs who have selected school education as their field of social contribution. As industrialists, you must have compared economic attributes of different nations. By having a look at how the different economies of the world have framed their education structure, you will be able to discern the critical measures or derive certain thumb rules of CSR intervention in education.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) releases its annual Global Competitiveness Report on the state of the economies of the world. The report comes after the forum assesses the abilities of the countries in order to provide a higher level of ability to its citizens which generally depend on how a country manages its available resources among which the human resources are of critical import.
Ranking of the countries is based on twelve indicators which include primary education too. Prior to any CSR initiative made in the field of improvement of the quality of education the following data must be reviewed. It will really be of aid in understanding the values and structure of education, so you can intervene productively.
Japan: a knowledge economy, can easily be said to have an education system to reckon with. it leads in terms of literacy, science, and math education among the OECD group.
Students in Japan undergo six years of elementary school, three years of junior high school, and three years of high school before they decide whether or not they want to pursue the university education. Although high school is not compulsory in Japan yet the enrolment in high school is close to 98%.
Barbados: The government of this small island country stresses on education exceptionally. That has resulted in a literacy rate of 98% which is one of the highest in the world and an enviable education system.
New Zealand: Primary and secondary education in New Zealand ranges between the age 5 to age 19, and the school remains compulsory between ages 6 and 16. The 3 types of secondary schools in New Zealand include state schools –roughly equivalent to our government schools, state integrated schools; which can be understood as sort of PPP schools and the last category is that of private schools.
The contrast with the Indian education system is inescapable given the fact that state schools which educate approximately 85% of students and private schools only educate 3 %.
Estonia: This European union country spends 4% of its Gross Domestic Product on education Estonia’s education act states that “the goals of education are to create an environment that encourages proper development of personality, family, and growth of the Estonian nation, to encourage the development of ethnic minorities, economic, political as well as the cultural life in Estonia and to teach the children of the country the value of their citizenship.” This gives an insight into the characteristics of the education system which emphasizes on equality of opportunity, something which we are struggling to bring even with RTE and SSA.
Ireland: Ireland presents a unique picture among others we have discussed. Most of the secondary schools in Ireland are owned and managed privately but they remain funded by the state only; it is plausible to equate them with PPP schools. This in itself is a prospect that can be further researched and selectively applied in Indian scenario with the support of the corporates.
Qatar: Besides measures to diversify the economy which requires a skilled human resource, Qatar is paying a lot of attention to improve its educational standards as part of the Qatar Vision 2030 programme. The education is completely free for the Qatari citizens but children coming from the families of other nationalities have to send their kids to private schools. like in other Gulf countries Indian diaspora is interested in giving their children Indian education and are opening schools affiliated to CBSE and ICSE, which are indeed very popular. Funders can learn a lot by analyzing the factors that make the difference and come up with solutions to replicate it.
Netherlands: The children of the Netherlands were judged to be the” happiest” in the world in a 2013 study conducted by UNICEF. This, according to some analysts, reflect that the education system is optimal and efficient. Schools are not allowed to give much homework until the students reach secondary level resulting in less stress and pressure among them.
Singapore: India has scored dismally low in the Programme for International Student Assessment test (PISA), Singapore scored tremendously high in PISA. An evaluation of education to ascertain the quality is in order and funds may be channeled to that end.
Belgium: Belgium’s education system is divided into 4 different kinds of secondary schools, which are general secondary schools, the technical secondary schools, vocational secondary education schools, and the art secondary education institutes. The private schools are available to all children between the ages of 4 and 18, at a very little or no cost at all.
Switzerland: As opposed to India, a meager 5% of children attend private schools in Switzerland. Switzerland offers multiple languages according to different regions of Switzerland, with German, French or Italian being the most common medium of instruction. the point is to make the instruction comprehensible to children from across the social realms. Measures which can do the same can be facilitated by the corporates while helping schools to elevate the quality of education in India.
Finland: Finland’s education system and its results assure its top position in the rankings of global education systems. The school education is particularly known for having no categories among students which clearly means that all pupils, regardless of their ability, are taught in the same classes. The Indian education system also has the same classes for all students, bright or otherwise, but the pedagogy tends to tilt towards the need of the bright students. While in Finland, the gap between the weakest and the strongest student remains substantially less. In fact, India would rank high in academic performance variation in a class, if there is an evaluation measuring inequity.
Finland’s education system can generate several replicable versions of teacher’s attitudes and approaches. Corporates can evaluate the education system of Finland and incorporate elements in their sponsored education teacher training programmes to great consequence.
So before the enterprises design an initiative to intervene in the community by improving the standards of education, it is good idea to study the facts in detail about the various education systems that exist globally and then take the best cue from them and plan the operationalization of the initiative by emulating what’s worth and avoiding what the study cautions against.
Posted on August 8, 2018 | by Vinod Kakumanu
There have been scores of surveys, national and international, that have reported our relative standing in terms of quality of school education and, to put it mildly, it is not to be proud of at any stretch of the imagination. We have dealt with the question of quality of education in several posts and have underscored the drastic difference in the quality of school education provided by private schools. In the present article, we will talk about the standardization of the quality of education and the policy level measure for it namely, accreditation.
Accreditation is not to be confused with affiliation. The latter precedes the former. In fact the board of affiliation viz. CBSE has devised a mechanism for accreditation of schools affiliated to it. There have been suggestions calling for far-reaching measures like accreditation renewal every three years and making accreditation mandatory under Quality Council of India. Presently, the quality of school education which accreditation attests has proven to be a useful parameter for the community and a benchmark for the school management. The accreditation of schools is an assessment of the quality of education the school has potential to provide and it has objectively set parameters against which the assessment is done. These include Education Quality Management, Resource Management, Governance, and Management.
The accreditation of schools is sometimes outsourced by the national boards including CBSE. These private institutions have, to the board’s satisfaction, the capability to assess a school in terms of quality of education it imparts.
The agencies that accredit the schools are Quality Council of India (QCI) and National Accreditation Board of Education & Training (NABET).
National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET) provides accreditation to schools, It can be understood as a counterpart of higher education accreditation body NAAC.
The process of accreditation would desirably aim at analyzing the substantive aspects rather than just infrastructure and student-teacher ratio etc. as the CBSE bye-laws are getting to change substantially accreditation mechanism will also be influenced by the changes. As the definition of quality of education and concentration on the elements composing it change, the rules of accreditation change.
CBSE has sought the guidance of the Quality Council of India to structure and operationalize a quality assessment mechanism applicable to all schools affiliated to the CBSE board.
CBSE has tried to develop an independent assessment mechanism to assess schools for accreditation with the help of QCI, but till date, it continues to recruit help from multiple external agencies to form accreditation empaneled committees for assessing the institutions comprehensively.
The significance of accreditation for a school
Accreditation of a school shall signify that the school abides with the standards set by the board and has the resources to maintain the standard of the parameters that signify the quality of education
There have been directives in the past which were rescinded yet their reinforcement cannot be ruled out. One of the episodic directive issued by the CBSE directed every affiliated school to get accredited within three years.
We have specifically discussed hitherto accreditation process and history of accreditation in the context of CBSE and have not dealt with other boards. The reason for it is that the accreditation empaneled committees are formed by ICSE boards too and the agencies which are given the mandate to assess the quality of education are liable to change from year to year. It can be said without a shred of doubt that assessment of the quality of education and accreditation is critical for all the stakeholders including the students. The accreditation score provides the students, teachers, parents, community and educationists etc. the information about the assets and wants of the school in terms of infrastructure, human resource, and performance.
How is the accreditation carried out?
The school applies for accreditation online. The application is accompanied by what is called the School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Scheme (SQAAS) details. The SQAAS details incorporate information regarding students, teachers, qualification of the teachers and the head of the school, state of infrastructure, labs, and library, and sports and games arrangements. In addition to that, documents and a list of attested documentary evidence have to be made available. There exists a Peer Assessment Team (PAT) to evaluate the data provided by the school. The PAT that would decide the substance in the candidature for accreditation. It would visit only those schools which cross the 50 percent threshold in the SQAAS process.
Data-informed by responses to the questionnaires given out to students, teachers and the non-teaching staff besides the parents is also analyzed by PAT.
There have been emphatic suggestions that accreditation of a school must imminently follow affiliation to CBSE. If the school is given the privilege of calling itself a CBSE school it must get accredited too. CBSE were to use School Quality Assessment and Accreditation (SQAA) as its assessment device for assessing the functions of the schools.
What accreditation indicates?
It is believed that the school accreditation decidedly upgrades the quality of the functions of the school thereby bettering the educational outcomes. The obvious benefits notwithstanding, it is not yet mandatory for the schools to be accredited.
The agencies that are empaneled for the accreditation inspection approve a school to be accredited or otherwise by evaluating a set of parameters
Once the school is accredited, it needs to adhere to the accreditation standard and indulge in continual improvement.
An accredited school can be vouched for its quality of education and the school management can consider it as a successful self-evaluation that verifies the propriety of the aspects of management as well as financial sustainability and most importantly, the human resources.
Posted on July 31, 2018 | by Vinod Kakumanu
There has been a lot of deliberation over the level of qualification and skills of teachers teaching across schools in India. Teacher training policies have been reviewed and commissions appointed to study and report on the scenario.
The school teachers in India, before they enter the rolls of their respective schools, get through a course at District Institute of Education and Training (DIET), in certain cases teachers come to DIET after joining the schools. DIET also trains in-service teachers if the need for supplementary training is assessed. These supplementary training modules are centred on capacity building themes like the introduction to ICT etc. All the trainee teachers and educators invariably have a teaching degree i.e. B.Ed / M.Ed.
Comparison with other nations and their models of teacher training has brought to light opportunities as well as constraints present in our own schooling system. The portrayal of the Indian education scenario is not conceivable without pointing out the difference that exists in the quality of education between government and private schools. The difference oftentimes reaches to the point of contradiction. Reports of dismal performance of government schools and dysfunctional primary schools abound and as if in a parallel dimension, private school teachers with equivalent qualifications are able to give their students education that becomes instrumental in turning them into leaders of the knowledge economy.
Adding to the bipolarity in the Indian education experience, we have seen the rise and functioning of International schools and international programmes in 21st century. These programmes have been informed by global standards of education and implemented by indigenous educators. The teachers trained for conducting the international curricula are themselves, alumni of the same or similar teacher training institutes as their counterparts teaching in government schools, nevertheless, there is such an obvious difference in performance, starkly apparent in learning outcomes that it becomes natural to suspect that something is amiss.
With all these facts in sight, it is not possible to deny that there is a systemic issue that plagues the competence-building of teachers.
There are quite a few valid points of view such as the one which points at the demotivation of teachers resulting from witnessing the environment of the schools, attitudes of their senior teachers, bureaucratic interference, parental negligence etc. While that is exactly why the NCERT has recommended field extensive training for teachers in their graduate courses.
DIET’s around the country have been running courses which are reinforcing the lessons in child psychology and handling of community attitude. The states have also exempted teachers from extra official duties, yet it did not seem to suffice in raising their performance. 40% of the students in India study in private schools, it must be noted that the ones who are studying in government schools are those who do not have a choice in the matter.
Interestingly, government teachers are better paid than their private school counterparts and have job security. Ironically, some see that as the reason for non-performance. When prospects of growth in career are not dependent on the performance there is no incentive to be better at their job. If that is the case that’s a catch 22. If we do not provide good remuneration and job security no one comes forward to be a teacher, at least none of the worthy ones and when they are given that they create the defunct scenario which we originally tried to avoid.
The potential of teachers is not directly assessed by tests, unlike their recruitment. The performance of their students reflects the level of competence of their teachers. The results of several reliable tests of the academic ability of children in government schools, like the ones conducted by ASER, have been shockingly sub-par. What disappoints the most is not just the outcome of training of teachers which is deficient in several areas but also the education system which tolerates persistent low performance. Private schools are using recruitment management solutions (like http://www.educatorone.com) to hire teachers and achieve consistent learning outcomes.
The solution lies in effective use of resources including the demotivated human resource which we have in the form of the cadre of teachers. We have discussed how companies have and can come forward and make systemic changes that would go a long way, click here to read.
The solutions which are successfully tested through CSR initiatives include Public-Private Partnership (PPP) schools set up, which have been successful to deal with the resilient incompetence of teachers in the government schools.
There is also a common theory that it is the education at the secondary level and above that, which really brings out the difference of level of competence of private and public school teachers because in lower classes learning outcomes are not clearly defined besides some language and subject skills. To allay such misconceptions, it has forcefully been emphasized by various national and international organizations that not only the primary classes but the pre-primary classes as well need teachers with proven acumen and experience. One hopes that there will occur welcome changes in the standard of government-run preschool or aanganwadis with the intervention of corporates which is in the pipeline. We have covered the corporate’s ICDS aanganwadi initiative in the separate post click here to read.
Being a nation that has passed Right to Education Act makes it obligatory upon states to ensure that every child gets educated, it is rational to be expected of us to ensure that the education thus imparted is not wanting in quality, in fact, that is implied in the very text of the act.
The pedagogical approach of teachers of the notable private schools, subscribing to both national and international curricula, is something that must be analyzed. In addition to that, there are certain measures taken by organizations like Cambridge International and International Baccalaureate which are really a rich resource in themselves. Designing of IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) syllabus is incumbent upon the teachers as well. They are provided with a framework and support using which they have to design and implement the curriculum. (We have dealt with IB PYP in a separate article) Such interventions which broaden the role of the teachers and enhance the involvement has the power to redefine education and must be used.
The curriculum of the education degrees that enables graduates to be teachers in India does not reflect obvious lacunae, neither is there a shortage of supplementary in-service training programmes on pedagogy, teaching aids etc. It is not to say that there have never been instances of criticism of the curriculum. Agencies like NCERT has criticized the curriculum of the bachelors and masters programme in Education saying that it fails to take into account differences in the context in which teachers are required to function. There have also been questions about the ‘Field experience’ which forms the part of the curriculum. There have been calls from several quarters to restructure the field experience component for providing realistic exposure to trainee teachers.
All the interventions, directly or indirectly, talk of increased involvement of teachers in implementation of the educational programme of schools and curriculum. Regular scrutiny of the performance in terms of learning outcomes are indispensable to change the state of affairs.
Posted on July 19, 2018 | by Vinod Kakumanu
Educationists opine that elementary education plays a vital role in charting the development of an individual. Through preschools, children get exposure to the world around and develop an affinity for learning. Social statistics demonstrate that children who had the opportunity to complete elementary education remain less likely to drop out from schools at any level.
Advocates of compulsory preschooling stress its role in creating the foundation for learning at an age when the rate of brain development is highest. There is no dearth of scientific data indicating that cerebral development in early years has a lifelong effect not only on mental development which manifests in learning, behavior, memory, emotions and mental health but also on physical growth.
Let’s look at how opinions have translated into policies for expansion of preschooling or elementary education.
Preschools do not find a place within the ambit of the RTE act which is effective for age group 6-14 only. Nevertheless, there is evidence attesting preschools’ contribution in meeting the RTE goals, hence in developing national assets.
Early schooling initiatives and policy interventions by the state, with regard to preschooling, are numbered. One of them, National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy with the declared objective of providing a developmental continuum from prenatal to primary schooling age. As far policy changes are concerned, The narrative of preschooling has always gets lost in the grand narrative of universal education and ECCE is no exception.
There are other schemes preceding ECCE that can be said to be having a significant effect on the societal attitude towards early childhood education. The one which is relatively better known is the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). It has completed four decades since its inception and under it there are around 10.25 lacs “Aanganwadi centers” spread all over India. The number of children that fall in the ICDS gamut is huge enough to make it one of the world’s largest state intervention in the area of child development. However, the impact it is having on early education scenario does not come even remotely to its scale. The fact remains that the quality of early education being provided through Aanganwadis of ICDS is sub-par for avoidable reasons.
Preschooling, its popularity, and potential have been demonstrated by urban India’s private daycare, preschools, and playschools. They are run by, or at least expected to run by, staff qualified in child care and early education. They have a structured curriculum and follow progressive educational philosophies guiding child education.
Unlike the private preschools, the ICDS centers or Aanganwadis are, at best, nutrition and daycare centers in popular perception. It is fair to say that they cannot be expected to be more than that given the staff with practically no qualification in childhood development. In addition to that, supplies that are indispensable in forming any preschool’s environment are simply non-existent in half of the Aanganwadis. So, what we have on the ground are so-called preschools for rural children with no books, pencils, drawing material, toys, puzzles to engage them in constructive activities.
We have a scenario where a huge state apparatus for early childhood education is failing to make the dent for some very specific reasons. Attempted solutions are faced by challenges rendering them irrelevant. For instance, the capabilities of staff of the Aanganwadis can be upgraded through training and direction, but the possibility of that becomes slim when we have a situation where more than 60% of the staff is simply denied guidance by the immediate superior or the supervisor.
Enter corporates with their trusts and think tanks. Tata Trusts and Copenhagen Consensus have recently issued a report outlining the strategy to change the state of elementary education. The significance and potential of corporate intervention in education have been well recognized and it is known that direct investment will undoubtedly change the picture of elementary education too.
There are some models to learn from, certain schemes of early education promotion. Conceptualization of some of the schemes is very unconventional, to say the least, yet they have some success to their credit in other developing countries. One of such schemes is to essentially hand out cash incentives to the parents who send their children to early childhood education centers.
In India, we have mid-day-meals that remotely resembles the aforementioned scheme. Now, this unprecedented incentivizing scheme is being contemplated upon by corporate houses backed by research and studies of some acclaimed think tanks. The ‘cash- incentive’ scheme has found its advocates who have already brought forth projections of costs and results for certain states. For Andhra Pradesh, the estimated enrollment figures predict a 35% increase in the current Aanganwadis enrollment.
An overview of the case of Andhra Pradesh provides a perspective. This cash incentive model or its variant essentially proposes a grant of Rs. 6000 to a family who sends their 3 or 4-year-old to the Aanganwadi center regularly. The projection cost of such an incentive for the recently bifurcated state is 333 crores and it is expected to bring 1.4 lakh children to the early childhood education realm.
The empirical fact that strengthens the case of cash incentive measure is its positive correlation with enrollment in higher education. In other words, the use of an unconventional method for the promotion of preschooling is worth it. That is so because, preschooling has repercussions in terms of national human resource asset and progressive knowledge economy.
The economic wisdom of this scheme is, from an individual perspective, the increment in wages in which preschooling will have played a decisive part.
Macroeconomic translation of the scheme can result is in excess of 2 lakhs for a preschooled workman which translates into 3,146 crores for the state. Going by this calculation, we find that for every rupee spent on the child’s preschooling a return of Rs. 10 is ensured for the society. Corporates like Tata Trusts are taking initiative in bringing about these estimates through dedicated studies and collaboration with international think tanks.
For ICDS centers, corporate investment would bring in tangible improvements. It will include hiring of teachers, upgrading learning environment, setting up of a curriculum, training of the Anganwadi staff and availability of uniforms and books for the children.
The efficacy of the entire project of promotion of early education, despite its omission from the RTE act, is fundamentally based on the success of the private preschools. The developmental environment provided by good preschools exceeds the one provided by Aanganwadis by miles. When we say miles, we mean 1183 crore rupees. That means to bring the Aanganwadis, catering to all 3 – 6 years old children currently, to the level of a good preschool will cost that much.
Corporates are incentivizing families to promote preschool education. The intervention is welcome and preschools must be made exemplary learning hubs in the urban areas too. The curriculum and teacher training must not be compromised with. Use of modern educational philosophies has a big role to play in realizing the potential of preschools.