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.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.