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Intent Backed By Real Interventions Is The Key: A Perspective On Education Budget 2017

Intent Backed By Real Interventions Is The Key: A Perspective On Education Budget 2017

The education budget saw a 4.9% increase in allocation from 2015 to 2016. Stalwarts lauded the government’s emphasis on the sector – specifically the gesture of adding ‘education’ among the nine pillars of 2016 budget! I have worked with the government on a few projects and like with the allocation, there is definitely intent. However, in this budget I expect intent backed by interventions and not mere increase in allocations.

Issues in the primary education segment, depleting quality of teaching, rote learning with minimal emphasis on application and poor employ ability of Indian graduates are but a few of the problems, often discussed & analysed by many.

In a country as complicated as India, with such a diverse demographic spread, strategising about problems in this scale is not enough – tactical & measurable plans have to be laid out and no better organisation than the Government should lead, fund & drive such initiatives to ensure scalability. I will elaborate by picking a few examples from the previous budget & de-coding my expectations based on the said initiatives.

Measurability Of The Sarva Shishka Abhyan

Firstly, 2016 budget included increasing the share of allocation under Sarva Shishka Abhyan! Again great intent. But, what has been the measurability of the Sarva Shishka Abhyan outcomes, in the past and post increasing the allocation? What efforts have been undertaken to study what has worked well or where the issues still remain? What steps have been taken to inform the stakeholders of the outcomes & issues, while focusing on corrective measures?

Private sector including a few Not for Profit Organizations working in the space have continued to scream and shout about the low quality of learning outcomes – this rant goes on in parallel even as the allocation towards inclusive primary education continues from the Government’s end. Hence, in this budget I expect investments towards measurability of initiatives, learning and recalibration – these require spending too, however, only if someone at the top believes in its value.

Achievement With Digitisation Of Records

The government’s move to digitise education records – again a great start point. But, what else can we achieve with digitising? – Data! The government must spend on integrating education/learning data that it receives on all fronts to understand trends.

We are still wrought with the problem of disparate and de-linked initiatives and data across so many divisions in the education department – one does not talk to the other! CBSE is one example of an organisation with a huge repertoire of student data – how do we convert data into future strategies – again this requires some top-notch analytical & execution capabilities. Not to mention, allocation, however only if someone at the top believes in its value.

More Supply But Less Focus On Quality

Next, 62 Navodaya Vidyalayas for 2016 was a great step to make education more inclusive – the information online on Navodaya Vidyalayas gives a good sense of the amazing intent! However, the devil is unfortunately in the details. Scaling on the supply side without focusing on the quality of the supply itself – including but not limited to quality of teachers, the methodology of teaching and the access to good learning infrastructure will prove quantity worthless.

If there is money to made out of effectively solving a problem, you can be rest assured to have a flock of private organisations trying to do so – however many private organisations, who have been trying to solve the teacher training issue are unable to do so for the kind of capital it needs and the bandwidth.

Here again, the government is in a fabulous position to intervene and create a great model of Private Public partnership ; where it draws on the intellect and the ability of private players but support that with reach and funds, again, only if someone at the top believes in its value. This move towards interventions – a) measurability of initiatives; b) collection, analysis and trend-plotting of learning data and c) dissemination of training to a large diaspora – can be enabled by that one thing our Prime Minister is passionate about – Technology.

The last few years has seen a large number of private edtech companies creating waves in different aspects of education – be it in online tutorship or in learning guidance or digitising assessments. The government should aggressively suck in this talent while juxtaposing its authority to make sure adoption happens.

I could go on with a few more examples; but the common thread would be the expectation to see the government translate its intent into real interventions! The Indian education story should not be just that – a story, it should become alive – the entire value chain from the primary to high school to university/graduate education should have the thread of employability and skill running through it; so that every admission into a Navodaya Vidyalaya underlies the parent’s belief that his ward is graduating from livelihood to income and that his learning is helping him do so.

[The author of this post is  Priya Mohan, founder and Director of Vidyartha.]