G’nY. Would you call for a change in the course curriculum for schools?
Anil Swarup : We have travelled a huge distance and a lot of change has been brought into the system. But, there is always scope for improvement and with the changing environment it is important to adapt the curriculum accordingly. This is the reason why we have requested National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to re-look at the curriculum; seek suggestions from the public; call for expert opinion and so on. Yes, I believe improvement should be a constant endeavour.
G’nY. Falling standard of government schools, especially in rural areas, is a cause of concern. Do you think placing Jawahar Navodya Vidyalaya (JNV) and Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) in management roles in these areas will help reboot the system?
Anil Swarup : Firstly, not all government schools are faring poorly. There are instances where government schools are doing better than private schools. We live in a federal system where education is in the concurrent list and except JNV and KV, rest of all the government schools are administered by the state. We have been guiding them financially and have also been providing suggestions. There is undoubtedly a marked improvement that is evident from the National Achievement Survey 2017. States like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have taken the lead wherein they have shown phenomenal improvement in the delivery of education.
G’nY. Experts argue that there are many economically unviable small schools that can be consolidated into a single school increasing the number of teachers and reducing the overall cost. What are your views?
Anil Swarup : Consolidation is precisely what Rajasthan has implemented. We are suggesting that other states too should put the idea into effect. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have also initiated the process. There is a clear evidence that whenever we consolidate schools, we not only save money, but also improve the quality of education along with its delivery with more teachers in one school. Decisions to open multiple schools in a given location were taken at some point in time without looking into the aspect of availability of requisite number of teachers. That needs to be rapidly rectified.
G’nY. Do you think propagation of ‘one country-one syllabus’ will allow level playing field?
Anil Swarup : I do not think it is advisable to have single syllabus throughout the country. Although broadly we follow the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), states have free will in terms of implementation of the curriculum. In India, which thrives on diversity, mandating a single syllabus from the Centre is neither appropriate, nor possible. However, predominantly the contours of the syllabus remain the same.
G’nY. Government schools have a preference for regional languages as the main medium of study, which ironically pushes rural families to opt for English medium unaided private schools. How can this be remedied?
Anil Swarup : We are of the view that initial education of a child should be in the local language or in mother tongue and later the child can graduate into other languages. Without forging a bond with the mother tongue, the child will stand to lose his/her roots. As the child grows he/she should be allowed to choose a second language. I strongly believe that initial education has to be imparted in the mother tongue.
G’nY. The teacher student ratio is very poor in India. Can an internship programme at graduation and masters level be initiated to help government schools achieve better education goals?
Anil Swarup : Contrary to your statement—the average teacher-pupil ratio is appropriate. In 2017, MHRD reported teacher pupil ratio (TPR) of 24:1 for elementary schools and 27:1 for secondary schools which is satisfactory. The problem is that the teachers gravitate towards urban areas creating a shortage in rural areas.You see, teachers recruited for rural areas manipulate transfers to urban areas which creates the dichotomy. Overall there is no shortage, it is just a question of correct deployment of teachers. In fact Rajasthan and Karnataka have managed to spread their teachers evenly and the results in quality of education are visible. We are trying to persuade other states to do the same and engage in equitable posting. Internship is piecemeal solution, one in which I have little faith. Teachers on the other hand are intrinsic to the system. If we are unable to address this issue no matter whatever else we may try to do, the education system will not work.
G’nY. There is a large skill-gap in teachers of government schools. What can be done to mitigate the problem?
Anil Swarup : The primary problem of education in India is of teachers. The problematic areas are pre- and post job training and efficacy of the selection process. These troublesome areas need to be addressed urgently. We are trying to discipline the Bachelor of Education (B Ed) and Diploma in Elementary Education colleges under the National Council of Teachers Education (NCTE) and also improve the selection process. A robust system of training of the teachers through the DIKSHA portal is also being evolved to address the skill gap. Improvement in the quality of teachers is close to my heart, without which the education system cannot be boosted.