Education, Elections, Efficiency And More

The interconnect, or rather disconnect, between education, elections and an efficient education delivery system.

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For a country, with almost 65% of its population under 35 years of age, the need for an efficient delivery mechanism for education cannot be emphasized enough.

Perhaps, one of the most common definitions of ‘democracy’, one coined by Abraham Lincoln states it as: “…a government of the people, by the people, and for the people…” thereby placing impetus on the participation of citizenry that is directly or indirectly influenced by the awareness pertaining to their respective rights and duties. Another coherent part of democracy is elections, where diverse parties ‘lure’ the populace with their vision and mission presented in the form of their respective manifestos. Question: how many of us have, actually, read a manifesto, understood its content, and taken a decision based on the same? Are elections for us individual driven, party-driven or performance driven? How important are these manifestos to us, and how carefully do we examine the due delivery of its contents? 

What continues to draw my attention is the lack of due attention to some vital fields, such as education, receive in manifestos. Is this domain so irrelevant that political parties hardly spent time, effort and space for its mention? Or is this domain so unworthy of attention, politically speaking? Or is it that ‘education’ is a field that is better left to its own destiny? The question are many, the answers few. Another important aspect pertains to how practical are the few promises made, as far as this domain is concerned? Will they ever see fulfilment? Have challenges been properly understood for tailor-made solutions to be drafted? 

Having said the above, what holds significance is also the progress made, and envisaged, the latter determining the foundation of planning to achieve scalable and sustainable objectives. For this, data transparency is crucial. Consider the NAS or National Achievement Survey. The data compiled provides us ‘guided’ understanding; what if I wish to use the raw data in a different way, using different parameters and tools, to deduce different learnings? I can’t because I don’t have the required access to the concerned raw data. The provision for this primary data to be available to the common man for miscellaneous usage, whether for research, study or information, is currently limited or restricted. In simple words, I, as a citizen, should be able to have access to information, be able to process it, and derive ‘my’ conclusions. ‘Opening up’ such data by, for example, NAS, will also encourage more people to engage with the field. How can free expressions and deductions be made if access to raw data is curtailed? 

Another crucial component that I wish to highlight is the delivery of education. Who are the different stakeholders in education, its delivery and its acquiring? Are they equal partakers in enhancing the quality of the system concerned? In the government school system, accountability is, chiefly, and ultimately, to the Department of Education, and understandably so, but what about the role of, for example, the parents? How can they be ensured of an efficient and high quality of education being delivered to their wards? An idea suggested was the system of vouchers, where a child ‘receives’ a voucher from the government, and ‘chooses’ a school he/she wants to study in, based on different criteria. If the selection falls for a government school, the money is ‘transferred’ to that concerned school; similar is the case if the choice is made for a private school. What does this effectively lead to? Firstly, the role of parents is enhanced. So, if in a government school there are 1500 students, the budget allocated to the school is 1500 times the amount spent per student, per year. This leads to enhanced motivation of attracting and retaining students, every year, for obvious reasons. This would also instill some accountability in the public education system. Secondly, by virtue of a student being able to use these vouchers at a private school as well, there is direct competition between private and government schools. If this suggestion is designed and executed correctly, it can have a domino effect in terms of introducing positive change. Another important suggestion is the separation of functions. In the education sector, at least three basic functions need to be separated out: assessment and regulation, policymaking, and a separate department that runs only government schools and institutions. 

What is also important to understand is the measurement of learning outcomes rather than anything else. If any school does not meet the pre-requisites and goals set, a regulator should enforce the necessary action that needs to be taken in such a case, irrespective of whether it is a government or a private school. No double standards, whatsoever. 

For a country that prides itself in being the largest democracy in the world, and with almost 65% of its population under 35 years of age, the need for an efficient delivery mechanism for education cannot be emphasized enough.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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