The time is ripe for a debate on what the government should do in order to revamp and regain faith in the state-funded education. As a first step into this process, there is absolute concord among policy makers that there needs to be a rise in spending on education as a percentage of GDP. The second step, however, is where there needs to be serious deliberation about the approach that is to be followed. If the idea is to empower people through education then they need to be a part of this process of renovation.
The concept of Parent-Teacher Associations which is systematically followed in private schools of the country needs to be effectively applied to the public schools and its accountability should be a crucial policy. The idea of a 'P4' (people, public, private and partnership) model needs to find place in the education policies of the country in order to arrest the fall in learning outcomes and the delay in universalisation. At present there is no credible database that researchers and policy-makers can use to track the functioning of PTAs.
The idea of community participation is now getting its due in our developing counterparts like Sri Lanka where efforts are being made to rope in the community right from analysis to the evaluation stage. For the sake of equity, the government needs to make provisions such that no section of the society is underrepresented in these associations. The idea can be extended to include youth, NGOs and senior citizens as well. The other aspect, from the supply side that needs to be strengthened is the process of teacher training which should be sensitive to contemporary issues of gender, caste and student-centric pedagogy.
We must assess the preparedness of our teachers to incorporate new teaching methods that make use of information and communications technology and move away from the traditional practices of rote learning. In order to do so, the pre and post recruitment training should be made more competitive and incentivised based on the way it is put to use. Most developed countries have school inspections to assess the fire safety, health, teaching etc. where there are authorised inspectors that can pay surprise visits to schools to assess their quality. In case of India, these inspectors can be from the private sector. This can in the long-run ensure that the infrastructural chasm between the private and public schools is filled.
It needs to be acknowledged that these tenets, in different forms, have been on papers. However, if we assume that the state will be successful in allocating more funds to education then the task is to move from existence of policy to effective implementation through innovative policies.
The writer is Masters in Development Economics from South Asian University, New Delhi