3 Guideposts for Education Policy for the New Government

1 May

Classroom model to sustainable future

Thursday, 01 May 2014 | Meeta W Sengupta | in Oped

It is time for a fresh start, even if the faces are familiar. Come May, the electorate’s preferences will be known, some clever mathematics and chemistry will be called into play, and the contours of a new world will begin to take form. Whether this Government feels solid and stable to itself and its interlocutors will determine how much it is able to achieve in the first pass. The first 100 days of any new Government are typically seen as the ‘honeymoon period’ where it is given a chance to make its mark with lower risks. In education, what should the first 100 days’ spark?

The first point is to understand the imperatives. Employability in the short term, credible employables in the medium term and some fine foreign policy play to ensure labour mobility in the long term, are clear expectations from the next Government. They inherit some clear thinking and terrible implementation and now need to build operational pathways to ensure student success. So far, the decisions have been about size, infrastructure and access. The plans are now to focus on quality. And, if the reports are to be believed, the rote learning epidemic is not the only evil, there is worse — teachers, it seems, are encouraged to support examinees to shore up achievement numbers. While I have never seen evidence of an examination where the answers are written on the board for all students to achieve good marks the rumour mill assures me that this is not uncommon. Paraphrasing what Sir Humphrey says in Yes Minister, “Minister, you asked us to change the numbers, we changed the numbers…” ‘Quality’ needs a re-think too.

Going forward, planned investments are in school leaders and teachers, accreditation, community colleges, PPP models and pathways for skills and alignment of academic certifications. Lip-service paid to value education, bringing back woodworking or cooking to the high school, or even acknowledging leadership as different from teaching (it had to be said) is not enough. Indian education needs to break out of traditional mindsets and structural barriers and leapfrog ahead. Doing that will just about help the nation catch up with the others.

Are we, as educationists, able to meet the aspirations and potential of the students we claim to nurture? Can we take them to their success? This is what must drive the education policy — the need. This is not time to be coy about potential greatness. Enough with the resource constrained limiting ways of the past, it is time to aim high, pulling in resources in our wake. This means opening up access to market based solutions.

The next point is to invest in governance. Keeping a light and transparent rein on operations of all education providers, while ensuring that their processes and outcomes are visible to all — civil society, students and parent community, media and, of course, the regulators. Having multiple regulators for institutions based on their activities and aims and redesigning the governance matrices to be layered and goal oriented is needed. The new Government must minimise gate-keeping, optimise scaffolding via governance operations — in simpler language, reduce licensing requirements, and improve support structures.

The next need is to build tight structures for certification and remove all barriers to learning. Let there be no restriction on where a student can learn, let there be learning pods in markets, streets, schools, community centres, playgrounds, libraries (build more of these). And let there be multiple certifications accessible to all. Break the silos to build connected learning networks. Unleash creativity and innovation, bringing a rigour that does not let it slip into jugaad.

This is how we build sustainable futures for all.


This was published in the Daily Pioneer on May 1, 2014 and is linked here: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/classroom-model-to-sustainable-future.html


And yes, their headline missed the point of the article totally!








This is how we build sustainable futures for all.

2 Responses to “3 Guideposts for Education Policy for the New Government”

  1. Sita May 1, 2014 at 6:00 am #

    The three guideposts – access to market based solutions , governance and tighter certifications can happen only if the basics are first put in place.

    Whether Early childhood, primary school, Higher ed – the challenges are all across in every aspect – teacher quality, curriculum , assessment & certification and governance. Add to this the issues of access , poor physical and digital infrastructure – what is needed is not a superficial , shortsighted jugaad band aid but a concerted sustained effort which might payoff only after 10 years – which political party has that kind of wisdom or patience or foresight to invest in the future of the nation- none.

    • meetawsengupta May 5, 2014 at 1:45 am #

      Absolutely agree. The operational and tactical decisions you point out are clearly an integral part of the strategic imperatives I wrote about. You cannot have good governance without making sure the pieces are in place – in fact the job of good governance is to ensure that these pieces move in tandem – which means they must be in place and operational!!

      Glad to have you here and joining in the conversation.

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