A dilapidated building with fans ready to fall off, broken switchboards, and rickety desks and chairs has become synonymous with government-run model schools in Delhi.
Of the at least 957 schools in dire need of attention, only 54 have been selected for infrastructure improvements. However, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government says it is working to improve the sorry situation and fulfil its promise made during the election campaign.
A 106% increase in the allocation of funds for education in the last budget should ensure there is no paucity of funds.
“By the end of the year, the model schools would be ready. We have been told that once this set is corrected there would be a trickledown effect and help in improving other schools,” said BK Sharma, principal of Shaheed Hemu Kalani Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in Lajpat Nagar II.
However, the absence of 500 new schools and 20 new colleges — as promised before a fledgling AAP stormed into power last year — will continue to be a sore spot for the state government.
It is not that the government isn’t working towards it — construction of 25 new schools and 8,000 additional rooms at existing schools has started and is expected to be completed by 2016-17, but the numbers lag behind target.
“In one year, 25 new schools... (are) still being constructed. The government should know that they just have four years left now. Next election is going to depend on fulfilled promises,” said Amar Singh, an auto rickshaw driver.
But the government remains optimistic.
“Improving the infrastructure was necessary but it is not sufficient. Henceforth, focus would be on improving quality — by capacity-building of teachers, competency-based learning, providing onsite support and improving learning levels in children,” said Atishi Marlena, special adviser to the state education minister.
Educationists feel this is not right approach to improve the quality of education.
“I have seen the way learning levels of Class 9 students were tested. By asking basic mathematics questions on division, different levels of children have been decided. Such division is completely undemocratic and discriminatory. Consulting organisations like Teach for India for improving schools is not going to help,” said Anita Rampal, an educationalist.
Another point of contention is the government’s proposal to scrap the no-detention policy — where a student cannot be held back in the same class even if he fails an exam.
Nonetheless, the slew of bills to improve the education sector, including the Fee Regulation Bill and amendment to the Delhi Education Bill to bring transparency to nursery admission, are being touted as “AAP’s education revolution”.
The state is also expected to move forward with its plan to do away with management quota in public schools — after failing with private schools, which moved court and the order was quashed.
The first year in office for the AAP has largely been about transforming primary education in Delhi, but the challenge ahead will be secondary education.
The government successfully launched the Delhi Education Guarantee Scheme — under which loans guaranteed by the state are provided to students for higher education — and will be looking to find a viable way to introduce double-shifts in Delhi University colleges to deal with the increasing number of students.
“Our focus is now also more towards skill development and building a sports university,” said Marlena.