In July, when the Delhi government organised a Mega Parents-Teacher meeting in its 1,011 schools, it was a giant stride for a large number of parents. On a wet Saturday, they walked into these schools – many for the first time – to see Delhi’s school system up close.
It was a grand ceremony with free tea and snacks, which only served to keep them going in the queue till they could share with teachers the issues children had been bickering about.
Overcrowded classrooms, broken chairs, filthy toilets, no potable water, rowdy classmates, absence of teachers, low learning levels – their list was long.
Nearly 16 lakh children study in these government schools scattered across neighbourhoods. But it is affordability and not quality of education that attracts them to these schools – classified into Government Boys/Girls Senior Secondary, Sarvodaya and Rajkiya.
The learning levels and facilities in these schools are proportional to what the parents pay. Not more than Rs 10 per month in senior classes. But is it fair? When Delhi can have some of the best higher education institutes run by the government, what goes wrong at the school level?
In the last two years, the AAP government has showed intention. From 13% in 2013-14 – when the Congress was in power– the allocation for education went up to 23% this year. Last year, the funds for education surged by 106%. Education minister Manish Sisodia had said in March this year that 8,000 new classrooms had been constructed, principals were being sent to Cambridge and IIMs to learn to innovate and over Rs 100 crore had been kept aside for training of teachers. CCTV cameras are also making their way to the classroom.
But there’s more to be fixed. In a five-part series, HT explores what prevented Delhi government schools from becoming credible institutions of learning. Lack of teachers due to delayed appointments, crumbling infrastructure, classroom transaction of the kind that leaves students with no recognition of letters, no-detention policy and zero coordination with feeder municipal schools – schools are denounced for all this and more.
HT will line up issues that government should fix on priority. It’s important all parents are assured of good education, their financial status notwithstanding. Can the government make sure the changes that started with the Mega PTM are more than just cosmetic?