What if you had a say in the running of your child’s school board and could decide whether the school needed to increase its fee or not? What if the community could decide on the school syllabus, introduction of sex education or quality of teachers?
Swaraj or self-governance through the system of school boards is an idea that citizens of Delhi are warming up to. An initiative of Magsaysay award winner and social activist Arvind Kejriwal, Swaraj aims at giving the community a say in education of children.
“Private schools across the national capital region increased tuition fees arbitrarily. But parents could only protest. If they had a say in the running of schools, they could have demanded more transparency,” said Kejriwal.
“If you do not vote or vote for a different government, nothing will change. Parents will be as helpless as they are today. What we need is an elected representative willing to transfer power to the community through the establishment of Gram Sabhas.”
Involving the community has worked successfully for the United States. The US has school boards for government run schools, where elected or appointed members represent community beliefs and values.
“Empowering parents would definitely help in checking the monopoly of school boards,” said Ratik Anand, parent. “If the community elects the school board, it can demand to see the school’s accounts. We need the authority to enforce transparency,” Anand said.
The Model Nagara Raj Bill drafted by the Ministry of Urban Development talks of amending the municipality laws in states and sharing power with local communities.
However, schools’ societies are not too keen about community-appointed boards.
“We already have sharing of powers with the parent-teacher associations (PTA) and parents are welcome to put forth their views,” said Renu Chaturvedi, Additional Secretary, DPS Society. “PTA can be strengthened but too many ideas will only interfere with the smooth running of the school.”
Ashwini Gupta, whose son studies at a DPS branch in Delhi, said while PTAs were non-existent in most schools, most such associations did not have any real power.
“A community elected school board would incorporate the community’s view before making decisions about school programmes and ensure that students get the best education for the money spent,” Gupta said.