We’re ready for an influx of students from private to govt schools: Sisodia
Delhi’s deputy CM and education minister Manish Sisodia said the National Education Policy (NEP) has many progressive ideas -- but the road map to achieve those is missing. It’s good that NEP has emphasised on foundational learningUpdated: Aug 07, 2020 04:54 IST
Delhi’s deputy CM and education minister Manish Sisodia spoke about the National Education Policy announced by the Union government, a plan for reopening city schools that have been shut in the wake of the Covid pandemic, a possible influx of students from private to government schools, and the issue of salaries in some MCD and DU institutions. Edited excerpts:
As Delhi’s education minister, what is your view on the National Education Policy announced by the Centre recently?
The NEP has many progressive ideas -- but the road map to achieve those is missing. It’s good that NEP has emphasised on foundational learning. The policy lists both anganwadi workers and pre-primary teachers for the purpose. However, with due respect, anganwadi workers have been selected with the intention of serving cooked meals, and not for assisting in foundational learning. The policy calls for the engagement of these workers in foundational learning without any expertise for a large segment of children. At the same time, children in private schools will be taught by pre-primary teachers. This will create a divide. It is good that the policy has mentioned providing breakfast in addition to midday meals.
The policy talks about a revised 5+3+3+4 pedagogical structure. Will the replacement of the 10+2 system improve learning levels?
The 5+3+3+4 formula will help, but there has to be the preparation for it, else it will be a disaster. The policy doesn’t give much clarity on how it will be implemented. For instance, the earlier structure separated the Class 9-10 from the Class 11-12 group. Under the new structure, the secondary level comprises Classes 9 to 12. I had asked if this group would be taught by trained graduate teachers (who teach till Class 10) or postgraduate teachers (who teach higher secondary). Basics such as these haven’t been clarified, and the drawback is that this policy could remain a piece of paper.
Is there a paradigm shift from the previous education policy?
I could not see any paradigm shift. Education is still not getting funds under the present policy. It leaves parents confused about whether they should enroll their children in government schools, or be uncertain about private school fees. The policy should have assured the country that it will focus on the improvement of the government schools and reduce dependency on private schools. This concept or commitment is missing from the policy. Since the national education policy gives encouragement to private schools, the intent becomes clear. However, in Delhi, it’s exactly the opposite. The AAP government is working on strengthening structure of public schools while regularising private institutes.
The Covid pandemic has taught us that technology will be playing a crucial role in the education system in the future. However, it has exposed gaps in access. What’s the future of online education?
Online education cannot be the only way, which is why we have a semi-online model. In addition to sharing resource material on WhatsApp, we created means for parents to come to schools and collect worksheets if they do not have access to devices or the internet. I was asked to increase the duration of online classes, but we wanted to keep online and offline learning at the same level. The learning curriculum during Covid has been prepared keeping that in mind. After reviewing these classes, we found out that nearly 85% of children are in touch with their teachers. Of these, around 70-85% are using e-resources and the rest are collecting worksheets from schools.
Can the government give devices to all to bridge the digital divide?
The idea is good and I wish I could give devices to all but the government doesn’t have the money. We don’t even have the money to pay our teachers.
Teachers in the North Delhi municipal corporation-run primary schools have not been paid since May. They have now threatened to stop online classes. The corporation says that the Delhi government has not been releasing their funds on time. What the government’s position on this?
The government has paid all the pending dues to the north MCD and other MCDs. The north MCD should make the data public mentioning the funds Delhi government had given them in the last five years and what they have done with it. If the MCD cannot pay their teachers even after getting the funds they should hand over their schools to us. We will run them and pay the teachers as well.
Similar issues have been raised by the 12 Delhi University colleges that are fully funded by the Delhi government. They are alleging that the government is either delaying or giving insufficient funds.
The Delhi government has been paying sufficient funds to its fully funded DU colleges. We have increased their salary funds over the past five years, and yet they are not able to pay their employees. They must answer where these funds are going, which is why audits must be conducted. The university has been delaying the formation of governing bodies in these colleges despite Delhi government’s orders. The problem with DU is that it’s trying to do both corruption and politics. If they want to work with the Delhi government, they will have to work with transparency and without politics. Otherwise, they should hand over our colleges to us (Delhi government).
The situation is improving in Delhi now with the number of Covid-19 cases declining and the death rate has also come down. When will Delhi be ready to reopen schools?
There is no discussion yet on the reopening of schools. We cannot decide this on the basis of the number of Covid-19 cases. We will have to take the decision considering the situation in neighbouring states as well since many of our students come from UP and Haryana as well. We are now working on removing the fear of schools from the minds of parents. I am regularly reviewing the suggestions we have received from parents, teachers and different stakeholders on the reopening of schools. We are still analysing the parameters based on which the decision of the reopening of schools will be taken.
Will it be challenging to bring back students to the classrooms whenever the schools reopen?
We had asked the schools to identify the students who are completely out of contact and we found that at least 15% of students enrolled in Delhi government schools are out of touch. We are trying to reach out to them through different modes. It’s after Delhi government’s continuous efforts that some of our students, who moved back to their home towns, are now attending online classes from those states.
Several parents in the city are withdrawing their children from private schools due to financial constraints in the wake of the pandemic. Do you anticipate an influx of students from private schools to government schools in Delhi this year?
I think there will be an influx of students from private to government schools this year. I would like to have them because no student should be left out of the education system. Although we are not letting private schools revise their fees structure, parents will still have to pay some amount of fee.
It will be difficult for many parents who have lost their jobs amid the pandemic to pay fees. We are ready for the influx. We might have to increase the teacher-student ratio to accommodate more pupils this year.