School education shouldn’t be fatality of political spite
The Maharashtra International Education Board (MIEB) – the new school curriculum introduced by the state this academic year – has become a casualty of the change in the government. The new education minister recently announced that the MIEB will be dissolved.
MIEB curriculum was proposed to be an improvement over that offered by the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) which is witnessing a decline in popularity, as students shift to national and international education boards which offer a more inventive curriculum.
The MIEB was supposed to look at ‘concept-based’ and ‘application-based’ learning rather than the rote learning system offered by the state education board. The annual assessment system for MIEB schools was proposed to be unconventional, with monthly evaluation of students for learning outcomes. The average number of students in each classroom was also supposed to be fewer, with 25-30 students per classroom, giving teachers more time and leeway in teaching and assessment.
However, MIEB had always looked like a half-baked idea. Education experts questioned the need to create another education board when there were several national, international programmes and an MSBSHSE curriculum that is in the process of being revamped. More than 450 schools had shown interest in the new board, but most schools opted out for various reasons. One school explained that it did not find the curriculum and expenses feasible. The syllabus, which had elements similar to international school boards, was undefined and opaque, with schools claiming they did not know what they were signing up for. “It would be a big risk to take accreditation from a board which is yet to establish itself,” an official from a school had told HT.
Some schools were discouraged from joining the new education board because of the high affiliation fees that went up to ₹50,000 for three years for some category of schools. The annual training fees for teachers – ₹25,000-30,000 – were expensive for some schools. The Mumbai civic body, which runs over a 1,000 schools (with falling enrolments) decided not to affiliate any of its schools with MIEB after there were doubts that these schools would be exempted from the high affiliation fees.
The education board finally began operations this academic year with 81 schools but controversies continued during the academic year. MIEB was criticised for ignoring Maratha ruler Chattrapati Shivaji in textbooks for junior classes. Maratha history takes up the entire history syllabus of Class four of MSBSHSE. Former education officials accused MIEB of ‘secrecy’ in the process of laying down the syllabus.
The decision to dissolve MIEB has not come as a surprise. Last year in December, soon after the new political coalition took over the government, the state education commissioner had said there will be a review of the education board’s feasibility. The state, however, was not expecting backlash from schools and parents when it decided to shut down MIEB.
Despite the odds, the new curriculum was gaining supporters. As HT reported, schools that have adopted the new curriculum have more than 20,000 students. Some schools have reported a spike in enrolments after they shifted to MIEB. Parents of a school run by the district administration in a rural area in Thane have demanded the restoration of MIEB, as the school has seen new enrolments in the kindergarten after it shifted to the new curriculum. Parents who were impressed by the innovative teaching methods are concerned about shifting back to the old state education board. Schools have paid affiliation fees and incurred teachers’ training costs for the coming years. The backlash has prompted some schools to tell parents that even if the new board is shutdown, their teachers will continue MIEB’s teaching methods.
The state is yet to issue a formal notification disbanding the MIEB and has promised a review. Parents who trusted their children with the new curriculum deserve an explanation. School education should not be a casualty of political vindictiveness.