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Mainstream, VOL LV No 31 New Delhi July 22, 2017

Improving the Quality of Education Still not a Priority for UP Government

Saturday 22 July 2017, by Sandeep Pandey

In UP the Chief Minister has launched a campaign to get children enrolled into schools and linked it to a tree plantation drive. He has also distributed dress, socks, shoes, school bags, free books to encourage children to go to school. Every school has been given a target to plant 40 saplings. The tree plantation drive will go on till July 31, 2017 upto the time that the admission campaign continues.

Like the previous governments, to demons-trate his commitment to education Yogi Aditya-nath has also launched a campaign to get children to schools called ‘Study Well, Grow Immensely’. It would have been better if instead of launching a new campaign the Yogi would have concentrated on implementing the Right to Education Act, 2009.

The question arises as to how the children will study and grow when the quality of government schools is substandard and the elite schools are not willing to admit students from weaker categories and disadvantaged groups whose admission is being ordered by the District Magistrate under the RTE Act, 2009 section 12(1)(c) for free education from Classes I to VIII. City Montessori School, Navyug Radiance, City Inernational, St. Mary Inter-mediate College, Virendra Swaroop Public School of Lucknow and Virendra Swaroop Public School, Chintal Public School and Stepping Stone Public School in Kanpur are openly violating the RTE Act by not admitting any children whose admissions are ordered by the DM and the administration and government appear to be helpless before them. The quality of government schools cannot improve so long as glamour and dominance of private schools continue.

Then there are children who are out of school; they are either victims of child labour or involved in begging. When Yogi Adityanath is in Lucknow, his car passes the main crossing of the city in Hazratganj every day near the Vidhan Sabha where a number of children can be found begging. The existence of these children is a clear violation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, the formal name for the RTE. What is the Yogi going to do about these children?

The CM’s priority is tree plantation and distribution of books, dress, socks, shoes and school bags which are merely material items. His mind doesn’t go in the area of quality of teaching. How does he propose to motivate the teachers to teach?

The officers now know that the Yogi is more interested in tree plantation. Hence their focus would also be to meet the plantation target rather than try to admit out-of-school children. It would have been better had the Yogi given them the target of getting children admitted to govern-ment schools. Because of the deteriorating quality of government schools and children migrating to private schools through admissions under section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act, the strength in government schools is depleting. Some schools are on the verge of being closed. Government teachers could have been given the responsibility to get out-of-school children and children in child labour situation admitted and ensure their continuity in schools. A large number of children drop out of school before the class VIII stage in India.

The material resources needed to run the government schools have been mobilised over a period of time. Good classrooms, toilets, mid-day meal, handsome salaries for teachers—are all there. But as material resources have gone up, the quality of teaching has gone down.

There is only one way to improve the quality of teaching in government schools and that is to admit children of all receiving government salaries to government schools. Justice Sudhir Agarwal of the Allahabad High Court says that the quality of teaching has fallen because the children of those responsible for running these schools don’t study here. Even the children of teachers and para-teachers don’t study in government schools where they teach. Hence he concludes that until the children of these people do not study in government schools their quality would not improve.

The UP Government was supposed to implement this order within six months. It chose to ignore the order. It filed a delayed Special Leave Petition opposing the order which is yet to be admitted. Meanwhile the Chief Secretary is liable to receive a contempt notice.

The UP Government, which has recently come to power, should withdraw the SLP filed by the previous government and implement the order of Justice Sudhir Agarwal. This will open an option for the people who so far have to send their children to high-fees-charging private schools. The children of the poor will also benefit as they will receive good quality education and can aspire for a better future.

One is forced to buy an Air India ticket if one is going for government work even though it is probably costlier than most airlines. If the government can force people to buy Air India tickets to keep the official carrier afloat, why can it not make it compulsory for people receiving salaries from the government to send their children to government schools to maintain their high quality?

Government officers enjoy the facilities of government housing, vehicles, domestic workers in homes, gardeners and other legal-illegal benefits. So why can’t they patronise the government schools and hospitals? Is it not their responsibility to ensure the quality of govern-ment schools and hospitals?

Noted social activist and Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey is the Vice-President of the Socialist Party (India). He was elected to this post at the founding conference of the party at Hyderabad on May 28-29, 2011.

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