The Aam Admi Party (AAP), currently ruling the national capital territory of Delhi since 2015, has completed a majority of its agendas on its manifesto. It won 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi Assembly election, a landslide victory, ensuring it could pass bills from the legislative assembly with almost negligible resistance. The AAP government in Delhi has thus been able to push its agenda of ‘education first’ in the capital with relative ease.
Highest funds have been allocated for the education sector (2019-20) in Delhi by the government for the fifth consecutive year that is a remarkable 26% of the budget, or Rs 13,997 crore.
With well-built swimming pools, gymnasiums and FIFA certified football grounds in the schools, the AAP government has worked its way in altering the sweeping perception of the government schools in Delhi, to a large extent. It has built over 8000 new classrooms, approved construction of additional 7000 and significantly improved the infrastructural facilities. “You could smell the stench from the toilets even before you entered the school. The children felt like second-grade citizens,” says Atishi, who was the former advisor to the Delhi Education Minister, Manish Sisodia and the brain behind many educational reforms implemented by the government. She added, “We ensured schools get high-quality infrastructure. It was a booster for the child’s self-worth and eventually caused a perspective shift among students as well as teachers.”
Another noteworthy transformation that was brought on was to involve the parents by organizing mass PTMs and reviving School management committees (SMCs). “Parents who could not even enter the schools earlier now found themselves in management roles,” said Atishi. In fact, according to a report by a media house as many as 900 students joined a Delhi government school over a private one in 2017. While changing the methodology of teachers’ training, the logistical standards were also raised. “The old system of training teachers was a box-ticking exercise. We changed it,” said Shailendra Sharma, who has been an advisor to the director of education, Delhi.
About 200 teachers were chosen to be the mentor teachers and using their ground-level knowledge new training modules were developed. They were sent to the National Institute of Education in Singapore for training.
But, there is a flipside to the otherwise seemingly perfect picture of the educational landscape in Delhi. The AAP government has had its share of failure of policies, one of which is the lowest pass percentage of the government school students since 2007 in the CBSE class 10 results in 2018. The replacement of board exams almost after 8 years of introduction of Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) had been largely held responsible for this decline in the pass percentage of the students.
Another occasion, at which the government may have floundered, is when it segregated the students from class 6 to 8 as per their learning capabilities under a program known as Chunauti 2018. The students were tested in mathematics, comprehension of language, which was the medium of instruction, and in English. Consequently, they were divided into three sections: Pratibha, Nishtha, and Neo-Nishtha. Janaki Rajan, former director of the State Council of Educational Research and Training, Delhi and at present serving as a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, said, “All studies show us that students in mixed abilities group learn better. Why is the government then bent on doing the contrary? In addition, it is mostly the students from scheduled class, scheduled tribes and the Muslim community who land up in the Nishtha and Neo-Nishtha sections.” Different exams were conducted for all the sections and students from the Nishtha and Neo-Nishtha were taught from special study material call Pragati books. “Branding of children and meddling with curriculum won’t work. Continuous professional development of teachers is the only way forward,” says R. Govinda, ex-vice chancellor at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration.
This fiscal year the Delhi government has proposed to open two new institutions of higher education, one University of Applied Sciences and a University for Teachers’ Training.
Happiness Curriculum was introduced last year in the Delhi government schools with an aim to reduce stress among students. “A research conducted on suicides in India has revealed that in addition to the challenges of learning and achieving, students come to school with stresses arising from many sources including family disturbances, peer conflicts, socio-cultural components and vulnerabilities to physical and mental health risk factors,” remarked an official from the Directorate of Education, Delhi. This initiative has not just reaped benefits for the students but also attracted positive criticism for the government.
Manish Sisodia announced the introduction of the ‘entrepreneurship curriculum’, under which the students studying in classes 11 and12 of Delhi-government run schools will get 1000 rupees each while those in colleges and Universities will be 5000 rs each as seed money for developing their ‘business plan’. The government has also established 11 incubation Centers and given them a grant of Rs. 1.5 crore as seed money for each. With all of this, the government wants to develop an entrepreneurial culture within the youth.
Arvind Kejriwal led the AAP government has kept education at the forefront of its strategy-making and funding. With its persistent efforts, it has been able to infuse energy into the otherwise moribund system but many glitches remain to be fixed.