State of education: Big talk, slow delivery – India

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From implementation of Right To Education (RTE) Act, students’ union polls to regulating coaching classes, the Devendra Fadnavis-led government is yet to make any significant impact in the education sector, though 20 per cent of its tenure is over. The list of hypes and controversies, however, is long.

In a remark that generated controversy in January 2015, Education minister Vinod, in a London conference, had said, “History, civics and geography should be taught only in the mother-tongue in schools.” Even as the government is in the process of shutting down 4,000 state-run Marathi-medium schools as they are facing an

Similarly in July 2015, ahead of the head-count of out-of-school children, Maharashtra government had said, “Madrasas that do not offer mathematics, science and social studies will not be recognised as formal schools.” The fact is that Madrassa students were never counted in schools.

Many feel that Tawde started off with a sense of disappointment. The heavy-weight BJP leader, who held the Leader of Opposition post in Legislative Council for many years, was hoping for the Home Department, perceived to be ‘high profile’. Amid a series of controversies, Tawde took some tough decisions and a few popular ones too. But according to educationists, things didn’t not move at the required pace.

A government school principal, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Things were expected to change under the BJP-Sena regime. Unfortunately, the most crucial sector didn’t see any significant change except for some populist moves, such as celebration of birthdays of Sardar Patel and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, and a rhetoric on promotion of Marathi language.”

Tawde did take some tough decisions that were pending for many years as the Congress-NCP government had deferred them due to political compulsions. They included closure or merger of over 4,000 state-run schools with less than 10 students to cut the cost, a common CET for private medical-dental colleges, instituting a fee regulator for private institutions and not allowing a single new college and division in higher education.

But educationists blamed his lack of vision for the poor delivery. He, for instance, took a long time to decide on a few crucial issues, such as reverting to CET for admission in engineering courses. The delay helped coaching classes to dig more money from parents. Ditto for notification of reduction in school bag weight, which came in August. By that time, books has already been printed.

Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena leader Sudhakar Tamboli said, “To curtail the democratic voices, this government went a step further and suspended senates in all varsities, rather than giving them extension.”

Then there was the allegation of purchase of fire extinguishers worth Rs191 crore for schools without e-tendering. The contract was put on hold after the Finance department objected to it. Apart form that, irregularities worth Rs 106 crore in the purchase of portraits of national icons have further blemished the government image.

 

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