Congratulations on BJP's victory in the general elections. We now
eagerly await the measures that your government will take to drive
socio-economic prosperity for the country. As the government prepares
for such measures, it is important to note that for any growth model to
be successful we need an educated and skilled population. That's why PM
Narendra Modi placed skills at the head of his "skill, scale and speed"
formula to transform India.
As you assume your newly assigned
responsibilities, we take this opportunity to share our perspective on
five big reforms that could transform India's education system from a
mediocre to a world-class system.
First, our education system
currently suffers from an apparent 'Licence Raj' that restricts entry
and operation of private players. Even policies such as RTE neglect that
private schools are a large part of the education ecosystem (already
40% of school students and 60% of college students are enrolled in
private institutions). These norms have led to the shutdown of a large
number of affordable private schools that serve low-income students. The
government must deregulate school education and treat government and
private schools as equal partners in solving India's education crisis.
Second, it is important not only to invest more in education but to do
so more strategically. Central government should invest more resources
in teacher education and development, principal training, ICT in
education and assessments. It is also critical for the ministry of human
resource development to rework its results framework document (RFD) to
include student learning outcomes. Furthermore, a portion of the budget
allocation to states should be contingent upon the adoption of
progressive education policies and improvement of outcomes. There is an
opportunity to create version 2.0 of the central education budget that
shifts focus from inputs and outlays to outcomes and impact, while
holding states accountable.
Third, improve quality standards
through nationwide assessments. Assessments need to be at the core of
any planning exercise for improving India's education system. The
government should introduce statewide learning assessments that are
undertaken at regular periods during a child's school journey, which can
also contribute to remediation and improvement in teaching.
Additionally, a school rating system should be instituted to set targets
for school level improvements. The National Achievement Survey (NAS)
should be revamped such that it becomes a barometer for student learning
and the de facto benchmark for state performance.
government in Gujarat has already taken a lead in this regard with the
Gunotsav programme, an accountability framework for quality of primary
education that includes learning outcomes of children as well as
co-scholastic activities, optimal use of financial resources and
community participation. This model can be replicated in other states.
Fourth, equip school principals to become efficient school leaders.
Great leaders make great institutions, in every sphere. In schools
principals are the highest point of leverage, yet their role is often
restricted to administrative functions. There is a need to reimagine the
role of the principal — as an instructional leader, rather than an
administrator. Moreover, we need to institute stricter guidelines for
recruitment of school leaders that prioritise merit over seniority.
Gujarat has again taken the lead by establishing the headmaster
eligibility test for selection of its principals. The government should
set up centres for school leadership in every state and mandate
induction as well as ongoing training for all principals.
Fifth, improve teacher quality for better learning outcomes. It is
unfortunate that teaching today does not attract the best talent. We
need public awareness campaigns in India that are able to effectively
project teaching as a rewarding and meaningful profession. Centres of
excellence need to be created for teacher education in prestigious
universities across India. Our Teacher Education Institutes (TEI)
capacity is extremely fragmented with over 11 lakh seats in 14,000 TEIs.
Most of this capacity is of poor quality that has been created through
non-transparent, poorly formulated TEI recognition procedures.
Government should build and scale high-quality institutes at top 10
central universities and strengthen SCERTs and DIETs.
believe that every child in India deserves excellent education. We also
believe that given the vastness and diversity of our country we can only
succeed with thorough experimentation and analysis, rather than a mere
adoption of predefined rules. Our country needs bold reforms and focused
implementation with clear targets for learning outcomes to achieve this
Our emerging market peers — China, Brazil and Poland,
among others — have made education reform a priority as they recognise
it as the surest path to sustained economic development. In the run-up
to elections we circulated a letter signed by leading citizens — Cyrus
Mistry, Kumar Birla, Anand Mahindra, Gurcharan Das and 30 others — that
highlighted the need for prioritising education in the policy agenda and
suggested reforms. The future of 240 million children is at stake, and
as concerned citizens we urge your attention to these bold steps that
can truly improve their lives.
is a Rajya Sabha MP and Chairperson, Thermax; Ashish Dhawan is Founder
of Ashoka University; Amit Chandra is Board Member of Akanksha