The Delhi model of education

GS Paper II

Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.

Mains: Ways to improve education in India

What’s the News?

In the last five years, the Delhi model of education has caught the attention of people in Delhi and beyond.

Background:

  • For too long, there have been two kinds of education models in the country: one for the classes and another for the masses.
  • The AAP government in Delhi sought to bridge this gap. Its approach stems from the belief that quality education is a necessity, not a luxury.
  • Hence, it built a model which essentially has five major components and is supported by nearly 25% of the State Budget.
  • The validation of this model now creates a pathway for the next set of reforms.

Key components of the model:

  • Transformation of school infrastructure:
  • Dilapidated school buildings that lack basic facilities not only indicate the apathy of the government, but also significantly lower the motivation of teachers and the enthusiasm of students.
  • The AAP government sought to change this by building new, aesthetically designed classrooms equipped with furniture, smart boards, staff rooms, auditoriums, laboratories, libraries, sports facilities and so on.
  • Training of teachers and principals:
  • A forum was created to encourage peer learning among them, several opportunities were given to teachers for their professional growth.
  • They visited Cambridge University; the National Institute of Education, Singapore; IIM Ahmedabad; and other models of excellence in India.
  • The exposure to new pedagogy and leadership training enabled Delhi to gradually move away from a uniform training model for all to learning from the best practices in India and abroad.
  • Engaging with the community by reconstituting school management committees (SMC):
  • The annual budget of each SMC is ₹5-7 lakh. The SMCs can spend this money on any material or activity, such as even hiring teachers on a short-term basis.
  • Regular dialogue between teachers and parents was initiated through mega parent-teacher meetings.
  • Guidelines are provided on how to engage with parents. Invitations for meetings are sent through FM radio, newspaper advertisements, etc.
  • Major curricular reforms in teaching learning:
  • Special initiatives to ensure that all children learn to read, write and do basic mathematics was launched and made part of regular teaching learning activities in schools.
  • A ‘happiness curriculum’ was introduced for all children between nursery and Class 8 for their emotional well-being.
  • An ‘entrepreneurship mindset curriculum’ was introduced to develop the problem-solving and critical thinking abilities of children in Classes 9 to 12.
  • No fee increase in private schools:
  • In the past, almost all the schools increased their fee 8-15% annually.
  • The AAP government not only ensured the refund of about ₹32 crore to parents which was excessively charged by private schools, it also ensured that any fee hike proposal was examined by authorised chartered accountants.

Agenda 2.0:

There will be three key areas of reform apart from consolidating the gains of the past.

  1. Focus on Civic values:
  • First, the syllabus of Classes 1 to 8 will be reviewed to emphasise foundational learning skills, the ‘happiness curriculum’ and the ‘deshbhakti’ curriculum.
  • Thus, apart from basic learning, the focus will be to build emotional resilience in children and ensure that they internalise our core constitutional values by the time they complete eight years of schooling.
  • Apart from that, early childhood care and education will be deepened further through Anganwadis. There will also be nurseries in all government schools.
  1. Focus on SOFT-SKILLS:
  • A Delhi Education Board will be set up to promote learning that encourages critical thinking, problem solving and application of knowledge among children.
  • This will prepare them to tackle the challenges of the 21st century with an entrepreneurial mindset.
  • Additionally, for those who have graduated from Delhi schools in the recent past, programmes like spoken English; soft skills and so on will be initiated to raise their employability opportunities.
  1. Focus on Aptitude: Specialised schools will be created in each of the 29 zones of Delhi to nurture the aptitude and talent of children in the areas of science and technology, literature and language, visual and performing arts, and sports.

Conclusion:

  • These efforts need to encourage other state governments to adopt interventions that have been rigorously tested for impact and proven to be cost-effective.
  • We will need to urgently transform our education system to meet the aspirational needs of the new generation, which will ensure that India’s demographic dividend continues to remain its asset.
  • There is a an additional need to have monitoring procedures and processes in our schools so that learning outcomes are regularly assessed and remedial measures can be taken in a timely manner to address shortcomings.

Shun fiscal adventurism

Paper: III

For Mains: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Context of News:

  • Following the slowdown from last one month, in the run-up to the budget, there was enormous pressure on the finance minister to launch a fiscal stimulus so as to pump-prime the economy.
  • However, Finance Minister did not succumb to the temptation is a big relief as any attempt to spend our way out of the growth slump would have been a futile endeavor; worse, it would have triggered deeper problems down the line.

How Fiscal Deficit situation Worsened?

  • There have been a slew of initiatives including demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). Over the medium to long-term, these ideas will play out for sure and get our GDP growth rate back to its historic highs. However, the immediate impact of these changes has disrupted the Indian economy.
  • These bold measures taken by present government has affected the supply of money to small and medium business enterprises. Challenged by the availability of resources, consumption has slowed down and this has had an inevitable impact on job creation.
  • In addition, the IL&FS issue has added to the crisis of confidence. Most NBFCs are being forced to cut credit to consumers even as they grapple with their own asset liability mismatch. Banks, both PSUs and private, are reeling from their own NPA issues from 2013-14 and continue to be extremely conservative, sticking to only high-quality credit.

Problems Associated with Fiscal Stimulus Strategy for Growth Revival:

  • Fiscal pressures can undermine the Reserve Bank of India’s struggle to revive investment by bringing down long-term interest rates. It could result in a sovereign ratings downgrade and jeopardise efforts to attract foreign capital. It can stoke inflationary pressures, something we cannot afford when inflation is above the RBI’s target rate. And most importantly, it can lead to pressures on the external sector.
  • As much as the headline fiscal deficit numbers are a cause for concern, the underlying quality of fiscal consolidation is a bigger concern. Conveniently off the radar, the revenue deficit, far from coming down, is actually going up. This year, more than two-thirds of what the government is borrowing is going to finance current expenditures like salaries, pensions, interest payments and subsidies.
  • Above all concerns, by far the biggest fear about a fiscal stimulus, especially in a vigorous democracy like ours, is that it is tempting to plunge into a spending programme saying it is a one-off and will be withdrawn when the pressure eases. Experience shows that it is very difficult to bail out.

Why Fiscal Stimulus is Good Idea?

  • Debt-to-GDP ratio is low in international terms:
  • The data of Debt to GDP ratio don’t bear this out. In any case, our experience as well as research shows that international comparisons of debt-to-GDP ratios, without reference to other parameters, are misleading. It may be true that, we do not need to worry because our debt is mostly in domestic currency unlike that of many emerging economies. That didn’t protect us from previous crises, and there is no reason to believe that it will protect us from the next one, especially as our foreign debt is proportionally higher than before.
  • Fiscal Stimulus to start Engine:
  • Fiscal Stimulus Strategy is being supported by many economists to at least start the engine of Economy, which is looking rusty at this moment, especially in the backdrop of amicable growth of core industries in last quarter.

Way Forward:

  • It is often forgotten that fiscal policy in India is conducted at two levels. However, the focus tends to be on the Centre, ignoring the fact that the states collectively are now larger fiscal participants than the government of India. Taken collectively, states are a much better bet to nudge the country towards an economic recovery than pinning all hopes on the central government.
  • Transfers and other public expenditure stimuli such as public works would involve substantial increases in revenue expenditure for which fiscal space is clearly available to the states due to the lower committed expenditure burden. There is also space to protect health and education expenditures at the sub-national level, which is the level at which these expenditures are incurred.
  • Government must free up its resources to fund infrastructure. This can be anti-inflationary as better infrastructure typically leads to downward price revisions of real estate and transportation costs as the distance between cities effectively comes down. To increase its spend on infrastructure, the government could look at the following options. Launch a Global Indian Sovereign Bond in foreign currency and push for its inclusion in at least two of the major indices.
  • From a macro-fiscal perspective, a general government view of the fiscal situation gives a bit more clarity about where fiscal space can be located to counter the slowdown. This would, of course, involve coordinated work by the Centre and state governments, which would, in turn, require both levels to rise above competitive politics in the national interest.