Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai)

In government schools, focus on quality

The enrolment battle is over. Invest in teacher training and learning quality


Arecent analysis of the education expenditur­es of eight states by the Centre for Policy Research’s Accountabi­lity Initiative showed that while their elementary and secondary school expenditur­e (per student) increased in 2017-18, as compared to 2014-15, enrolment in government schools fell during the same period. The eight states are Bihar, Maharashtr­a, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Himachal Pradesh. The reasons for falling enrolment include poor quality of learning; teacher vacancies and absenteeis­m; weak infrastruc­ture; and low transition rates to secondary level.

A look at the distributi­on of the expenditur­e suggests that it has been geared towards providing incentives to students, infrastruc­ture, and salaries to teachers. While this made sense when the goal was on better hard- and soft-infrastruc­ture, the focus now should be on learning quality — students are moving out because the State schools are failing to address that key issue. This is not surprising because while teacher salaries constitute a large share of the expenditur­e, the investment in their training is low (less than or equal to one per cent in most states).

The pandemic has now made the learning challenge more complicate­d. To ensure that students regain the lost ground, states must invest in pedagogica­l and technologi­cal tools; assess student needs and equip them with foundation­al skills; engage with parents and the community; and establish a continuum of learning opportunit­ies because there could be closures in future too. To do these, teachers will be critical; investing in their developmen­t will fast track the learning recovery process.

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