Issue # 311 | 20 January 2015









The Two Tracks of School Reform


For two decades now, education reformers have promoted a two-track strategy for improving our schools. The first track is standards-based: Set clear, high expectations in core academic subjects; test students regularly to see which schools and students are clearing the bar; and hold schools (and perhaps also educators and pupils) to account for the results. The second reform track is school choice: Allow parents to select among a wide array of education providers, encouraging innovation along the way. We have argued for years that these two tracks are interdependent — even codependent. Let us explain:



School choice and accountability: putting parents in charge

Education is too important to be delivered without scrutiny. Parents, the government, further and higher education institutions and employers all have a right to know how pupils and schools are performing. There is good evidence to suggest that the accountability system boosts school and pupil performance; another reason why external stakeholders are so supportive of its existence. No one wants to return to the situation that pertained in England until the 1980s where only teachers knew – and were deemed to have a right to know – what went on in the classroom.







Rising Tide



The most scathing critique of voucher programs and charter schools is that they may bleed traditional public schools of their best students and most active parents, leaving the children who are left behind even worse off. Moreover, as the students leave, taking their per-pupil funding with them, the public schools will find themselves stripped of the human and monetary resources necessary to answer the call of competition. “Skimming,” the term of art for this hypothetical phenomenon, may lower overall achievement, as the downward spiral of the public schools swamps any gains made by the students who take advantage of school choice.


To improve schools, let teachers run them



Walk through a typical public school, and you see students, sitting in rows of identical desks, listening to teachers talk. Unless the teacher is particularly inspiring, half of the students are zoning out. This isn’t just a problem for teachers, half of whom leave the profession within their first five years. It’s also a problem for their pupils: Disengaged teenagers do not make the best students. Now imagine if students were instead encouraged to work on projects they chose: building robots, writing plays, researching why bees are dying off by the millions.


The poor are voting with their feet for private schools



The problem with public schools, one is often told, is the lack of sufficient administrative supervision required to bring accountability to the system. Funds to aid learning are often misappropriated, children’s learning outcome is abysmally poor, and teachers that sleep and make merry in their classes are far too common in Indian public schools. It is not as if researchers on education do not recognize these problems, but the solutions they offer are often simply wrongheaded. With the release of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 last week, the chorus to improve teaching standards and accountability in public schools has once again begun.




Regulatory Structure of Higher Education in India


This report analyses the current regulatory framework of higher education in India and highlights areas that require important policy reforms in order to encourage greater private participation. This participation would eventually lead to a more competitive environment in the higher education sector and foster growth, which is needed to achieve the target of 10% increase in Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) set by the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP). India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world, primarily dominated by private players who account for 60% of the total institutes and 64% of total enrolment of students. The higher education sector in India has a three-tier structure comprising the university, college and course. This forms a vital link with the regulatory structure, and with accreditation agencies playing the key role in maintaining quality and standards in this sector.


RTE 2.0


With the objective of shifting regulatory focus towards some of the above issues, Centre for Civil Society brought together some of India’s eminent educationists and thought leaders to identify specific amendments to the RTE Act, which would ensure quality education for all in India. Key concerns regarding the structure and impact of the RTE were discussed, and based on this, recommendations for amendments to the RTE Act 2009 have been drafted. RTE 2.0: Building Consensus on Amendments truly aimed at weeding out the pain areas in the existing scheme of things, finding out what works and what doesn’t, and introducing actual amendments to the text of the Act.


Social Audit Framework for the Education Sector

Vrinda Pareek

The paper seeks to define social audit, following which it will undertake a study of certain provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE) so as to identify the social audit requirements of the Act. In order to do so, a study of previously employed social audit models/ frameworks across the livelihood sector will be conducted by studying the social audit of the MNREGA scheme. Case studies of education sector social audit models across Bhutan and Brazil will follow the cross-sectoral analysis. All parameters so derived will then be further built upon by a ground-level study of the stakeholders- primarily students, parents and teachers- and their expectations of the education system. The final product of the paper will be a comprehensive set of parameters for social audit in the education sector, derived cumulatively from the aforementioned methods.



Brought to you by School Choice Campaign and The RTE Platform

Centre for Civil Society | A 69, Hauz Khas, New Delhi 110016 IN



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