Education is one sector in which the AAP government is trying to make a mark. So much so that education was the main theme at this year’s Delhi tableau at the Republic Day parade. The government highlighted its model schools and the mega parent-teacher meetings (PTMs).
Hindustan Times takes stock of the AAP government’s hits and misses during its two year stint in the field of education and analyses its election promises.
Unable to find land to build 500 “new” schools it promised two years ago, the Delhi government is constructing “new” classrooms in existing schools to increase enrolment.
“We constructed 8,000 new classrooms. One school has about 80 classrooms, so effectively there are 100 new schools. Some new schools have been constructed. In 2014-15 there were 1,007 schools and now we have 1,024,” said Atishi Marlena, advisor to education minister Manish Sisodia.
She said they found 29 plots for new schools and sanctioned another 10,000 classrooms.
Sisodia said the crux of the promise was that more students would have access to quality education. “With the new classrooms, more students will be able to get school education,” said Sisodia.
But the government teachers’ association challenged the claims. General secretary Ajay Veer Yadav said, “Rooms have been constructed but in an unplanned way to increase the number of classrooms. Many schools still run from tin sheds,” he claimed.
Private schools built on DDA land have to seek the government’s nod before hiking annual fees. In the coming academic session, only 5 of 410 private schools that applied for fee hike were allowed to do so. The government decides on a fee hike after auditing schools’ finances.
“Schools built on DDA land cannot hike as per their wishes,” said Marlena.
The principal of a private school said, “The Delhi Education Act says the school managements can hike fees within 10%. Only if they want to hike more, the government’s nod is required.”
The government had sent a group of principals and teachers to Cambridge University and Indian Institutes of Management. “In our first year, we had looked at infrastructure. In the second year we concentrated on teacher training,” said Sisodia.
Of the over Rs 10,000 crore the government allocated for education in the 2016 budget, Rs 102 crore was for training.
But experts had a word of caution. “Teachers need training in our own context. I am not sure if somebody in Cambridge can understand problems specific to our schools and society. It sounds good but will it actually help students?” said Poonam Batra, who teaches at department of education, Delhi University.
Promise of 17,000 new teachers
The government is struggling with hiring of teachers. The Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB) conducted exams to fill 5,000 teaching posts out of which 2,500 joined various schools, said a government official.
Marlena said the government created 9,500 new teaching posts but is yet to induct permanent teachers. “We will hire guest teachers till permanent appointment is done,” she said.
Sisodia said a proposal to make many of the 17,000 odd guest teachers permanent is awaiting the L-G’s approval.
“I have increased the salaries of guest teachers until I can get them made permanent. I cannot hire so many people overnight. It has to be through a legal procedure,” he said.
But guest teachers are not happy. Shoaib Rana, a guest teacher at Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, Jaffrabad, said, “For the last two years government has been fooling us. They know they cannot regularise us, it was a false promise.”
20 new colleges, extended campuses
Not a single new college has been opened as the government later figured out that Delhi University is the only affiliating university in the capital.
So now the government is expanding Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) and other institutes by increasing the number of seats in educational institutes for undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
“We plan to create 17,350 seats for higher education courses (by 2019),” said Marlena.
By 2019, it is expected that the Delhi government will start three new campuses of AUD, at Rohini, Dheerpur and Lodhi Road, in addition to the new campus functioning at Karampura.
It will expand Delhi Technological University’s Rohini campus and open a new campus in East Delhi by next year.
Sisodia said even if one argues that these are just “extended campuses,” it serves the same purpose. “Ultimately people are looking for degrees,” he said.
The government says it has a long way to go but is on the “right track”.
“The initial changes are always slow but now it is gaining momentum. We are openly accepting we have a problem in our school system, which we are trying to fix,” said Marlena.
In the next year, Sisodia said, focus will be on teaching methods, especially in school education. “We will concentrate on creative learning methods, so that learning becomes interesting,” he said.