How The School Education Quality Index, A Tool Developed By NITI Aayog, Can Help Transform Education In India
The School Education Quality Index helps policymakers sift the grain from the chaff and going forward, through its provision of a focused lens for reform, SEQI will bolster the architecture of a new India.
The recent launch of NITI Aayog’s School Education Quality Index (SEQI) comes at a very pertinent time. For India, it earmarks a fundamental shift in the lens through which the school education sector is viewed.
The release of the World Development Report in 2018 opened a Pandora’s Box of discussions centred around a global learning crisis plaguing education systems. It estimated that an astounding 12.5 crore students across the world are not attaining basic foundational skills despite spending at least four years in school.
While, in some African countries, only one in four children can comprehend a simple sentence; here in India, estimates from a rural survey reveal that only half of the children in Class V can read a Class II level text.
Cumulatively, in the long run, this learning crisis could translate to more than 56 per cent of the world’s children functioning at less than half of their productivity.
From millennium development to sustainable development, the government of India is taking critical steps to change this narrative, moving beyond universalising primary education to delivering quality education.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development launched the Samagra Shiksha in 2018-19 to holistically integrate the sector and improve school effectiveness. India recently announced our participation in the programme for international assessment (PISA) 2021.
The national curriculum framework is likely to be revised by 2020 to ensure the syllabus is well-equipped to deliver relevant competency-based learning.
As a precursor to the final new education policy 2019, SEQI lays the foundation towards reform — a credible assessment of the success of our schools across 35 states and Union territories in the country.
SEQI, thus performs one of the most important roles in India’s journey towards transforming education — it measures the fruition of policy efforts towards addressing the learning crisis.
One of the largest education ecosystems in the world, today, India has about 25 crore students and 92.5 lakh teachers across 15.5 lakh schools in the country.
An analysis of simple averages would render that each school in the country has nearly 160 students, 27 teachers, and a pupil: teacher ratio (PTR) of 6:1. [To put things in perspective, the Right to Education Act (RTE), 2009 lays down a PTR of 30:1 for primary schools].
This impressive statistic, however, fails to provide any insight into the complexity and diversity of the ed-landscape throughout the country.
A panoramic view provides a gist of the broad spectrum that exists. The five states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and West Bengal account for almost half the number of schools in the country.
While the proportion of students and teachers in Jharkhand in the total national share is equal at around 3 per cent, Bihar accounts for 10 per cent of India’s total student population despite having only 5.5 per cent of the nation’s schools. Pan-India, 1.5 lakh schools have a PTR exceeding 50.
The Indian school education ecosystem also holds pride in consisting one of the richest databases in the world.
However, this is a double-edged sword that makes data-mining a complicated and challenging process.
As a compilation across data sources, the school education quality index helps navigate this vast maze of information. It provides a comprehensive analysis through a sagacious selection of 30 critical indicators spanning learning outcomes, access, equity, infrastructure and governance processes, encompassing the diverse and complex ecosystem.
The index, a first-of-its-kind initiative at the national level, serves as a yardstick for states and Union territories to measure their relative standing as well as progress over time.
The targeted focus of the index on quality education provides directional inputs and serves as the crux for evidence-based policy-making.
Through a granular indicator-wise analysis of performance, it acts as a useful tool for states and Union territories to identify their strengths and weaknesses, propelling them towards undertaking essential policy action.
Further, the fair comparative analysis with other similar-sized regional administrations will facilitate inter-state learning while promoting a spirit of competitive federalism.
While the rankings of states have captured headlines recently, the biggest takeaway from SEQI is the dispelling of a one-size-fits-all approach to education policy.
The top-performing states are harnessing their own unique strengths to metamorphose their education systems.
Among the large states, Karnataka is weaving its success through its exceptional performance in learning outcomes; Tamil Nadu, through universalising access; Haryana, through high-end infrastructure; Rajasthan, through equitable educational opportunities; and Kerala through strong governance processes.
A closer analysis into small states reveals that Manipur is steering its transformation through high learning outcomes whereas Mizoram is a lighthouse for governance reform.
While Chandigarh is charting its path ahead through strong learning scores, Delhi’s success in equity indicators could serve as a template to facilitate cross learning. The index refrains from offering prescriptions and strongly believes in the autonomy, ability and need for respective states/Union territories to tailor-make their own development roadmaps, in tune to their diverse contexts.
The SEQI brings a sense of optimism that rejuvenates the discussions on the pandemic of poor schooling. The fruits of the government’s endeavours are being witnessed in positive progress that 30 out of 35 states/Union territories have made in just one year between the base and reference period.
The index helps policymakers sift the grain from the chaff and going forward, through its provision of a focused lens for reform, SEQI will bolster the architecture of a new India.
The anecdote in the Indian education sector has now shifted from ‘schooling for all’ to ‘learning for all’.
As we commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of the father of our nation and as the country stands at the brink of a new educational policy, SEQI will steer the nation forward towards realising Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a “real education that draws out the best from the boys and girls to be educated”.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.
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