It was expected that well-educated politicians will be instrumental in improving governance and outcomes of public policy. This belief stems from the fact that education equips an individual with necessary tools and skill-sets that are vital towards performing the critical job of representing the people.
There are many examples in India where educated ministers and Members of Parliament have made a significant impact and performed exceedingly well in their domains.
Just a few months back, Public Policy Research Centre — a New Delhi-based policy think-tank came out with its reports on different manifestos released by various political parties across state and national elections.
Their report for Delhi, titled “A Tale of Betrayal” exposes the failure of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a political movement and of Arvind Kejriwal. The report highlights that the AAP had made 70 promises in the run-up to Delhi Assembly elections and four years later, it has failed to deliver on as many as 67 of 70 such promises.
This figure reflects the colossal failure of Kejriwal and how he squandered away his historic mandate of 67 seats — the irony or the coincidence is self-evident.
Perhaps, it is his failure to actually deliver governance which is responsible for the sinking fortunes of his new party, not just in New Delhi but also in the state of Punjab.
In fact, their miserable performance in Punjab’s state elections and Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections are a testament of the sharp decline in the faith of people on Kejriwal and his political outfit.
Education, AAP And Its Candidate, Atishi Marlena
Education remains to be an area where the AAP till date claims to have gotten a major success compared to any state government across the country. We will begin with appreciating one truly important initiative of parent teacher meetings that AAP introduced in Delhi government schools.
However, one must understand that AAP’s performance in the education department as per their metric is misleading in many ways.
The purpose of any reform must be driven towards an outcome, and for the specific case of education, it must be an improvement in the education outcomes.
Delhi government’s focus has been on the school education system in the state in terms of its advertisement and success story. We must also state, that the AAP had promised to build new colleges in New Delhi but little progress has been made in that area while it decided to curtail funding to certain colleges in Delhi University.
Therefore, even in the area of education, AAP seems to have done little in improving college education or in building adequate capacity for students to attain higher education.
The little success of Delhi’s education system is often cited at the schooling level. Upon close investigation, we found that less than one third of Delhi government’s schools offer science stream. In general, science streams witness a higher percentage of students failing their Class X and Class XII exams.
The critical question is, why after four years of being in power, Delhi government has failed to ensure that students are given a choice to pick up streams of their choice? Is it just to ensure a higher pass percentage to claim that Delhi’s education reforms have been a success?
It is ethically corrupt to deprive children of a subject of their choice just because they are from a weaker economic class.
In fact, Delhi government’s interference with the schooling system has done more damage than any good. Centre for Civil Society, a New Delhi-based think-tank, has revealed that Right to Education has led to a closure of low-budget schools including in Delhi.
This is problematic as for the poor people, they have a choice to either send their kids to government schools or such private low-budget schools and when low-budget schools shut down, then effectively the poor have only government schools as a choice.
The relatively uneven distribution of streams across schools is a major problem when there are no low-budget alternatives available to government schools as this forces the students to pick subjects that the government offers in a school near his/her location.
Interestingly, by her own self-admission, the adviser to Delhi’s Education Minister, Atishi Marlena has said that “not enough kids have been scoring high enough to be given the science stream in schools”.
Therefore, even while Delhi’s government is claiming to have improved the pass percentage, it admits that students have not been scoring.
Let us explain this point further — to pass in Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) you need at least 33 per cent of marks. Delhi government’s pass percentage calculates the number of people who have scored more than 33 per cent and passed all their exams irrespective of whether they got 34 marks or 50 marks or even 80 marks in these examinations.
What would be an interesting exercise (and a more insightful one) is to calculate the mean marks of those who passed the exams and studied at private and Delhi government schools. It would be apparent that despite the marginally lower pass percentage, for those students who do pass in board exams, they tend to score higher if they are from a private school than from a government school.
Unfortunately, Marlena in her capacity as an adviser to the education department and AAP as a government have failed to initiate any reforms to improving learning abilities in Delhi’s schools. The sad reality of Delhi’s education system would become more apparent once PISA scores become available.
As far as pass percentages are concerned, we took a look at Delhi Economic Survey, 2018-19 and looked at the official statistics as mentioned by the government of Delhi.
The data for pass percentage of secondary grade students reveal the sad story.
In 2014, at least 98.8 per cent of students passed the secondary level, however, this reduced to 95.8 per cent in the subsequent year. The pass percentage was at 92.4 per cent in 2017 but in the year 2018 it was at a low of 68.9 per cent.
Therefore, even if we look at pass percentage as a metric to judge the performance of AAP, the results suggest that there has been a significant reduction in the pass percentage of students of schools run by the Delhi government.
This reduction implies a direct fall in the number of students who would be promoted at the senior secondary level.
Consequentially, when only few good students appear for Class XII examinations, the pass percentage is likely to be higher.
Let us state it in clear terms, we believe in promotion of students to the next grade only if they are eligible and thus, students who do not get the passing marks at the secondary level, must not be promoted further.
Marlena and Delhi’s Education Minister cite pass percentage of Class XII students as a big success of their ‘reforms’ but in reality, this number is likely to have gone up only because more students are being withheld at the secondary level — and the fact that pass percentage at the secondary level has seen such a drastic decline is evidence of the fragility of Delhi government’s education reforms.
Using the same report, we highlight another variable that will suggest how Delhi governments are performing below the national average in terms of subject wise proficiency.
Subject-wise share (in percentage) of correct responses of Students in government-run and government-aided schools in Delhi:
Across all subjects, Delhi lags behind the national average, and this should be a major cause of concern for AAP which claims to have revolutionised public education system in Delhi.
Reality is that the government has witnessed if not presided over the systematic decline of public education system even as it claims it to be a success.
In many ways, school vouchers are the need of the hour as India’s experience with public schools has exposed the limited state capacity and the inability of governments to effectively provision such a public good at the scale that it requires.
However, we must state that as far as our opinion is concerned, Delhi’s government has initiated no reforms in the education arena. What it has done is simply increase the allocation to education as a percentage of its budget and that does not constitute as a reform.
The important question worth asking is, if they have indeed increased allocation towards the education sector then why isn’t it showing any results?
The answer to the limited impact of the increase in allocation to the education sector on education outcome is misplaced priorities. Just like the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government believed in establishing ‘rights’ for everything, the Delhi government too believes that allocating a proportion of funds to a sector can resolve the problems that citizens face.
India’s experience has shown (as anticipated by many) that such an approach doesn’t work; what is essentially required in these sectors are disruptive yet structural reforms. (Education vouchers too is one such disruptive reform that can resolve these issues. You can read more about it here and here.)
A bulk of the increased outlay has gone towards expansion of infrastructure in handful of schools in Delhi.
Consequently, select-few schools and students around these schools have benefited from this increase in outlay at the expense of thousands of other schools.
Even in these schools, mere upgradation of infrastructure has taken place. It is obvious that building a classroom will not improve education outcomes — a classroom is a necessary condition, but it is not a sufficient condition and this statement sums up the problem in Delhi’s education system.
While upgradation of infrastructure is important it is also important to have adequate number of teachers to teach students. It is surprising that for a government that claims to focus so much on teachers, the number of total teachers in Delhi decreased from 148,271 in 2016-17 to 147,243 teachers in 2017-18.
There are reports that suggest that Delhi government schools are now operating with only 57 per cent regular teachers while rest of the responsibility is with guest teachers.
The Delhi government conveniently shifts the blame on regularisation of teachers to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) while fact remains that previous Delhi governments have worked effectively with many LGs and resolved such deadlocks proactively.
The inability of AAP to do the same reflects either a lack of interest to have the issue resolved or their incompetence in terms of delivering governance.
Another trend that is becoming visible in Delhi is to do with dropouts and the data for dropouts in Delhi government schools further paints a very bleak picture of the education system in the national capital.
A recent survey showed that 30 per cent of students in the age group of six-14 (in the sample) have either dropped out or were never enrolled in schools. Praja’s report also showed a fall of 7 per cent in enrolment rates for municipal and Delhi government schools in the year 2016 compared to 2015.
It is evident that all is not well in Delhi’s education system as it witnesses a systematic decrease in pass percentages at the secondary level, subject proficiency is lower than the national average, there is an acute shortage of teachers and there has been a dip in enrolment rates.
All these factors conclusively demonstrate that AAP’s claims of reforming Delhi’s education system are not true and a major reason behind this is their quick fix approach of spending on infrastructure and posting images on Twitter to claim how the sector has been transformed.
It is this colossal failure combined with the reluctance to acknowledge it along with the propaganda of their achievements that disillusioned the voters of Delhi during MCD elections. One wonders whether some of these factors could be at play during the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections.
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