A new lesson for allThe mayor of Changu Narayan has adopted measures to improve public school education which offers a sliver of hope.
Bringing the quality of public schools in line with that of private schools has been an enduring problem in the country’s education sector. While we already know the problem at hand, what is more disturbing is that little has been done to reverse the deteriorating state of public school education. While the constitution has given full autonomy to the provincial and local governments to decide their curriculum, how they manage the teachers and when to take exams, the federal government usually tries to curtail that autonomy. But amidst all this, the mayor of Changu Narayan Municipality, in an attempt to uplift the quality of its public schools, has initiated the process to hire fresh graduates as teachers. It is always good to see local governments gearing themselves up for action, and their adopting measures to improve public school education offers a sliver of hope.
The popular romanticisation of private education as the benchmark in school education at the cost of public education has been self-destructive, to say the least. For years, the public education sector has been neglected. Hence, the eroding faith in public education, especially at the lower level. In fact, even the Education Review Report shows a downward trend in the quality of education imparted in public schools. For example, a 2018 survey revealed that the performance of eighth graders in mathematics and science had dropped considerably in 2017 as opposed to that in 2013. Every year, when the SEE results are out, it is usually private school students that outshine students from public schools.
The better outcomes of private schools are also linked to the socio-economic status of the children. But the cost is a disadvantage as most private schools charge exorbitantly. When education is being seen as a consumer good that is a direct function of an individual’s financial capital, it makes education a class issue, too. But it should have never been so. Adequacy and equity are the central tenets to address the growing divide between public and private schools. It goes without saying that it is imperative to improve the quality of public schools to achieve high and equal educational outcomes for all. Simple steps like that taken by the Aam Aadmi Party in India where its members put a sharp focus on improving and maintaining the infrastructure of public schools, improving their accountability and improving the quality of teacher training helped dramatically change the way government-owned schools performed.
The step taken by the mayor of Changu Narayan Municipality is commendable. But he should still strive to hire competent teachers who are bereft of any political affiliations. The state of education in public schools has hardly been warranted the attention it deserves. The local governments in some places seem committed to reverse this trend. Other mayors too should follow suit should they want to change the way public education is being perceived in the country.
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