Comments on AAP's announcement of autonomy to schools

Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, met principals of all public schools in Delhi and made some important announcements/statements. [Link 1] [Link 2]

Key points from the talk
  1. "If we can impart better education then within one generation we can eradicate poverty, unemployment and can develop this city."
  2. There is only one parameter of model school, a government school in which we can send our kids. 
  3. Target is to make Delhi government schools better than private schools in five years.
  4. All school principals to prepare a blueprint to improve their schools.
  5. Principals who can achieve the target will get a hefty amount of double increment as performance allowance each month for a year.
  6. Top 10 performing principals and teachers will be sent to foreign countries for exchange programme and training.
  7. "The government will provide resources, autonomy and powers and in return the principals should ensure a better future for 16 lakh school children of Delhi."
  8. "Health, Education and Anti Corruption are the prime focus areas of our government"
  9. Demonstration of serious commitment to the quality of education, making it the top priority and actually working on it with a timeline in mind.


Attributing accountability: In the status quo - who is responsible/accountable for the education of the child? Teachers? Principals? District level officials? Government? The answer isn't clear. As Bibek Debroy mentions, the situation is same in railways too. Who is responsible for the railway station? Contrary to the belief that it is 'station master', it turns out, it is none! Station master has limited powers. Such systems are ripe for alibis.

In this context, it is good to note that, at least someone identifiable is being made responsible, the principals. Of course, along with the necessary powers, autonomy and resources.

Fixing accountability instead of schemes: I believe, most attempts till date have taken the approach of grand schemes. For the first time, an attempt is being made to approach the problem by trying to fix the core governance issue of fixing accountability.

Yet to improve/get clarity on

The first usual caveat is that, all the above aren't a panacea, much more has to be done, along with this. Having said that, the skeptic (healthy?) in me alerts about the following things. These aren't about the negative effects per se but more about the nuances and improvements.

Intermediate structures: While it is good to have individual principals accountable, it would be great if a community of schools/principals is created; for knowledge sharing, peer support and especially for things which require scale. If principals themselves come together and do this, well and good, but government can take the initiative and facilitate.

Incentive systems: The incentive mechanisms in education are highly complex. In education systems, incentives and accountability are very thin ropes to be walked upon, with a deep valley of perverse incentives and negative effects on both the sides.

This calls for the administration to be extra sensitive about the dynamics of these incentives to be able to capture any undesired consequences and fix them quickly. Reiteration is the word!

Teachers: Not much talk on where teachers stand in this scenario! May be principals should also have powers to reward the teachers appropriately within some given constraints!

Definition of quality: It is tempting to go by standard metrics of pass percentage but that doesn't serve purpose in the long run. It isn't any good criteria, truly speaking. There is a danger of rote learning manifesting in the form of results, making all of us happy, if we go merely by existing assessment systems and pass percentages. Should definitely have the vision of achieving PISA and higher levels and work towards it. It takes time for transition though, which again is a challenge in itself.

Devil in the details of autonomy and resources: Many reports [Link 1Link 2] have demonstrated the criticality of the details when it comes to decentralization and autonomy. The initial marginal benefit of enforcing these policies is very low. The details alone can make or break the system. Long road ahead!

In summary, the widely quoted reason/excuse/hurdle of 'lack of strong political will and commitment' is no more applicable, in case of Delhi. It is time to get the technical aspects of the policy correct.

No comments:

Post a Comment