Restructuring the public school system

The state governments should act as facilitators to the process of school rationalization. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

The state governments should act as facilitators to the process of school rationalization. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Indian public schools are seeing a systemic decline in enrolment, resulting in the massive growth of small and tiny government schools. According to a recent article by economist Geeta Kingdon, 419,000 (40%) of government schools had total enrolment less than 50, and 108,000 schools (10.3%) were “tiny” schools with enrolment of less than 20. Although the Indian public school system has addressed the problem of access, it has failed to withstand competition from private schools. These failures of the public school system call for an overhaul of the structure of schooling in India, especially at a time when the new education policy (NEP) is being drafted by the Kasturirangan committee.

Physical access to neighbourhood schools is now a reality, with 96% of the villages having an elementary school within a radius of 3km. However, physical access does not ensure adequate learning. Ten years of annual survey of education report (Aser) surveys and national achievement surveys by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) have revealed a nationwide learning crisis. The first to exit dysfunctional public schools are those from better socio-economic classes, and the disadvantaged suffer. Studies have revealed that students drop out mainly because schools are not attractive physically and pedagogically. Better learning outcomes need functional schools—not just mere physical access.

The right to education (RTE) Act has defined norms for providing functional access such as pupil-teacher ratio, teacher qualification and infrastructure facilities such as availability of toilets, drinking water, library and playgrounds. However, in addition, we need enough teachers and staff per school, subject teachers in the higher grades, and pedagogical support for the teaching-learning process to make the schools functional.

The complex school organization structure across different levels, such as primary, upper primary and secondary schools, and multiple managements (within government and private) break the continuity in schooling, leading to higher dropout rates. There is no need to have separate primary-only schools when the constitutional mandate is completion of primary and upper-primary classes up to class VIII. With universalization of secondary education on the table, schools from primary to secondary should be integrated and secondary education should integrate vocational education to provide gainful employment.

Composite schools can be created through vertical integration across levels and a consolidation of neighbourhood schools to increase school size, ensure better rationalization of teachers and avoid multi-grade teaching. Consolidation brings efficiency, provides better facilities, trained teachers, more comprehensive curriculum, broader extracurricular activities and diverse social experience.

Many states such, as Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra, have attempted to consolidate the schools (under names such as school rationalization, mainstreaming, amalgamation and integration) at the primary and upper-primary levels. Rajasthan has undertaken school mergers on the largest scale. About 17,000 schools were ordered to be merged, out of which 12,944 primary and 1,728 upper-primary ones had been merged as of 2016. However, these attempts have been made without adequate study of the need for consolidation and its impact on children in local communities.

School location decisions have to consider the optimal match of schooling demand with supply in the neighbourhood without compromising functional access. The following guiding principles could be followed for consolidation and restructuring: 1. Create before you destroy—construct a functional school infrastructure and appoint teachers in the consolidated school prior to shutting down schools; 2. No child left behind—school consolidation should not result in denial of access to any child; all possible transportation options should be explored, in case consolidation leads to difficulty in physical access; 3. Consult before consolidation—consolidation must be done with the consent of the community through consultations, and the alternative must include consensus on school location, transportation, etc.; 4. Vertical integration—school consolidation should ensure vertical integration across different levels.

Current norms for neighbourhood limits for schools are at different levels: primary schools within 1km, upper-primary schools within 3km and secondary schools within 5km. A common norm for all levels of schooling, with adequate flexibility to suit local conditions, could ensure vertical integration. Administratively, this requires the merger of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) at the Centre (which the ministry of human resource development is contemplating), and primary and secondary education bodies under the departments of education in states.

The Central and state governments should act as facilitators for consolidation and desist from taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Consolidation should be a local exercise—best decided by local authorities. The state governments should act as facilitators to the process of school rationalization by providing technical and financial support and capacity-building of local authorities.


CBSE has no role in deciding eligibility criteria for NEET

The CBSE clarification came following several complaints about barring open school candidates and those with biology as an additional subject in Class 12 from appearing for NEET. Photo: Mint

The CBSE clarification came following several complaints about barring open school candidates and those with biology as an additional subject in Class 12 from appearing for NEET. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: The CBSE has clarified that it has no role in deciding eligibility criteria for medical entrance exam, NEET, and grievances, if any, should be submitted to the Medical Council of India (MCI).

The clarification came following several complaints received by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) about barring open school candidates and those with biology as an additional subject in Class 12 from appearing for the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET).

“The responsibility of CBSE is limited to holding the NEET (UG) examination, based on the eligibility criteria provided by MCI. CBSE has no role to play in deciding the eligibility conditions,” the board said in an advisory.

Students who have pursued schooling through National Institute of Open Learning (NIOS)/ State Open School or those who studied biology or biotechnology as an additional subject in Class 12 are ineligible to appear in NEET.

“Therefore, all the grievances received by CBSE on these issues are disposed of. Candidates are requested to kindly read the information bulletin and FAQs hosted on NEET website before sending grievance to the board in any form,” it added.

This year, NEET will be held on 6 May. Online application process began on 8 February and 9 March is the last date to register. The last date for successful payment of fee online is 10 March till 11.50pm.


Aadhaar not mandatory for any national entrance exam, for now

The Supreme Court has directed the CBSE to upload the information regarding Aadhaar number on their website. Photo: HT

The Supreme Court has directed the CBSE to upload the information regarding Aadhaar number on their website. Photo: HT

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said unique identification number Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for any national entrance examination for now.

The interim order was passed by a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra in a challenge to making the 12-digit number mandatory for National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2018 for admission to medical courses.

The court said other forms of identification such as voter ID, passport or ration card can be used to register for or appear in the coming NEET. The last date to submit applications for NEET conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is 9 March.

This means even a candidate who has Aadhaar is not required to produce it for appearing in national entrance tests like NEET.

Apart from sparing NEET candidates from mandatorily furnishing Aadhaar, the interim order also prohibits CBSE, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) from making the unique number mandatory for examinations like Joint Entrance Exam (JEE-Main) and National Eligibility Test (NET) and the Common Admission Test held by Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs).

The court also directed the centre to inform CBSE to follow the order and upload it on its website so that students are better informed. Currently, CBSE is the test delivery partner for most national entrance tests, including JEE-Main, NEET, UGC-NET and Central Teacher Eligibility Test.

Earlier this year, CBSE had issued notifications making Aadhaar must for appearing in several national entrance tests.

“The use of Aadhaar for applicants of UGC-NET(July) 2018 will result in accuracy of applicants’ details. This will also help ascertain identities of applicants at the examination centres in a convenient and hassle-free manner,” CBSE had said in one of its notifications dated 23 February, justifying the use of Aadhaar.

However, attorney general K.K. Venugopal told the court that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has not authorized CBSE to make Aadhaar mandatory for students to enrol for NEET.

A Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Misra and justices D.Y. Chandrachud, A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan is hearing the case against the Constitutional validity of Aadhaar.

The order was passed on an appeal by one Abidali Yusufbhai Patel, who had specifically challenged Aadhaar being made must for filling up NEET enrolment forms. The matter was mentioned in the morning and was taken up for hearing in the afternoon, along with the main challenge to Aadhaar that is being heard by the Constitution bench.

Patel had challenged a 27 February order passed by the Gujarat high court, which refused to grant interim relief to students seeking exemption from submitting Aadhaar while appearing for JEE(Main), 2018 (JEE) and NEET.

During the course of arguments, a challenge to Aadhaar being passed as a money bill was raised by lawyer and former finance minister P. Chidambaram, who carved out the distinction between a money and financial bill. Chidambaram is one of the lawyers representing the petitioners.

“A money bill cannot be introduced in Rajya Sabha. In this case, Rajya Sabha becomes only a recommending house. They have no legislative power but only recommendative power,” Chidambaram told the court.

A batch of petitions have been tagged by the Supreme Court to be heard by the Constitution bench. They challenge several aspects of Aadhaar, the 12-digit unique identity number that has become a bedrock of government welfare programmes, the tax administration network and online financial transactions, and the use/sharing of personal data collected by the UIDAI.

There are more than 1.2 billion Aadhaar holders in the country.


46% of marketers aren’t sharing regular customer insights with sales

Almost half (46%) of marketers only share customer insights, data and feedback with sales teams at most once a month, according to a new study.

New research from experience management company Qualtrics, conducted with 260 in-house marketing professionals, examines the extent to which marketers are working in a silo across many businesses. While integration with sales is lacking, the disconnect with other departments and teams is even more pronounced.

While 54% of marketers regularly share customer insights and feedback with sales, only 50% do so with customer service teams, 29% with the wider workforce, and 27% with the board or C-level executives.

While some marketers may question the need to keep the wider business in touch with customer insights, according to Qualtrics it is only by sharing data that businesses can develop truly effective customer experiences. Leonie Brown, Customer Experience Consultant for Qualtrics EMEA, explains: “Great customer experiences cannot exist in a vacuum. Brands must guarantee that every aspect of the customer journey is delivering a consistent, seamless and high quality experience. To achieve this, everyone involved – from sales staff to delivery drivers to the CEO – must understand how the customer thinks, behaves and what they are looking for.

“Access to data goes a long way to improve each interaction along the customer journey, but information alone isn’t enough. Today the vast amount of data that brands are using look only to the past for insights, reflecting previous shopping habits, purchases and behaviours. By bringing together insights from every customer touchpoint we can unlock “Experience Data” — or X-data — which reveals why consumers behave in the way they do and predicts their next move. That is the real secret to a successful customer experience.”

To find out more about the role of X data in customer experience management, download Qualtrics’ full report here.


Qualtrics commissioned a survey with a panel of 260 marketing professionals in July 2017. All respondents worked in-house (rather than agency-side) in UK-based organisations employing at least 50 people and had a minimum of two years’ experience in a marketing role. A second survey of 250 consumers was conducted in August 2017 using the Qualtrics platform.