On Friday, the Prime Minister launched the Shiksha Ka Haq Abhiyan — a yearlong nationwide campaign for promoting the Right to Education (RTE). As these efforts gain ground, the country faces one important choice: should elementary education be delivered through the current model, which focuses on the expansion of schooling through a top-down, centralised delivery system? Or should we use the RTE as an opportunity to fundamentally alter the current system, to create a bottom-up delivery model which builds on an understanding of children’s learning needs, and which privileges innovation and accountability for learning, rather than schooling?
Lets’ first understand the current system. For decades, India’s education goal has been to create a universal elementary education system by expanding schooling through inputs: building schools, hiring teachers, and enrolling children in these schools. Substantial finances have been provided to create these inputs: in 2008-09 the country spent Rs 6,314 per child (this is a low estimate, as available data is yet to take into account post-RTE budget hikes). Most of this money has gone toward creating a large education bureaucracy controlled and managed by the state and central government.