By Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, India
There isn't a single developed country which does not have its citizens well educated. Providing good education to all citizens is necessary if India wishes to be counted as a developed nation.
It is easy to talk about development. However, it entails painstaking efforts to actually make it happen. Massive improvements have taken place in education sector in Delhi in the last three years. When we took over, government schools were in very bad state. Toilets were non-functional. Many schools did not have proper drinking water facilities. Furniture was broken. Blackboards were shabby. There was no cleanliness. Buildings were dilapidated. Many classes had more than 100 students each. In short, government schools had a very gloomy atmosphere.
As soon as we took over, we doubled the expenditure on education from Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore. We first tackled infrastructural deficiencies. Four areas were addressed on a war footing - cleanliness, security, toilets and drinking water.
Simultaneously, we ordered construction of 8,000 new classrooms in existing schools (another 10,000 rooms have been ordered this year). Blackboards in many schools were replaced with swanky green or whiteboards. Furniture was replaced on a massive scale. All schools were painted.
Shabby buildings were either repaired or new buildings made by razing them. All these steps together created a congenial environment in schools, where students felt like learning and teachers felt like teaching.
Tackling infrastructure was easy. It only needed political will and money. The more complex question was - how do you uplift the morale of the 55,000 strong workforce of teachers, principals, officials and staff? This is where education minister Manish Sisodia and his adviser Atishi Marlena played a critical role.
They won staff confidence by constantly engaging with them, listening to them, sympathising with their problems and often solving them. Teachers and principals were made to feel important and respected. Principals were sent abroad to Cambridge and Harvard universities for training. For the first time in India, principals of government schools were being sent abroad for training. Teachers were sent to IIMs for training. They came back with great energy and enthusiasm.
It's been just over three years. The results are quite encouraging so far. Not just the physical environment of the schools has improved, exam results have also shown improvement. Class XII board results of government schools in Delhi have been better than of private schools for the last two consecutive years, again a first in India. More than 600 students from government schools have qualified JEE exam in the last two years.
Parent teacher meetings changed views of many teachers, who earlier used to think poor people were not interested in their children's education
Another critical initiative was taken. Parents were made active participants in school affairs. For the first time, parent-teacher meetings (PTMs) were organised in all government schools in 2016. Many parents met the teachers for the first time. PTMs changed the views of many teachers also, who earlier used to think poor people were not interested in their children's education. PTMs are now a regular feature.
School Management Committees (SMCs) have also been formed in all schools. An SMC consists of Principal, some teachers and a few parents. Parent members are elected by the general body of parents of all students of that school. SMCs have been given powers and some finances. This experiment has been tried for the first time in the country with great success.
We believe in co-existence of both private and government schools. As long as private schools follow the laws, government does not interfere in their functioning. There were complaints of extortionist fee hikes by some private schools. Those schools, which are on government land, were not allowed to increase their fee without a government audit.
As a result, only 25 schools have been allowed to increase upto 10% fees in the last three years. Almost 600 schools have been ordered to refund excess fees charged. Again, it is for the first time in India that private schools actually refunded excess fee.
As per Delhi education model, education is free upto 12th class. For higher education after 12th class, the government has set up a trust to provide loans upto Rs 10 lakh. Economically weak students and those students who wish to fund their own college education can avail of this loan.
It is very easy to get this loan. You don't need to give any collateral. The government acts as a guarantor. The student repays it in 15 years in easy instalments. Repayment starts one year after completion of graduation.
For those students who wish to take up a job immediately after 12th class, skill centres are being set up in collaboration with the Singapore government. These centres offer one-year vocational courses. The first skill centre set up three years ago is doing extremely well, with 100% placements in all three years. The government is planning to open many such skill centres all across Delhi.
Our kids are our biggest assets. They are the future of our country. If we provide them good education, no one can stop India from becoming a developed country.