Focus of PM SHRI schools should be on empowering poor students
Students from convents and private schools continue to rule the roost in competitive exams
No point in doubting the intent of the government at all. One must presume that efforts are afoot at a scorching pace to fill up vacancies in general and all reserved categories. Last June Pradhan had tweeted that all vacant teaching and non-teaching positions in higher education institutes (HEIs), Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) would be filled at the earliest
There were expectations that the Central government would make some exclusive budgetary provision or announce the creation of a dedicated fund for the Pradhan Mantri Schools for Rising India (PM SHRI) in the Union Budget-2023.
PM SHRI will be exemplary schools that will come up over a period of time and emerge as torchbearers for providing high-quality education in an equitable, inclusive and joyful environment. This is irrespective of backgrounds, multilingual needs and different academic abilities of children. The endeavour is to produce children who will be firmly involved in their respective learning process as envisioned by National Education Policy-2020 (NEP-2020).
However, the Union Budget has come as a huge disappointment as far as education sector is concerned. It has been allocated Rs.44,094.62 crore for FY 2023-24, a considerable increase from Rs.40,828.35 crore in the revised estimate for FY 2022-23. The school education budgetary allocation for 2023-24 has been pegged at Rs 68,804.85 crore, which is Rs 9.752. 07 crore higher than the revised estimate for FY 2022-23!
It is also heartening that the Union Government will hire 38,800 teachers and support staff for Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) for tribal students over the next three years. It is a great move, which, if implemented earnestly and in time, will bring about a positive difference to the quality of education in those schools. It should also be the endeavour of the governments – Central and State – to ensure zero vacancy in their schools and universities.
On February 6, Union Minister of State for Education Subhash Sarkar in a written answer in the Lok Sabha said that there are over 58,000 vacancies, including for teaching and non-teaching posts in central government-run schools and universities. Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha had on December 12, 2022, said that over 11,000 faculty positions are vacant in central universities, IITs and IIMs. In 45 Central Universities, a total of 6,180 posts of Professor, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor, out of 18,956 sanctioned posts, are vacant.
Similarly, in Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), a total of 4,502 of 11,170 sanctioned posts are vacant. In Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), 493 of 1,566 faculty posts are vacant. Among the vacant posts in the central universities and IIMs, 961 positions are reserved for SCs, 578 for STs and 1,657 OBC posts.
Dharmendra Pradhan said “The occurrence of vacancies and filling them is a continuous process. Central Universities are autonomous bodies. Their recruitment procedure is formulated by their respective statutory bodies in accordance with their Acts, statutes, rules and UGC regulations.”
No point in doubting the intent of the government at all. One must presume that efforts are afoot at a scorching pace to fill up vacancies in general and all reserved categories. Last June Pradhan had tweeted that all vacant teaching and non-teaching positions in higher education institutes (HEIs), Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) would be filled at the earliest.
“Taking forward PM @narendramodi ji’s decision to recruit 10 lakh people in all govt. departments and ministries in mission-mode, @EduMinOfIndia and @MSDESkillIndia is committed to fill-up all vacancies in their respective departments in the next 1.5 years (sic),” he added.
Meanwhile, PM SHRI, a brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has the potential to be a game changer if implemented on a large scale, despite the fact that the scheme is only from 2022-23 to 2026-27. Thereafter, PM-SHRI shall be the responsibility of States and UTs to continue to maintain the benchmarks achieved by these schools. The total cost of the project has been pegged at Rs 27,360 crore spread over a period of five years, which includes a central share of Rs 18,128 crore.
Just imagine the positive impact on 14,500 schools across the country when students from weaker sections of society get the opportunity to enjoy the best of learning practices. Ill-equipped with adequate knowledge and skills due to poor quality of classroom teaching and academic ecosystem at the school in semi-urban areas, they are not in a position to compete or score over peers from convents and public schools, especially in competitive exams. It is one of the reasons that their share in the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education institutions (HEIs) of repute is minimal. Thanks to the reservation policy, they have their presence in some of the top HEIs but not in proportion to their population, a significant reason for the burgeoning socio-economic disparities in our country.
The spirit of inclusivity is at the core of PM SHRI. Two schools - one elementary and one secondary or senior secondary - would be selected per block or Urban Local Body (ULB). An ideal school – whether in the public or private sector – should be affordable and accessible to all. Unfortunately, we have seriously failed on this count for reasons unknown to the masses. Amid this scene, PM SHRI comes as a ray of hope for all poor students, in particular those from socially and educationally backward communities.
Effectively functional laboratory for students of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, safe and appropriate infrastructure for girls and children with special needs (CWSN), use of mother tongue as the medium of instruction using technological interventions to help bridge language barriers between teachers and students, and strengthening grip over the language of global communication – English – should be the focus of every senior secondary school. Smart classrooms and digital libraries for using digital pedagogy, vocational interventions, enhancing internship and entrepreneurship opportunities, especially with local and regional industry should also be encouraged.
To put it in a nutshell, every school should act as a laboratory that can produce great citizens who play a pivotal role in making a stronger and more inclusive India in Amrit Kaal.
(The writer is a senior journalist, columnist and author. The views expressed are his personal.)