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Guest Column| Punjab model focuses on quality education

Guest Column| Punjab model focuses on quality education

The setting up of 117 Schools of Eminence in 23 districts of Punjab and the training of teachers in international institutions is a positive step towards providing quality education in the state

Education, a driver of economic development and social change, can usher in tremendous human capital development, as we aim to utilise our demographic dividend for the development of our nation. The foundation needs to be strong.

India’s development strategy has long focused on quantity (increasing literacy rate, reducing dropouts, increasing enrolments etc.), but what is required now is a mandate for improving the quality of education. The New Education Policy shows a direction, but much flesh needs to be added as we implement it.

The school education department in Punjab is working to ensure an inclusive framework for growth. With governments focusing on school education, Punjab schools have set an example. According to RBI data, the state government spending on education in Punjab has continuously increased from 4,339.54 crore in 2010-11 to 15,654.2 crore in 2022-23.

Good governance, school leadership and active community engagement are pillars that have strengthened school education in Punjab. Reforms were initiated in Punjab’s education ecosystem, especially on the management front, in 2017 and continues in the new political regime. The measures reflect an improvement in education indicators. The net enrolment ratio (NER) increased across primary, upper primary, secondary, and higher secondary levels from 2018-19 to 2021-22. Punjab’s literacy rate has risen from 75.84% (2011 Census) to 83.7% (75th Round of NSSO, 2018). Additionally, Class 12 board results of government schools showed an increase of 22.08%, i.e., from 68.9% in 2017-18 to 90.98% in 2021-22.

Impressive performance

Punjab schools have shown impressive performance in the state-wise evaluation of the National Achievement Survey-2021, earning it the top spot. In the education ministry’s performance grading index (PGI), Punjab ranked on top in 2019-20 and 2020-21. The PGI is an index that monitors the progress that states have made in school education about learning outcomes; access and equity; infrastructure and facilities; and governance and management processes.

In 2019-20, Punjab recorded the highest score of 929 (2019-20) out of a possible 1,000, showcasing a jump from 769 in the previous year. The state excelled in equity, infrastructure, and governance and shared the top spot in the domain of access with Kerala. Only in the field of learning outcome and quality, Punjab was not on top of the rankings as it scored 126 out of 180, wherein Rajasthan topped the chart. The 2020-21 PGI score was 928, and Punjab retained the lead with Maharashtra at the same level.

Reforming system

To reform the educational ecosystem, efforts have been underway for years. Nurturing young talent through pre-primary schooling was a welcome initiative of the department in 2017. In 2018, the department of school education notified the sports policy, aiming at the holistic development of students, leading to the development of sports infrastructure in schools. Post-2019, the budgetary allocations have highlighted the emphasis towards developing smart school infrastructure in Punjab and ensuring increased enrolment rates. Building as a learning aid (BaLA Scheme), which aims to develop the school’s physical environment as a learning aid, has gained good response in the state.

Padho Punjab, Padhao Punjab came up as a constructive initiative towards improving learning outcomes across primary, middle and secondary levels. The Punjab Smart Connect Scheme and Smart School Policy fulfilled the state’s vision of effective digital education. The effort was supplemented by the initiatives of the Punjab Edusat Society that provided tech-enabled quality education.

Understanding the need for psychological counselling for senior students, the government introduced MASHAAL to address personal problems and scholastic challenges. These efforts have been supplemented with initiatives, such as English Booster Clubs, Mission Shat-Pratishat, and Library Langars. To boost the morale of students amid the pandemic and to propel the quality of education, a new subject, Welcome Life or Swagat Zindagi, was introduced. The aim is to infuse positivity amid tough times and equip them to cope better with mental health issues.

Overcoming Covid challenge

The challenging Covid time saw initiatives like Punjab Educare app. The school education department launched an all-in-one app, providing systemically arranged study material, including video lessons and daily assignments, to propel its Ghar Baithe Sikhiya programme. The department is ensuring the benefits of the EduCare app to nearly 25 lakh students in the state.

Training of principals and teachers by top management institutions helped in developing leadership skills at the grassroots. The Punjab state education framework has been strengthened by the Teachers Transfer Act and the Punjab Education (Recruitment of Teachers in Disadvantageous Areas) Act.

In the new regime, a renewed focus is on ensuring quality education through a multipronged strategy. The setting up of 117 Schools of Eminence in 23 districts of Punjab and the training of teachers in top international institutions is a positive step towards providing quality education. The Punjab model of transforming school education can be considered an example of the role of vision, leadership and governance in development. aarushi_jain@isb.edu

©Hindustan Times

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