Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Sharpening educational divide


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RTE, New Education Policy

Mains level : Paper 2- Impact of pandemic on education of the poor

The article highlights the issue of the decrease in allocation for education and two ways in which the government seeks to plug this gap.

Decrease in allocation to education: Two paradoxical axes

  • The government allocated Rs 6,000 crore less on education in Budget 2021 as compared to last year.
  • It’s strange that this year’s budget makes no reference to the pandemic and the multiple challenges it has thrown up for the poor.
  • Parents who depend on the lowest rung of free government schools are the ones who need maximum state support.
  • More recently, the state’s position with regard to the provision of education in general and budgetary allocations to education in particular hinges on two paradoxical axes.

1) Supporting community volunteer

  • On one axis, is its appreciation of the commitment and passion of the community volunteers to reach out to children who may not be learning for multiple reasons.
  • Acknowledging the contribution of such people, the NEP proposes ideas of “peer-tutoring and trained volunteers” to support teachers to impart foundational literacy and numeracy skills to children in need of such skills.
  • While such efforts need to be applauded, they cannot be regarded as substitutes of the formal state apparatus.
  • Such a view also de-legitimises the teaching profession-associated qualifications and the training mandated by the state for people to become teachers.
  • Salaries and working conditions of the local community, most of whom are unemployed youth and women, are often compromised.
  • This is exploitation and needless to say, it also impacts the quality of education for the poor.

2) Public-Private partnership and issues with it

  • On the second axis, is the position advocating partnerships between public and private bodies.
  • Not that the involvement of private individuals/organisations/schools in education is anything new in India.
  • However, in the past, private schools catered to the relatively better-off but now the poor are being targeted for profit.
  • This narrative is based on two sources: Poor learning outcomes of children, particularly those studying in government schools as reported by large scale assessment surveys, and large-scale absenteeism/dereliction of duty on the part of government school teachers.
  • Reasons for these are attributed to government school teachers having no accountability.
  • NEP 2020 also states that the non-governmental philanthropic organisations will be supported to build schools and alternative models of education will be encouraged by making their requirements for schools as mandated in the RTE less restrictive.
  • This is clearly problematic but convenient as the justification underlying this position is that one needs to shift focus from inputs to outputs.
  • This also indicate that schools can do with lesser financial resources, and compromised inputs may not necessarily lead to compromised outputs.
  • The nature of the partnership between public and private has also changed from the private supporting the public to private jostling for space with the public, even replacing them.
  • It’s a win-win situation for both — the state gets to spend less and private players make profit.

Consider the question “Examine the impact of a covid pandemic on the education of the poor. Suggest the measure need to be taken by the government to mitigate the impact.”


While money may not ensure quality education, lack of adequate resources will only deepen the social divide between people.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

School Bag Policy, 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : School Bag Policy, 2020

The Directorate of Education has issued a circular asking school to follow the new ‘School Bag Policy, 2020’ released by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

Q.What are the features of the School Bag Policy, 2020? Discuss how heavy school bags are a serious threat to the health and learning capability of students.

School Bag Policy, 2020

  • According to the circular, schoolteachers should inform the students in advance about the books and notebooks to be brought to school on a particular day.
  • They frequently need to check their bags to ensure that they are not carrying unnecessary material.
  • It adds that the teachers should take the responsibility of checking the weight of school bags of the students every three months on a day selected for the whole class.
  • It also holds that any information about heavy bags should be communicated to the parents.
  • The circular also says that it is the duty and the responsibility of the school management to provide quality potable water in sufficient quantity.
  • It adds that files and thin/light exercise books should be preferred to thick/heavy ones.

Prescribed weights

The weight of the school bags, as per the policy, should be

  • 6 to 2.2 kg for students of Classes I and II
  • 7 to 2.5 kg for Classes III, IV and V
  • 2 to 3 kg for Classes VI and VII
  • 5 to 4 kg for Class VIII
  • 5 to 4.5 kg for Classes IX and X
  • 5 to 5 kg for Classes XI and XII

Why heavy school bags are a curse?

  • Heavy school bags are a serious threat to the health and well-being of students.
  • A heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain and neck and arm pain.
  • Not just this, carrying backpacks over one shoulder is a wrong practice as it makes muscles strain.
  • The spine leans to the opposite side, stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other and this muscle imbalance can cause muscle strain, muscle spasm, and back pain.
  • Heavy school bags are also one of the major reasons for cervical and lumbar pains.
  • The posture of the body also gets affected to a great extent which in the long term develops imbalances in the body and affects the health of the nervous system.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Debate over Coding for Kids


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Coding in school curriculum

Various edutech startups have been in the news for the past several months over the debate on the right age for children to start learning to code.

Q.The National Education Policy, 2020 proposal for “coding activities” reads like Macaulay’s minute for English education in the early 19th century. Examine.

What is Coding?

  • Computers have their own language called programming language which tells them what to do.
  • Coding is the process of using a programming language to get a computer to behave how you want it to.
  • In a broader sense, it is the process of designing and building an executable computer program to accomplish a specific computing result or to perform a specific task.

In today’s digital age, most toddlers in their diapers, learn to swipe and click before they can speak apparently or walk. What an irony!

Coding for children

  • In the age of digital revolution, India was able to produce a huge army of coders and programmers —essentially people who could create computer software.
  • As computing devices have taken over every aspect of life, the need for good programmers and coders has been increasing relentlessly.
  • This led to a trend to teach coding and programming to young students since their school ages.
  • In recent years, platforms and companies have started to claim that kids as young as those in elementary school must begin to learn to code.

Proponents for coding

  • Leaders of technology companies around the world have pushed for coding to be included as a subject in middle or higher secondary school for students who may be interested to learn.
  • In 2018, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates wrote in a blog post that everyone could benefit from learning the basics of computer science.
  • The idea was to make coding as simple and accessible as the new age “mother tongue” for young children.

Why should children learn to code?

  • Coding is a basic literacy in the digital age, and it is important for kids to understand and be able to work with and understand the technology around them.
  • It fosters creativity. By experimenting, children learn and strengthen their creativity. It enhances their problem-solving capability.
  • It helps children to be able to visualize abstract concepts, lets them apply math to real-world situations, and makes math fun and creative. Coding is present in many of today’s STEM programs.
  • Children who learn to code understand how to plan and organize thoughts.  This can lead to better writing skills that can be built upon as coding skills develop over time.

Criticisms of early age coding

  • A metaphor that is often used is that children are being made to ride a bicycle before they have even learnt to walk.
  • There’s a reason why in mathematics addition is taught first, then subtraction, then multiplication, and then division.
  • It is necessary to learn several elements of mathematics and logical thinking before one can code.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Annual State of Education Report (ASER) Wave 1, 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ASER

Mains level : State of school education in India

The ASER Wave 1 Survey was recently released since the COVID-19 crisis interrupted this years’ trajectory.

Practice question for mains:

Q.Discuss the efficacy of the One-Nation- One-Board System and its limitations.

About ASER Survey

  • This is an annual survey (published by education non-profit Pratham ) that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.
  • ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in all rural districts of India. It is the largest citizen-led survey in India.
  • It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India.

How is the survey conducted?

  • ASER tools and procedures are designed by ASER Centre, the research and assessment arm of Pratham.
  • The survey itself is coordinated by ASER Centre and facilitated by the Pratham network. It is conducted by close to 30,000 volunteers from partner organisations in each district.
  • All kinds of institutions partner with ASER: colleges, universities, NGOs, youth groups, women’s organisations, self-help groups and others.
  • The ASER model has been adapted for use in several countries around the world: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan, Mali and Senegal.

Assessment parameters

  • Unlike most other large-scale learning assessments, ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey.
  • This design enables all children to be included – those who have never been to school or have dropped out, as well as those who are in government schools, private schools, religious schools or anywhere else.
  • In each rural district, 30 villages are sampled. In each village, 20 randomly selected households are surveyed.
  • Information on schooling status is collected for all children living in sampled households who are in the age group 3-16.
  • Children in the age group 5-16 are tested in basic reading and basic arithmetic. The same test is administered to all children.
  • The highest level of reading tested corresponds to what is expected in Std 2; in 2012 this test was administered in 16 regional languages.
  • In recent years, this has included household size, parental education, and some information on household assets.

Key Findings


  • 5.5% of rural children are not currently enrolled for the 2020school year, up from 4% in 2018.
  • This difference is the sharpest among the youngest children (6 to 10) where 5.3% of rural children had not yet enrolled in school in 2020, in comparison to just 1.8% in 2018.
  • Due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, families are waiting for the physical opening of schools to enrol their youngest children, with about 10% of six-year-olds not in school.
  • Among 15-16 year-olds, however, enrollment levels are slightly higher than in 2018.
  • The proportion of boys enrolled in government schools has risen from 62.8% in 2018 to 66.4% in 2020, while for girls, that number has gone up from 70% to 73% in the corresponding period.
  • Patterns show a slight shift toward government schools, with private schools seeing a drop in enrolment in all age groups.
  • The Centre has now permitted States to start reopening schools if they can follow Covid-19 safety protocols but the majority of the country’s 25 crore students are still at home.

2.Availability of Smartphones:

  • Among enrolled children, 61.8% live in families that own at least one smartphone which was merely 36.5% in 2018.
  • About 11% of families bought a new phone after the lockdown, of which 80% were smartphones.
  • WhatsApp is by far the most popular mode of transmitting learning materialsto students, with 75% of students receiving input via this app.

3.Availability of Learning Material:

  • Overall more than 80% of children said they had textbooks for their current grade.
  • This proportion was higher among students enrolled in government schools (84.1%) than in private ones (72.2%).
  • In Bihar, less than 8% got such materials from their schools, along with 20% in West Bengal, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • More than 80% of rural children in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat received such input.

4.Learning Activities:

  • Most children (70.2%) did some form of a learning activity through material shared by tutors or family members themselves, with or without regular input.
  • 11% had access to live online classes, and 21% had videos or recorded classes, with much higher levels in private schools.
  • About 60% studied from their textbooks and 20% watched classes broadcast on TV.


  • Fluid Situation: When schools reopen, it will be important to continue to monitor who goes back to school as well as to understand whether there is learning lossas compared to previous years.
  • Building on and Strengthening Family Support: Parents’ increasing levels of education can be integrated into planning for learning improvement, as advocated by National Education Policy, 2020. Reaching parents at the right level is essential to understand how they can help their children and older siblings also play an important role.
  • Hybrid Learning: As children do a variety of different activities at home, effective ways of hybrid learning need to be developed which combine traditional teaching-learning with newer ways of “reaching-learning”.
  • Assessment of Digital Modes and Content: In order to improve digital content and delivery for the future, an in-depth assessment of what works, how well it works, who it reaches, and who it excludes is needed.
  • Mediating the Digital Divide: Children from families who had low education and also did not have resources like smartphones had less access to learning opportunities. However, even among such households, there is evidence of effort with family members trying to help and schools trying to reach them. These children will need even more help than others when schools reopen.

Way Forward

  • Covid-19 has left the nation with deep economic distress and uncertainty over school-reopenings and thrown open new challenges in every sector.
  • The nationally representative sample highlighted the role played by the families where everyone in the family supported children regardless of their education levels.
  • This strength needs to be leveraged by reaching out to more students and reducing the distance between schools and homes.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[pib] STARS Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : STARS Project

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Cabinet has approved the sum of Rs. 5718 crore for the World Bank aided project STARS.

Try this MCQ:

Q. The STARS Project recently seen in news is an initiative of:

World Bank/ Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation / UNECOSOC/ UNICEF

STARS Project

  • ‘STARS’ is an acronym for Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS).
  • The STARS project will be implemented through the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, the flagship central scheme.
  • The six states include- Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan.
  • It will help improve learning assessment systems, strengthen classroom instruction and remediation, facilitate school-to-work transition, and strengthen governance and decentralized management,
  • Some 250 million students (between the age of 6 and 17) in 1.5 million schools and over 10 million teachers will benefit from the STARS program.
  • STARS will support India’s renewed focus on addressing the ‘learning outcome’ challenge and help students better prepare for the jobs of the future – through a series of reform initiatives.

Major components of the STARS

1)      At the national level, the project envisages the following interventions which will benefit all states and UTs:

  • To strengthen MOE’s national data systems to capture robust and authentic data on retention, transition and completion rates of students.
  • To support MOE in improving states PGI scores by incentivizing states governance reform agenda through SIG (State Incentive Grants).
  • To support the strengthening of learning assessment systems.
  • To support MOE’s efforts to establish a National Assessment Center (PARAKH).

2)       At the State level, the project envisages: 

  • Strengthening Early Childhood Education and Foundational Learning
  • Improving Learning Assessment Systems
  • Strengthening classroom instruction and remediation through teacher development and school leadership
  • Governance and Decentralized Management for Improved Service Delivery.
  • Strengthening Vocational education in schools through mainstreaming, career guidance and counselling, internships and coverage of out of school children

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[pib] Eklavya Model Residential Schools


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Eklavya Model Residential Schools

Mains level : Tribal education

An Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS) teacher was selected for National Award to Teachers 2020.

Note the specific features of EMRS. Each year in the CSP, there is a question related to tribes/tribal development.

Eklavya Model Residential Schools

  • EMRS started in the year 1997-98 to impart quality education to ST children in remote areas in order to enable them to avail of opportunities in high and professional education courses and get employment in various sectors.
  • Across the country, as per census 2011 figures, there are 564 such sub-districts out of which there is an EMRS in 102 sub-districts.
  • As per revised 2018 scheme, every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons, will have an EMRS by the year 2022.
  • These schools will be on par with Navodaya Vidyalayas and will have special facilities for preserving local art and culture besides providing training in sports and skill development.

Features of EMRS

  • Admission to these schools will be through selection/competition with suitable provision for preference to children belonging to Primitive Tribal Groups, first-generation students, etc.
  • Sufficient land would be given by the State Government for the school, playgrounds, hostels, residential quarters, etc., free of cost.
  • The number of seats for boys and girls will be equal.
  • In these schools, education will be entirely free.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Namath Basai Programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Namath Basai Programme

Mains level : Tribal education

Namath Basai, the State government’s unique programme of teaching tribal children in their mother tongue, has become a runaway hit in Kerala’s tribal districts.

Try this MCQ:

Q. The Namath Basai Programme recently seen in news is related to:

Tribal Education/ Women SHGs/ Forest Produce/ Tribal Health

Namath Basai Programme

  • The NBP is implemented by the Samagra Shiksha Kerala (SSK).
  • It has succeeded in retaining hundreds of tribal children in their online classes by making them feel at home with the language of instruction.
  • The SSK has distributed some 50 laptops exclusively for Namath Basai. Pre-recorded classes are offered through a YouTube channel.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Debate around ‘One-Nation- One-Curriculum’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Uniform curriculum in schools across India

The Supreme Court has refused to entertain a plea for a uniform and common curriculum for school students between aged six and 14 across the country rather than have diverse ones such as the CBSE, the ICSE and State Board.

Practice question for mains:

Q.Discuss the efficacy of the One-Nation- One-Board System and its limitations.


  • Schools in India are mainly columned primarily into 4 boards of education, namely CBSE, ICSE and IB (International Baccalaureate).
  • In total, there are 41 boards of education throughout India.
  • These different boards of education have different syllabuses, which creates a knowledge gap among school students.
  • To curate this gap, syllabuses of every board for the Indian schools are being brought at par.

What was the plea before the Supreme Court?

  • The petition asked considering the setting up of a National Education Council/Commission and following a “one-nation-one-board” system in which the ICSE is merged with the CBSE.
  • It urged a standard textbook with chapters on fundamental rights, duties, directive principles and the golden goals set out in the Preamble.
  • It asked to make the study compulsory for all the children aged 6-14 years throughout the territory of India.

Why did the court refuse?

  • Uniform curriculum was a “matter of policy” and the judiciary could not “command” the government said the Supreme Court bench.

Pros of common curriculum

  • The Article 21A of the Constitution has the RTE (Right to Education) Act says that every child in the age of 4 to 16 should be given free and compulsory education.
  • To keep a check on that, a common syllabus throughout the country is required. This will help all the students to be on par with education.
  • With a common syllabus throughout the country, no student will lag behind in education and hence, this will help them prepare better for competitive examinations or admission tests beyond school level for the outside world.
  • Politics, in some cases, influence the education system which is very unfair for the students. Some state boards prefer the admission of students from their own region and willingly keep the seats of colleges and universities occupied for students passing their 12th standard from their state boards.
  • A common syllabus would also mean that there would be no discrimination regarding quality education on the basis of caste, creed, social, religious beliefs or economic backgrounds.
  • It will provide an unbiased ground of learning and development of the young ones, which may turn out to be very beneficial in future.
  • At present, some of the state boards are not updating their syllabus frequently as per the changes in society. This loophole will be eliminated with the introduction of the uniform syllabus in India.


  • Students may miss learning things specific to their region and their culture. This can be a threat to diversity.
  • Current school students might get affected or stressed out on a sudden change of syllabus.
  • An abrupt change in the syllabus may hamper the stability of a student with the academics which will not be a good turn.
  • A new set of the syllabus will bring in more workload on teachers and parents too.


  • Uniform education system having common syllabus and common curriculum would achieve the code of a common culture, removal of disparity and depletion of discriminatory values in human relations.
  • It would enhance virtues and improve the quality of life, elevate the thoughts, which advance the constitutional philosophy of equal society.
  • Though the government has been trying to put up with equality in education, the barriers have been inevitable to date.
  • A common syllabus seems to be a wise option, but it is yet to be implemented over the entire country.

With inputs from:

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[pib] NISHTHA Programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NISHTHA programme

Mains level : Various digital initiatives by HRD ministry

The first on-line NISHTHA programme for 1200 Key Resources Persons in Andhra Pradesh was launched by Union HRD Ministry.

There are various web/portals/apps with peculiar names such as YUKTI, DISHA, SWAYAM etc. Their core purpose is similar with slight differences. Pen them down on a separate sheet under the title various digital HRD initiatives.


Add one more to this list.

NISHTHA Programme

  • NISHTHA is an acronym for National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement.
  • It is the largest teachers’ training programme of its kind in the world.
  • The basic objective of this massive training programme ‘NISHTHA’ is to motivate and equip teachers to encourage and foster critical thinking in students.
  • The initiative is first of its kind wherein standardized training modules are developed at national level for all States and UTs.
  • The States and UTs can also contextualize the training modules and use their own material and resource persons also, keeping in view the core topics and expected outcomes of NISHTHA.

Progress till date

  • Around 23,000 Key Resource Persons and 17.5 lakh teachers and school heads have been covered under this NISHTHA face to face mode till date.
  • It has been customized for online mode to be conducted through DIKSHA and NISHTHA portals by the NCERT.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

What is the STARS Project?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : STARS Project

Mains level : Read the attached story

The World Bank has approved a $500 million Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States Program (STARS) to improve the quality and governance of school education in six Indian states.

Try this question:

Q. The STARS Project recently seen in news is an initiative of:

World Bank/ Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation / UNECOSOC/ UNICEF

STARS Project

  • The STARS project will be implemented through the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, the flagship central scheme.
  • The six states include- Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan.
  • It will help improve learning assessment systems, strengthen classroom instruction and remediation, facilitate school-to-work transition, and strengthen governance and decentralized management,
  • Some 250 million students (between the age of 6 and 17) in 1.5 million schools and over 10 million teachers will benefit from the STARS program.
  • STARS will support India’s renewed focus on addressing the ‘learning outcome’ challenge and help students better prepare for the jobs of the future – through a series of reform initiatives.

Reform initiatives under STARS

  • Focusing more directly on the delivery of education services at the state, district and sub-district levels by providing customized local-level solutions towards school improvement.
  • Addressing demands from stakeholders, especially parents, for greater accountability and inclusion by producing better data to assess the quality of learning.
  • Equipping teachers to manage this transformation by recognizing that teachers are central to achieving better learning outcomes. The program will support individualized, needs-based training for teachers that will give them an opportunity to have a say in shaping training programs and making them relevant to their teaching needs.
  • Investing more in developing India’s human capital needs by strengthening foundational learning for children in classes 1 to 3 and preparing them with the cognitive, socio-behavioural and language skills to meet future labour market needs.

Issues with the project

  • First, it fails to address the basic capacity issues: major vacancies across the education system from District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs), district and block education offices, to teachers in schools, remain unaddressed.
  • Without capable and motivated faculty, teacher education and training cannot be expected to improve.
  • Second, the Bank ignores that decentralizing decision-making requires the devolution of funds and real decision-making power.
  • Greater decentralisation can allow accountability to flow to the people rather than to supervising officers.
  • It requires not just investment in the capacity of the front-line bureaucracy but also in increasing their discretionary powers while fostering social accountability.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Impact of coronovirus outbreak on Education system

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in education systems across the world a/c to the latest GEM report.

Practice question for mains:

Q.Discuss the impact of COVID-19 induced lockdown on India’s education sector.

About the report

  • Originally the EFA Global Monitoring Report, it has been renamed as the Global Education Monitoring Report.
  • It is developed by an independent team and published by UNESCO aimed to sustain commitment towards Education for All.
  • The ‘UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), based in Montreal provides data for the report on students, teachers, school performance, adult literacy and education expenditure.

Highlights of the 2020 report

  • The report noted that efforts to maintain learning continuity during the pandemic may have actually worsened exclusion trends.
  • During the height of school closures in April 2020, almost 91% of students around the world were out of school.
  • About 40% of low- and lower-middle-income countries have not supported learners at risk of exclusion during this crisis, such as the poor, linguistic minorities and learners with disabilities.

1. Risks of school closure

  • School closures also interrupted support mechanisms from which many disadvantaged learners benefit.
  • For poor students who depend on school for free meals or even free sanitary napkins, closures has been a major blow.
  • Cancellation of examinations in many countries, including India, may result in scoring dependence on teachers’ judgements of students, which could be affected by stereotypes of certain types of students.

2. Substitutes were imperfect

  • Education systems responded with distance learning solutions, all of which offered less or more imperfect substitutes for classroom instruction said the report.
  • Many poorer countries opted for radio and television lessons, while some upper-middle-income countries adopted for online learning platforms for primary and secondary education.
  • India has used a mix of all three systems for educational continuity.

3. The digital divide has resurfaced yet again

  • Even as governments increasingly rely on technology, the digital divide lays bare the limitations of this approach.
  • Not all students and teachers have access to an adequate internet connection, equipment, skills and working conditions to take advantage of available platforms.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Online education must supplement, not replace, physical sites of learning


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MOOCs

Mains level : Paper 2- Is online learning a substitute for the traditional educational institutions?

Left with no choice, many education institutions turned to online mode. But could that be a new normal? This article analyses the indispensable role of online education. However, online education cannot be a substitute for traditional education institutes. WHY? Read the article to know about the vital role of traditional educational institutions…

Online education (OE): Supplement not the substitute

  • The incredible synergy unleashed by information and communications technology (ICT) is the best thing to have happened to education since the printing press.
  • Indeed, higher education today is unthinkable without some form of the computer and some mode of digitised data transmission.
  • OE can use content and methods that are hard to include in the normal curriculum.
  • OE can put pressure on lazy or incompetent teachers.
  • OE can provide hands-on experience in many technical fields where simulations are possible.
  • And OE can, of course, be a powerful accessory for affluent students able to afford expensive aids.
  • As products of this revolution, online methods of teaching and learning deserve our highest praise — but only when cast in their proper role.
  • This proper role is to supplement, support and amplify the techniques of face-to-face education.
  • The moment they are proposed as a substitute for the physical sites of learning we have long known — brick-and-cement schools, colleges, and universities — online modes must be resolutely resisted.

So, what are the vested interests involved?

  • Resistance to OE is often dismissed as the self-serving response of vested interests, notably obstructive, technophobic teachers unwilling to upgrade their skills.
  • But these are not the only vested interests involved.
  • Authoritarian administrators are attracted by the centralised control and scaling-at-will that OE offers.
  • Educational entrepreneurs have been trying to harvest the billions promised by massive open online courses (MOOCs) — think of Udacity, Coursera, or EdX.
  • Pundits are now predicting post-pandemic tie-ups between ICT giants like Google and Amazon and premium education brands like Harvard and Oxford that will launch a new era of vertically-integrated hybrid OE platforms.

Is OE a viable alternative to traditional educational institutions (TEI) for the typical Indian student?

  • No one with access to an elite TEI chooses OE.
  • Instead, we know that OE always loses in best-to-best comparisons.
  • Favourable impressions about OE are created mostly by comparing the best of OE with average or worse TEIs.

But is it true that the best OE is better than the average college or university?

  • OE claims that neither the campus nor face-to-face interaction are integral to education.
  • Since the comparative evaluation of virtual versus face-to-face pedagogic interaction needs more space, the campus question is considered here.
  • How does the typical student’s home compare with a typical TEI campus?
  • Census 2011 tells us that 71 per cent of households with three or more members have dwellings with two rooms or less.
  • According to National Sample Survey data for 2017-18, only 42 per cent of urban and 15 per cent of rural households had internet access.
  • Only 34 per cent of urban and 11 per cent of rural persons had used the internet in the past 30 days.
  • It is true that many TEIs (both public and private) have substandard infrastructure.
  • But these data suggest that the majority (roughly two-thirds) of students are likely to be worse off at home compared to any campus.
  • The impact of smartphone capabilities and stability of net connectivity on OE pedagogy also needs to be examined.

Importance of college as a social space

  • It is as a social rather than physical space that the college or university campus plays a critical role.
  • Public educational institutions play a vital role as exemplary sites of social inclusion and relative equality.
  • In Indian conditions, this role is arguably even more important than the scholastic role.
  • The public educational institution is still the only space where people of all genders, classes, castes, and communities can meet without one group being forced to bow to others.
  • Whatever its impact on academics, this is critical learning for life.
  • Women students, in particular, will be much worse off if confined to their homes by OE.

Consider the question- “Covid-19 pandemic forced many educational institute to explore the online more of education. And this also brought to the fore the potential of the online mode of education. In light of this, examine the issues with substituting the online mode of education for the traditional educational mode.”


Though an indispensable supplement for traditional education, there are certain aspects of education and a social life that online learning cannot substitute. So, the government should not divert its attention from the traditional educational institution and look at online education as its substitute.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[pib] VidyaDaan 2.0 Programme for e-learning content contributions


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : VidyaDaan initiative

Mains level : Various e-learning initiaitves

The Union HRD Ministry has e-launched VidyaDaan 2.0 program for inviting e-learning content contributions.

There are various web/portals/apps with peculiar names such as YUKTI, DISHA, SWAYAM etc. Their core purpose is similar with slight differences. Pen them down on a separate sheet under the title various digital HRD initiatives.

Add one more to this list.


  • ‘Vidya Daan’ is a digital program to enable contributions to improve teaching & learning.
  • It encourages the sharing of high quality, curated, relevant & curriculum-linked digital content.
  • This program attempts to synergize countrywide developments in the field of education by providing schools all over India, from the Metro cities to the smallest villages with good quality e-content.

How does it work?

  • VidyaDaan has a content contribution tool that provides a structured interface for the contributors to register and contribute different types of content (such as, explanation videos, presentations, competency-based items, quizzes etc.), for any grade (from grade 1 to 12), for any subject as specified by the states/UTs.

About phase 2.0

  • The programme has been re-launched due to the increasing requirement for e-learning content for students especially in the backdrop of the situation arising out of COVID- 19.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Delhi’s ‘Happiness Class’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Happiness Curriculum

Mains level : Happiness Curriculum and its significance


On the upcoming visit to India, US President Trump will visit a Delhi government school, where they will attend a happiness curriculum class.

What is Delhi’s ‘happiness curriculum’?

  • The curriculum calls for schools in India to promote development in cognition, language, literacy, numeracy and the arts along with addressing the well-being and happiness of students.
  • It further says that future citizens need to be “mindful, aware, awakened, empathetic, firmly rooted in their identity…” based on the premise that education has a larger purpose, which cannot be in isolation from the “dire needs” of today’s society.
  • For the evaluation, no examinations are conducted, neither will marks be awarded.
  • The assessment under this curriculum is qualitative, focusing on the “process rather than the outcome” and noting that each student’s journey is unique and different.

Objectives of the curriculum

The objectives of this curriculum include:

  • developing self-awareness and mindfulness,
  • inculcating skills of critical thinking and inquiry,
  • enabling learners to communicate effectively and
  • helping learners to apply life skills to deal with stressful and conflicting situations around them

Learning outcomes of this curriculum

The learning outcomes of this curriculum are spread across four categories:

  • becoming mindful and attentive (developing increased levels of self-awareness, developing active listening, remaining in the present);
  • developing critical thinking and reflection (developing strong abilities to reflect on one’s own thoughts and behaviours, thinking beyond stereotypes and assumptions);
  • developing social-emotional skills (demonstrating empathy, coping with anxiety and stress, developing better communication skills) and
  • developing a confident and pleasant personality (developing a balanced outlook on daily life reflecting self-confidence, becoming responsible and reflecting awareness towards cleanliness, health and hygiene).

How is the curriculum implemented?

  • The curriculum is designed for students of classes nursery through the eighth standard.
  • Group 1 consists of students in nursery and KG, who have bi-weekly classes (45 minutes each for one session, which is supervised by a teacher) involving mindfulness activities and exercise.
  • Children between classes 1-2 attend classes on weekdays, which involves mindfulness activities and exercises along with taking up reflective questions.
  • The second group comprises students from classes 3-5 and the third group is comprised of students from classes 6-8 who apart from the aforementioned activities, take part in self-expression and reflect on their behavioural changes.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[pib] National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme (NMMSS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NMMSS

Mains level : Policy measures to curb school dropouts


The NMMSS has helped to reduce the drop-out rate at the secondary and senior secondary classes, informed Union HRD Minister.

National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme

  • The Centrally Sponsored Scheme NMMSS was launched in May, 2008.
  • The objective of the scheme is to award scholarships to meritorious students of economically weaker sections to arrest their drop out at class VIII and encourage them to continue the study at secondary stage.
  • Under the Scheme one lakh fresh scholarships @ of Rs.12000/- per annum per student are awarded to selected students of class IX every year and their continuation/renewal  in classes X to XII for study in a State Government, Government-aided and Local body schools.
  • The selection of students for award of scholarships under the scheme is made through an examination conducted by the States/UTs Governments.

Progress of the scheme

  • As on date approx 16.93 lakh scholarships have been sanctioned to the Students across the country.
  • Heads of all the institutions disclosed that the NMMS Scheme has reduced the drop-out rate at the secondary and senior secondary classes, particularly from Classes VIII to XII.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed of the day] Time to prioritise education and health


The policy currently being pursued is intended primarily to incentivise potential investors while social objectives and help in indigenisation are being jettisoned.

Call for more liberalisation and its possible impacts

  • What reforms are asked for?
    • Reforms such as labour market liberalisation and removal of constraints on the acquisition of land for industrial purposes are demanded.
  • What could be their possible impacts?
    • The negative impact such reform measures are likely to have on the incomes, living conditions and the economic security of the workers and the agricultural class.
    • Counterproductive labour policy: The policy of freedom of hiring and firing of labour will be counterproductive as it would squeeze demand further in a situation of huge demand deficit.

Social sector and demand

  • Neglect of human infrastructure: While talks of economic revival focus on infrastructure there is little talk of investment in human infrastructure, particularly in education and 
    • Conditional expenditure: On the contrary, the expenditure in social sectors is made conditional upon a higher rate of growth
    • The flawed premise of long term impact: Most mainstream economists believe that public expenditure in social sectors can only have a long- term impact on growth. Which is not entirely correct.
  • The benefit of investment in human infrastructure:
    • Increases demand in short-run: Investment in social sectors results in creating demand in the short run by way of opening avenues for large-scale employment.
    • Competitiveness and sustainability: It imparts competitiveness and sustainability to the Indian economy in the medium and long run.
  • Example of RTE, teacher employment and demand creation
    • The recruitment of 5.7 million additional teachers over a period of, say, five years, can create huge scale demand.
    • And, this is only one factor essential for universalising quality school education.
    • There is also a large gap between the requirement of infrastructure in the schools and that available and built recently.
    • The gap between requirement and availability: According to government data, only 12.5% of the schools covered by the RTE Act were compliant with RTE norms.
    • Meeting these norms has the potential of creating employment on a large scale.
  • Importance of health and education
    • Education has a crucial role to play for an individual in gaining employment and retaining employability.


The gestation period of projects in social sectors is not as long as it is made out to be. It is, therefore, time for reprioritising education and health in the scheme of development strategy and the allocation of budgetary resources.


Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Not ready for school


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2-National Education Policy and ASER 2019 report , emphasis on the preschool education and issues associated with it.


The draft NEP (National Education Policy) document points out that close to five crore children currently in elementary school do not have foundational literacy and numeracy skills. 

Severe learning crisis: The document cites several possible reasons for this crisis.

  • First reason:  Many children enter school before age six.
    • Lack of options: This is partly due to the lack of affordable and accessible options for pre-schooling.
    • Therefore, too many children go to Std. I with limited exposure to early childhood education.
    • Consequences for the poor: Children from poor families have a double disadvantage -lack of healthcare and nutrition and the absence of a supportive learning environment on the other.
  • Second reason: Lack of developmentally appropriate activities by age and phase.
    • The misplaced focus of ICDS: School readiness or early childhood development and education activities have not had a high priority in the ICDS system.
    • Acting as an extension of pre-school education: Private preschools that have increased access to preschool but are often designed to be a downward extension of schooling.
    • Thus, they bring in school-like features into the pre-school classroom, rather than developmentally appropriate activities by age and phase.

Three clear trends in ASER-2019 data

  • First trend: Scope for expansion of Anganwadi network.
    • Expansion network: There is considerable scope for expanding Anganwadi outreach for three and four-year-old children.
    • All-India data from 2018 shows that slightly less than 30 per cent children at age three and 15.6 per cent of children at age four are not enrolled anywhere.
  • Second trend: Under 6 students in class I.
    • ASER 2018 data show that 27.6 per cent of all children in Std I are under six.
    • It is commonly assumed that children enter Standard I at age six and that they proceed year by year from Std I to Std VIII.
    • The Right to Education Act also refers to free and compulsory education for the age group six to 14.
    • However, the practice on the ground is quite different.
  • Third trend: There are important age implications for children’s learning.
    • Association with learning output: ASER-2019 indicate the higher learning output associated with age in the same class.
    • In Std. I, the ability to do cognitive activities among seven-eight-year olds can be 20 percentage points higher than their friends who are five years old but in the same class.
    • In terms of reading levels in Std. I, 37.1 per cent children who are under six can recognise letters whereas 76 per cent of those who are seven or eight can do the same.
    • Age distribution in Std. I vary considerably between government and private schools.
    • Private schools in many states have a relatively older age distribution.

Way forward

  • Understanding the children: Understanding the challenges that children face when they are young is critical if we want to solve these problems early in children’s life.
  • Providing for developmentally appropriate skill: Instead of focusing on the pre-school years as the downward extension of school years there is a need for providing developmentally appropriate skill in these years.
  • Pedagogy: On the pedagogy side reworking of curriculum and activity is urgently needed for entire age band of four to eight.


Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ASER

Mains level : Highlights of ASER 2019

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019 (rural) was recently released by NGO Pratham.

Highlights of the report

  • Only 16% of children in Class 1 in 26 surveyed rural districts can read text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognise letters.
  • Only 41% of these children could recognise two digit numbers.

Private schools ahead

  • Of six-year olds in Class 1, 41.5% of those in private schools could read words in comparison to only 19% from government schools.
  • Similarly, 28% of those in government schools could do simple addition as against 47% in private schools.
  • This gap is further exacerbated by a gender divide: only 39% of girls aged 6-8 are enrolled in private schools in comparison to almost 48% of boys.
  • The report also found that a classroom could include students from a range of age-groups, skewing towards younger children in government schools.

Determinants of learning outcomes

  • The ASER report shows that a large number of factors determine the quality of education received at this stage, including the child’s home background, especially the mother’s education level; the type of school, whether anganwadis, government schools or private pre-schools; and the child’s age in Class 1.
  • More than a quarter of Class 1 students in government schools are only 4 or 5 years old, younger than the recommended age.
  • The ASER data shows that these younger children struggle more than others in all skills.
  • Permitting underage children into primary grades puts them at a learning disadvantage which is difficult to overcome,” said the report.

Role of Mothers

  • Among the key findings of ASER 2019 is that the mother’s education often determines the kind of pre-schooling or schooling that the child gets.
  • The report says that among children in the early years (ages 0-8), those with mothers who had completed eight or fewer years of schooling are more likely to be attending anganwadis or government pre-primary classes.
  • With 75% women in the productive age group not in the workforce, they can be better engaged in their children’s development, learning and school readiness.

Key suggestions made by the report

  • ASER found that the solution is not to spend longer hours teaching children the 3Rs.
  • Counter-intuitively, the report argues that a focus on cognitive skills rather than subject learning in the early years can make a big difference to basic literacy and numeracy abilities.
  • The survey shows that among Class 1 children who could correctly do none or only one of the tasks requiring cognitive skills, about 14% could read words, while 19% could do single digit addition.
  • However, of those children who could correctly do all three cognitive tasks, 52% could read words, and 63% could solve the addition problem.

Focus on productive learning

  • ASER data shows that children’s performance on tasks requiring cognitive skills is strongly related to their ability to do early language and numeracy tasks,” says the report.
  • This suggests that focussing on play-based activities that build memory; reasoning and problem-solving abilities are more productive than an early focus on content knowledge.
  • Global research shows that 90% of brain growth occurs by age 5, meaning that the quality of early childhood education has a crucial impact on the development and long-term schooling of a child.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Mission Shat Pratishat


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mission Shat Pratishat

Mains level : Ensuring quality education in govt. run schools

The Punjab Education Department recently launched Mission Shat Pratishat to achieve 100 per cent result in classes 5, 8, 10, and 12 of government schools.

Mission Shat Pratishat

  • The Mission was launched in September 2019 by the Punjab education department.
  • It aimed to improve the results of the government schools in terms of pass percentage in the 10th and 12th board examinations.

Particulars of the mission

  • WhatsApp groups of teachers, students, and parents by different subject teachers have been formed to ensure proper coordination as well as sharing of good practices.
  • The teachers and students are being sensitized about the structure of the question papers through Edusat (Education Satellite).
  • Model question papers have been prepared for every subject and students are being made to solve them.
  • The government school teachers have voluntarily been taking extra classes not only during working days but also on Sundays and holidays.


  • There are hundreds of government schools, mostly primary and middle, that do not have enough teaching staff.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[oped of the day] In our own words


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 3 language formula

Mains level : Role of mother tongue


India is a linguistic treasure-trove. India is widely acknowledged for its extraordinary linguistic and cultural diversity.

Diversity in India

    • More than 19,500 languages and dialects are spoken in India as mother tongues, according to the Language Census.
    • There are 121 languages which are spoken by 10,000 or more people in the country.

Challenges to languages

    • 196 languages in India are classified as endangered.
    • We are not doing enough to preserve our rich native languages.
    • Governments need to be doubly careful while adopting policies regarding the medium of instruction, particularly at the primary and secondary school levels. 
    • The mother tongue lays a strong foundation for the expression of creativity.


    • It is a tool for intellectual and emotional expression. 
    • It is a vehicle of intergenerational transmission of culture, scientific knowledge, and a worldview. 
    • It is the vital, unseen thread that links the past with the present. 
    • It evolves with human evolution and is nourished by constant use.
    • Our languages permeate every facet of our day-to-day life and form the very basis of our civilisation. 
    • They are the lifeblood of our identity, both individual and collective. 
    • They play a significant role in creating and strengthening bonds among people. 

Language evolves

    • Languages are never static. They evolve and adapt to the socio-economic milieu. 
    • They grow, shrink, transform, merge and die. 
    • The great Indian poet, Acharya Dandi, had said that if the light of language does not exist, we will be groping in a dark world.
    • When a language declines, it takes with it an entire knowledge system and a unique perspective of viewing the universe. 
    • The traditional livelihood patterns disappear along with our special skills, arts, crafts, cuisine, and trade.

Language preservation and development

    • Making the mother tongue as the medium of instruction in our schools at the primary level.
    • A number of studies conducted all over the world have established that teaching the mother tongue at the initial stages of education gives an impetus to the growth of mind and thought.
    • It makes children more creative and logical.
    • Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day, said: “For UNESCO, every mother tongue deserves to be known, recognised and given greater prominence in all spheres of public life.”
    • Mother tongues do not necessarily have national-language status, official-language status, or status as the language of instruction. 


    • There is a misconception that only English education offers opportunities to grow in the modern world.
    • There are only a handful of English-speaking countries like Australia, Britain, Canada, the US, etc. 
    • Countries like China, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, etc did very well without English education. 
    • Knowing English is useful, like knowing other international languages. 
    • This can’t be extended to make a case for supplanting the mother tongue with English. 
    • It can be learned easily at an appropriate stage after a strong foundation is laid in the mother tongue.

Way ahead

    • Make mother tongue as the medium of instruction at the primary level.
    • Take all steps to make it the language of administration, banking, and judicial proceedings.
    • Remove the existing linguistic barriers to realize the goal of inclusive governance. 
    • Wherever there is a government-public interface, it should be in the language people understand.
    • In 1999, UNESCO adopted a resolution on multilingual education and suggested the use of at least three languages in education: The mother language(s), a regional or national language and an international language. 
    • The crucial role of the mother language is a source of knowledge and innovation. The “command of a mother tongue facilitates general learning and learning of other languages”. 

Steps in the direction

    • The new draft National Education Policy puts forth a number of suggestions for supporting education in home languages and mother tongues, tribal as well as sign languages.
    • The United Nations has proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to preserve, revitalise and promote indigenous languages. 
    • People can start using their native languages at home, in the community, in meetings, and in administration.
    • We must accord a sense of dignity and pride to those who speak, write and communicate in these languages. 
    • We must encourage Indian language publications, journals and children’s books. 
    • Dialects and folk literature must be given adequate focus. 
    • Language promotion should be an integral part of good governance. Swami Vivekananda once said that language is the chief means and index of a nation’s progress.
    • In the Rajya Sabha, a provision has been made for its members to express themselves in any of the 22 scheduled languages. 
    • The Supreme Court has recently decided to make available its judgments in six Indian languages, to start with. 
    • The finance ministry has decided to conduct the examinations for employment in Regional Rural Banks in 13 regional languages, in addition to English and Hindi.
    • The Railways and Postal departments started conducting their exams in the states’ official languages.


Explained: Three Language Formula

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[oped of the day] Education, ours and theirs


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Nationalisation of Education


Union Home Minister at a recent seminar in Banaras Hindu University on the 5th-century emperor, Skandagupta, declared: “Putting together our history, embellishing it and rewriting it is the responsibility of the country, its people and historians”. It suggests that there are different ways to write the history of India and that professional historians had not done their job properly so far.

Sangh – History

    • Sangh Parivar has shown interest in the teaching of history. This is not only because it contributes to defining the national identity, but also because the Parivar believes the version of the past portrayed by secularists does not reflect reality.
    • In 2014, the RSS formed a committee, the Bharatiya Shiksha Niti Aayog, to “Indianise” the education system. It was headed by Dinanath Batra, who had specialized in rewriting Indian history according to the canons of Hindu nationalism. 
    • In 2010, he had filed a civil suit to ban Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus, which he felt gave Hinduism a bad image. 
    • Batra also pressured the University of Delhi to remove from its syllabus an essay by A K Ramanujan — Three Hundred Ramayanas — that contradicted the Hindu nationalist idea that there was a single version of the epic.
    • Leading Hindu nationalist historian, Y Sudershan Rao was appointed in 2014 to head the Indian Council of Historical Research. 

Contentious ideas

    • In the book, The Enemies of Indianisation: The Children of Marx, Macaulay, and Madrasa, he listed 41 major flaws. These reflect the historic leanings of the Hindu nationalists.
    • Aryans – the idea that the Aryans came from another part of the world in ancient times because the Hindus could only be sons of the soil.
    • Ancient India – all the glories attributed to ancient India in its epic poems are an accurate reflection of historical reality
    • Muslim invaders – the Muslim invasions opened the darkest chapter in Indian history, starting with the destruction of Nalanda University in the 12th century up until the end of the Mughal empire.
    • Freedom struggle – the standard account of the freedom movement ascribes too much importance to Gandhi and Nehru to the detriment of Hindu nationalist heroes. 
    • These flaws have been attributed to the secularist or Westernised nature of history textbook authors.

History – mythology

    • Some Sangh thinkers also view history and mythology as being the same thing.
    • They believe that historiographic research should focus on identifying the locations where the “events” described in the epics took place. 
    • This mixing up of history and mythology has become common since 2014.
    • The textbooks put out by the NCERT which can be used in schools affiliated with the CBSE have been extensively rewritten. 
    • According to The Indian Express, between 2014 and 2018 1,334 changes were made to 182 textbooks put out by the NCERT between 2005 and 2009.

At the state level

    • The scale on which Hindu nationalists are rewriting history can be most clearly gauged at the state government level. 
    • Rajasthan – revision of the history curriculum and changing of narratives formed an integral part of policy at the highest levels of government. 
    • The focus of teaching was to be on imparting nationalism and textbooks “would remove the chapters on the greatness of Akbar and include the heroics of Maharana Pratap”. 
    • This led to a process of regionalizing the history of the nation, wherein Pratap would become the central protagonist of the Medieval period. 
    • The Battle of Haldighati fought between Pratap and Akbar was altered to portray a victory for Pratap.
    • Nationalism became the cornerstone of the new Rajasthan history textbooks. This was depicted through a hagiographical account of Hindu rulers, which focused on their early lives, territorial exploits, and differences in personal demeanor from their Muslim enemies.

Freedom struggle

    • Besides, these textbooks revisited the prioritization of individuals associated with the freedom struggle. 
    • The first prime minister of the nation, Jawaharlal Nehru, has been omitted from the class 8 textbook, while B R Ambedkar is classified as a ‘Hindu social reformer’ to sanitize his fight against caste. 
    • The textbooks argue that Ambedkar’s efforts were similar to those of Dayanand Saraswati, Mahatma Gandhi and RSS founder K B Hedgewar. 
    • Ambedkar’s more radical contributions such as the Mahad Satyagraha, or his conversion to Buddhism are omitted altogether.
    • The most celebrated “freedom fighter” is Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the founder of the Hindutva ideology. He figures in every history textbook from class 8 to 12 as someone “whose contribution to the cause of independence cannot be described in words”. 


    • For the BJP, the teaching of history is linked to the prioritization of certain communities and individuals in order to foster a particular spirit of nationalism among school students. 
    • In the states, the party has been most effective in transmitting its version of Indian history to the next generation of learners.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[pib] School Education Quality Index (SEQI)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SEQI

Mains level : Promoting quality education in India

  • The first edition of SEQI was recently released by NITI Aayog, in the presence of NITI Aayog.

School Education Quality Index

  1. SEQI was developed by NITI Aayog to evaluate the performance of States and UTs in the school education sector.
  2. It is developed through a collaborative process, including key stakeholders such as Ministry of HRD, the World Bank and sector experts.
  3. The index aims to bring an ‘outcomes’ focus to education policy by providing States and UTs with a platform to identify their strengths and weaknesses and undertake requisite course corrections or policy interventions.
  4. In line with NITI Aayog’s mandate to foster the spirit of competitive and cooperative federalism, SEQI strives to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and best practices across States and UTs.

Key indicators

  • The index consists of 30 critical indicators that assess the delivery of quality education. These indicators are categorized as below:

Category 1: Outcomes

  • Domain 1: Learning outcomes
  • Domain 2: Access outcomes
  • Domain 3: Infrastructure and facilities for outcomes
  • Domain 4: Equity outcomes

Category 2: Governance processes aiding outcomes

States performance

  • States and UTs are ranked on their overall performance in the reference year 2016-17, as well as on their annual incremental performance between the reference year and base year (2015-16).
  • The rankings present incredible insights on the status of school education across States/UTs and their relative progress over time.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[pib] Integrated online junction for School Education: ‘Shagun’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shagun Portal

Mains level : Various digital initiatives in HRD sector

  • Union HRD Ministry has launched one of world’s largest Integrated Online Junction for – School Education ‘Shagun’.
  • It also announced the setting up of the Integrated National School Education Treasury (INSET).


  • School Education Shagun is an over-arching initiative to improve school education system by creating a junction for all online portals and websites relating to various activities of the Department of School Education and Literacy.
  • The word Shagun is coined from two different words- ‘Shala’ meaning Schools and ‘Gunvatta’ meaning Quality.
  • This online junction of different websites and portals into a single platform is aimed enhance the accessibility of information relating to schools and to ensure a holistic approach to transform education sector.

Integrated National School Education Treasury (INSET)

  • INSET envisages a fully integrated, instantly accessible and seamless information network for all parameters relating to the students, teachers, and schools in the country.
  • The main focus will be on the following areas:
  1. Reinforcing and cleaning the data of the Integrated Online Junction through feedback from Stakeholders
  2. Ensuring full inter-operability among the websites, portals and applications which are already hosted in the junction
  3. Creating high quality e-contents, including quizzes and puzzles to enhance learning and also for teachers in aiding  classroom transactions
  4. Using AI and deep machine learning in a variety of ways to enhance the quality of school education including for designing evidence based inventions.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Over to the teacher


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Primary education - quality : A case study


The quality of education in India has been a persistent concern.


  1. ASER report has been that a large number of children in the country cannot read fluently or do basic arithmetic even after attending secondary school.
  2. Other studies have raised questions about teaching methods in Indian schools.

Case study: Odisha

  1. Odisha government tried to address this problem by doubling the teaching time of three subjects — English, Mathematics, and Science — in all government schools in the state.
  2. These subjects get 90 minutes of teaching time every day while other subjects will continue to get 45 minutes.


  1. First-generation learners – The ASER surveys have shown that a large percentage of children in the country’s primary schools are first-generation learners.
  2. Illiterate background of children – School environment and the role of the teacher is crucial in providing support to children from non-literate homes and communities.
  3. Diverts focus from completing the syllabus – If pedagogy is aimed at completing the syllabus, there is scarcely any scope for addressing the needs of students who are falling behind.
  4. This shortcoming can be overcome if students spend more time with English, Mathematics and Science teachers and get time to clear their fundamentals.


  1. Issue of mother tongue – For a child, acquiring foundational skills in a language that is not her mother tongue is a complex matter.
  2. Overburdened – Doubling the teaching time could tax the attention span of students, and may end up doing more harm than good.
  3. Science and Mathematics education has been dogged by rote learning.

Way ahead

  1. Teachers could utilize the extra teaching time to stimulate students to discover the laws of nature and Mathematics.
  2. Teachers will have to be provided the autonomy to venture beyond bookish explanations.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Explained: Three Language Formula


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Three Language Formula

Mains level : Features of New Education Policy


  • The union government released a draft NPE, a report prepared by a committee headed by space scientist K. Kasturirangan.
  • Its reference to mandatory teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking States set off a political storm in Tamil Nadu, which is traditionally opposed to the compulsory study of Hindi.
  • The govt. sought to neutralize the hostile reaction by dropping the controversial reference to Hindi.

Backdrop to the Hindi imposition row

  • The State has been traditionally opposed to any attempt to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language of learning or administration.
  • The origin of the linguistic row, however, goes back to the debate on official language.
  • In the Constituent Assembly, Hindi was voted as the official language by a single vote. However, it added that English would continue to be used as an associate official language for 15 years.
  • The Official Languages Act came into effect on the expiry of this 15-year period in 1965.
  • This was the background in which the anti-Hindi agitation took place.
  • However, as early as in 1959 Nehru had given an assurance in Parliament that English would continue to be in use as long as non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.

The Three Language Formula

  • It is commonly understood that the three languages referred to are Hindi, English and the regional language of the respective States.
  • Though the teaching of Hindi across the country was part of a long-standing system, it was crystallized into a policy in an official document only in the NEP, 1968.
  • This document said regional languages were already in use as the medium of education in the primary and secondary stages.
  • At the secondary stage, State governments should adopt and vigorously implement the three-language formula.
  • It included the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi-speaking States.

For non-Hindi speaking States

  • In such States Hindi should be studied along with the regional language and English.
  • It added: Suitable courses in Hindi and/or English should also be available in universities and colleges with a view to improving the proficiency of students in these languages up to the university standards.

To Promote Hindi

  • The NPE 1968 said every effort should be made to promote the language and that in developing Hindi as the link language.
  • Article 351 of the Constitution provides for Hindi as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India.
  • The establishment, in non-Hindi States, of colleges and other institutions of higher education which use Hindi, as the medium of education should be encouraged.
  • Incidentally, the NPE 1986 made no change in the 1968 policy on the three-language formula and the promotion of Hindi and repeated it verbatim.

Tamil Nadu’s stand on this

  • Tamil Nadu has been traditionally opposed to any attempt to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language of learning or administration.
  • The origin of the linguistic row, however, goes back to the debate on official language.
  • TN leaders does not oppose the voluntary learning of Hindi and cite the unhindered work of the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, established in Chennai by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918.
  • Also, there is no bar on private schools, most of them affiliated to the CBSE offering Hindi.
  • The State has been following the two-language formula for many decades, under which only English and one regional language are compulsory in schools.

English, the only link

  • An important aspect of the opposition to Hindi imposition is that many in Tamil Nadu see it as a fight to retain English.
  • English is seen as a bulwark against Hindi as well as the language of empowerment and knowledge.
  • There is an entrenched belief that the continued attempts to impose Hindi are essentially driven by those who want to eliminate English as the country’s link language.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Draft NEP proposes formal education from age of three


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anganwadis

Mains level : Features of New Education Policy

Draft NEP on early childhood education

  • All Indian children could soon enter the formal education system at the age of three, with the draft National Education Policy (NEP) projecting an expansion of the RTE Act.
  • It aims to cover the three years of preschool before Class 1.
  • It wants early childhood education to be overseen and regulated by the Ministry of HRD as part of the school system.
  • This will be in addition to the private pre-schools and anganwadis that currently cater to the 3-to-6 years age group.
  • The draft Policy suggests a new integrated curricular framework for 3 to 8-year olds with a flexible system based on play, activity and discovery, and beginning exposure to three languages from age 3 onwards.

Upheaval of Anganwadi System

  • The NEP could result in an upheaval in the anganwadi system which has been overseen by the Ministry of WCD for more than four decades.
  • Additional costs will come in the form of teacher recruitment and training, infrastructure and learning materials, as well as nutritional aspects (including the proposal to provide breakfast to young children).
  • The draft Policy praises the contribution of anganwadis to improving health and nutrition, but notes that their record in education is not so strong.

Flaws in Anganwadis

  • They are currently quite deficient in supplies and infrastructure for education.
  • As a result, they tend to contain more children in the 2-4 year age range and fewer in the educationally critical 4-6 year age range.
  • They also have few teachers trained in or specially dedicated to early childhood education.

Anganwadis can do better

  • The new framework would be implemented by training and strengthening anganwadi capabilities and linking them to a local primary school, co-locating anganwadis and pre-schools with primary schools, or building stand-alone pre-schools also linked to a local primary school.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Crisis defused: on Hindi imposition


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Mother tongue and english proficiency are better appraoch than 3 language formula.


The Centre has moved quickly to defuse a potentially volatile controversy over the charge of Hindi imposition.


Opposition from Tamil Nadu

The reference in the newly unveiled draft National Education Policy to mandatory teaching of Hindi in all States was withdrawn following an outcry from political leaders in Tamil Nadu, a State that is quite sensitive to any hint of ‘Hindi imposition’ by the Centre.

Flexibility in the choice of language – The modified draft under the heading ‘Flexibility in the choice of languages’, has omitted references to the language that students may choose.

Issue of three language formula –

  • However, the broader recommendation regarding the implementation of a three-language formula remains, something Tamil Nadu, which will not budge from its two-language formula, is averse to.
  • The gist of the original sentence in the draft NEP was that students could change one of the three languages of study in Grade 6, provided that in Hindi-speaking States they continued to study Hindi, English and one other Indian language of their choice, and those in non-Hindi-speaking States would study their regional language, besides Hindi and English.
  • The revised draft merely says students may change one or more of their three languages in Grade 6 or 7, “so long as they still demonstrate proficiency in three languages (one language at the literature level) in their modular Board examinations some time during secondary school”.
  • It may not amount to a complete reversal , but is still important in terms of conciliatory messaging.

Broader Issue

Official Language – Ever since the Constitution adopted Hindi as the official language, with English also as an official language for 15 years initially, there has been considerable tension between those who favour the indefinite usage of English and those who want to phase it out and give Hindi primacy.

The imposition of Hindi – In Tamil Nadu, it is seen as a creeping imposition of Hindi in subtle and not-so-subtle forms.

English as an associate language – The tension has been managed based on the statesmanship behind Jawaharlal Nehru’s assurance in 1959 that English would be an associate language as long as there are States that desire it.

Language a recurrent issue – One would have thought that with the ascent of coalition politics the instinct to stoke differences based on language would die out. Unfortunately, it keeps coming up, especially in the form of imposing the three-language formula on States.


Language is primarily a utilitarian tool. While acquisition of additional tools can indeed be beneficial, compulsory learning should be limited to one’s mother tongue and English as the language that provides access to global knowledge and as a link language within India. It is time attempts to force Indians proficient in their mother tongue and English to acquire proficiency in a third are given up.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Karnataka limits weight of schoolbags


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • The Karnataka government has ordered all schools in the state to ensure that the weight of a child’s schoolbag does not exceed 10 per cent of the weight of the child.
  • The order prescribed that school bags of children in Classes 1-2 cannot weigh more than 2 kg, bags of children in Classes 3-5 should weigh than 2-3 kg, and so on.

Limiting weight of schoolbags

  • The weight of a child’s school bag has been a contested issue for long, and especially so in recent months.
  • Last year, the Union Ministry of HRD directed all states and UTs to “formulate guidelines to regulate the teaching of subjects and weight of school bags in accordance with the Government of India instructions”.
  • According to the central government’s advice, weights of school bags in Classes 1-2, 3-5, 6-7, 8-9, and 10 should not be more than 1.5 kg, 2-3 kg, 4 kg, 4.5 kg, and 5 kg respectively.
  • The Ministry also said that students should not be forced to carry study materials other than the prescribed textbooks to school, as per the day’s timetable.
  • Following the Centre’s directive, several state governments issued directions to schools to comply.

Why such move?

  • Most advanced countries have done away with the need for children to carry bags to school, replacing heavy books and notebooks with electronic aids such as tablet computers, and providing books at school itself.
  • The HRD Ministry’s 2018 directive was in line with its efforts over the past several years to reduce the weight of schoolbags.
  • The CBSE too, had a few years ago, nudged schools to find a way to ensure children did not have to carry heavy bags to school.
  • Child welfare NGOs have long warned that heavier-than-necessary schoolbags could induce premature back- and spine-related problems in schoolchildren.
  • CBSE has been engaged with the issue for over 15 years now, and several studies have attested to the health problems associated with heavy school bags.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Exam and Peace


Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of Education system in India.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues with the education system in India, in a brief manner.


  • As the board examinations approach, the dialectic of “success” and “failure” will begin to haunt young learners and their anxiety-ridden parents.


  • The pattern of education we have normalised is inherently pathological.
  • The creation of a violent/hierarchical/schooled consciousness seems to be its latent function.
  • Even though an empathic look at the educational ideals of Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo and J Krishnamurti would suggest that there is no dearth of critical and creative thinking on liberating pedagogy.
  • However, we dislike experimentation and new possibilities, and make a superficial distinction between “pragmatism” and “idealism”.

Glorifying the success stories, stigma of “failure”

  • People have become used to the routinisation of the practice of glorifying the “success stories” of the “toppers”.
  • And at the same time, inviting the psychiatrists on television channels to reflect on the “suicide narratives” of those who could not bear the stigma of “failure”.

Meanwhile, everything would function as usual

  • the practice of “black education” would flourish in coaching centres,
  • the publishers of “guide books” would make a lot of money, and
  • school principals heavily burdened with the “ranking” of their schools would alert insecure parents of “problematic” children that in the age of inflated “cut off points” for admission in “branded” colleges, the future is bleak without 99 per cent marks in some subjects.

Why is it so?

There are three reasons:

  1. Here is a system that closes the mind of the young learner, and abhors the desirability of making meaningful choices relating to academic quest and vocation.
  • How are choices possible if schools have already hierarchised knowledge traditions i.e. Science or economics for the “intelligent” ones, and humanities for the “leftovers”.
  • Or does the child ever get the space to contemplate on her own inclinations and aptitudes at a time when peer pressure negates self-reflection and generates a crowd mentality.
  • Or when struggling parents have already decided that she has to pass through the most travelled “Aakash/Fitjee/IIT” highway, and all other paths are “risky” and “impractical”.

Strange classification of academic disciplines

  • Moreover, we have promoted a strange classification of academic disciplines.
  • It is impossible for one to opt for, say, Physics, History and Music.
  • It is taken for granted that if you have interest in literature, you cannot be equally inclined towards statistics.
  • In other words, we decide the fate of our children so early.
  • It is not surprisingly then, schooling prepares the ground for an alienated existence.

2. Here is a system obsessed with the quantification of knowledge and evaluation.

  • With the burden of information, examinations as ceremonies of power, and a reckless process of measuring even one’s “happiness” and “moral quotient”, schools have robbed the practice of education of the ecstasy of social awakening, scientific reasoning and poetic imagination.

Children as “exam warriors”

  • A careful look at weekly tests, classroom transactions and summer projects would suggest that the system asks a young child to become as an “exam-warrior”.
  • It is devoid of joy and humour, and creative play and aesthetic celebration.
  • While the “successful warriors” join the IITs and colleges like LSR, Presidency and Stephen’s, those who are not so lucky would be compelled to realise that it is painful to be young, wounded and stigmatised.
  • There is no peace in this system, even if schools hire counsellors, invite motivational speakers, and ask children to read self-help books in their “relaxed” times.

3. “Success” is equated with a purely instrumental orientation to life

  • “Success” is equated with a purely instrumental orientation to life, and the virtues of the doctrine of the “survival of the fittest” are celebrated with all sorts of media simulations.
  • Education becomes merely a “performance”, a packaged good for sale.
  • A teacher becomes merely a “subject expert” or a “skill-provider”.
  • There is no sunset that Jidu Krishnamurti wanted children to look at; and there is no union of the “physical, vital, mental and psychic” that Sri Aurobindo imagined.
  • What prevails is only a standardised scale of measurement intoxicated with the urge to eliminate innumerable young minds and throw them into the dustbin of a “meritocratic” universe.
  • And our exam-centric education sanctifies it.


  • As adults, teachers and policy-makers have betrayed the children of this nation.
  • It is time to rectify the Education system of India so that the country can reap the full potential of its demographic dividend.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Indian students to participate in PISA 2021


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PISA, OCED

Mains level: Competency of Indian Education System in the World.


  • The HRD Ministry has signed a pact with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the participation of students from Central government schools in PISA-2021.
  • With the signing of the pact, Indian students aged 15 will be able to take the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA, which is conducted every three years.

PISA 2021

  1. It will be a competency-based test, which evaluates the learning level of 15YO students in reading, mathematics and science.
  2. The outcomes of the test will be used to do more teacher training programmes and curricular reforms.
  3. The questions in the test will be contextualized according to the Indian setting to help students understand them better.
  4. Schools run by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and schools in the UTs of Chandigarh will participate.
  5. The CBSE and NCERT will be part of the process and activities leading to the actual test.

For detailed news (covered on 8th Sept, 2018), navigate to:

India agrees to end PISA boycott, to participate in 2021

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Schools without a difference


Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing as such.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the relevance of Navodaya Vidyalayas in the light of recent reports about suicides in NVs, in a brief manner.


  • The recent reports about suicides in Navodaya Vidyalayas demonstrate that they no longer exemplify the search for an alternative that the government once envisaged and has lost its purpose.


  • Boarding schools are part of India’s modern history.
  • When the central government launched the Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs) in the mid-1980s, they were presented as a major innovation in social policy in that they were intended to serve rural children.
  • Three decades on, the NV innovation has fully merged into the mainstream, coping with its familiar problems rather than exemplifying an alternative.

NV idea preceded the National Policy on Education (1986)

  • Although the NV plan was part of the National Policy on Education (1986), its idea preceded the policy.
  • Rajiv Gandhi had mentioned it in his first address to the nation as prime minister.
  • His desire to set up a residential school in every district was apparently inspired by his own experience as a child at Doon School.
  • Many people expected that NVs will emulate Doon’s example of high academic standards along with space for creative exploration.

Enrolment was based on an entrance test

  • Enrolment to NV’s Grade 6 was based on an entrance test, with 80 per cent reservation for children belonging to villages located in a district.
  • Not everyone was convinced that enrolment through a selection test was a good idea.
  • NCERT conveyed its doubts about the reliability and validity of a selection procedure dependent on a test among 11-year olds.
  • The government went ahead and started setting up NVs across the country.
  • Soon after the scheme was launched, coaching centres sprang up in every district to help children succeed in the NV enrollment test.

How NVs were different from other schools?

  • Each school was allotted sizeable land in the countryside.
  • Generous funding and impressive infrastructure, including on-campus housing for teachers and not just children, distinguished NVs from other state-run residential schools, such as the boarding schools in tribal areas.
  • NVs were promoted as “pace-setting” schools, implying that they would serve as a model for other schools in the district.
  • Their facilities and funds were way ahead and they were not governed by the state directorate.
  • The contrast was also sharp in teachers’ emoluments.
  • From the central government’s perspective, NVs offered a congenial institutional ethos where policies could be showcased.
  • The implementation of the three-language formula in NVs included exchanging the entire Grade 9 cohort across linguistic regions for the entire session.

Dilemma the NVs faced after a few years of its inception

  • Should they serve as models of child-centred education in rural areas or prepare village children for national-level contests for seats in prestigious institutions of medicine and engineering?
  • Proposals to provide coaching to the senior secondary level students were mooted.
  • NGOs like Dakshana were given permission to select children with the best potential and coach them.
  • Grilling the selected round the year without break bore fruit, exacerbating the familiar stress of exams on children and teachers.
  • The Dakshana website proudly claims that many of its students have cracked the JEE Advanced to secure admissions into IITs.
  •  It is hard to explain to the users of this discourse that there may be more to life than cracking the JEE.

NVs had emulated the urban public school model

  • There was little concern to develop a new vision for rural children.
  • Instead, the dominant ideology prevailing among administrators and teachers was that they should work for the standard routes towards upward mobility.
  • Success in examinations, that too with high marks, had dogged the NV experiment from the beginning.
  • Like their counterpart, the Kendriya Vidyalayas, NVs dared not ignore the mainstream trends of India’s education.
  • Principals and teachers were supposed to dedicate themselves to pushing all the children to work hard for marks.

Recent Suicides in NVs

  • The one-size fits-all template of secondary education in India has exacerbated the pressures that adolescents routinely face and feel, leading many to feel lonely, depressive and suicidal.
  • Suicides before and after higher secondary exams are reported every year across India.
  • In the NV case, nearly half of the reported 49 cases over the last five years are from marginalised groups.
  • As usual, the administration places the blame on teachers who are themselves overburdened.
  • The absence of trained counsellors adds to the problem.
  • The NV administration has asked teachers to notice symptoms of depression among students.
  • Such steps might offer some help, but they will not mitigate the larger tragedy of a scheme that forgot its mission and took the beaten track.


  • The NV story reminds us how inimical the systemic ethos is to any genuine innovation.
  • Most schools justify putting children under pressure by referring to parental pressures.
  • This argument does not account for suicides at NVs.
  • Their original mandate had little to do with competitive success.
  • They were expected to provide a humanistic alternative to the moribund, bureaucratised culture of common government schools.
  • NVs had the potential to present a creative alternative to the mindlessly competitive atmosphere of English-medium urban public schools.
  • However, the bureaucracy that runs them had little imagination or vision to define their pace-setting role in an original, creative manner.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] ASER data shows early education is crucial, one-size-fits-all policy doesn’t work


Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the ASER 2018 assessment.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the recently released ASER 2018 data which shows how crucial is early education for the children of the country, in a brief manner.


  • The recently released Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2018 showed how crucial is early education for the children of the country.

Early Childhood Education

  • Early childhood education (ECE) is included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 that were approved by India among many countries around the globe.
  • SDG Target 4.2 states that by 2030 countries should “ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education”.This global goal emerged thanks to extensive international research in disciplines as varied as neuroscience, psychology and economics, which show that early childhood (defined internationally as the age group of 0-8 years) is a critical period.
  • During this time, the foundations of life-long learning are built, with 90 per cent of all brain development taking place by age six.

Early Childhood Care and Education in India

  • In India, the importance of early care and stimulation has been recognised in the National Policy on Early Childhood Care and Education (2013).
  • The policy aims to provide “developmentally appropriate preschool education for three to six-year-olds with a more structured and planned school readiness component for five to six-year-olds.”
  • The recently created Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan scheme has also brought renewed focus and attention on ECE through the Integrated Scheme on School Education that aims to treat school education “holistically without segmentation from pre-nursery to Class 12”.

Main avenues for accessing early childhood education in India

There are currently two main avenues for accessing early childhood education in India.

  • Anganwadi centres: The most widespread comprises the 1.3 million anganwadi centres run by the Ministry of Women and Child Development across the country under the Integrated Child Development (ICDS) Scheme.
  • Private sector: The other is the burgeoning private sector, with more than 40 per cent of privately managed primary schools reportedly offering pre-primary LKG and UKG classes as well.
  • Some states in India offer a third possibility as well, in the form of preschool classes integrated within government primary schools, for example in Assam and Jammu & Kashmir.

RTE Act and ASER assessment

  • According to the RTE Act, enrolment in formal schools should begin at age six, with ECE exposure recommended for children between age three and six.
  • However, 26 of India’s 35 states and union territories allow children to enter Class 1 at age five.
  • National trends from the recently released Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2018) indicate that enrolment patterns broadly meet these policy prescriptions.
  • At age three, two-thirds of children were enrolled in some form of preschool; while seven out of every 10 were enrolled in primary school at age six.
  • However, fairly large proportions of children are already in primary grades even at age three and four; and many are still in preschool at age seven and even eight.

Major variations across the country

  • As with many estimates at the all-India level, these national trends hide major variations, both across the country as well as at different ages.
  • For example, at age three, national policy recommends that children should be in an ECE programme.
  • Gujarat comes close to meeting the norm, with well over 90 per cent children in some form of preschool, the majority in ICDS Anganwadis.
  • In contrast, in Uttar Pradesh, almost two thirds are not attending anywhere.
  • At age four, almost a quarter of all four-year-olds in Rajasthan are already in primary school, with almost equal proportions in government and private schools.
  • But in Assam, about seven out of 10 children are attending an anganwadi.
  • At age five, nationally, about a third of all children are already in primary school.
  • But in UP, close to two in every 10 children are not enrolled anywhere; and, in Rajasthan over 60 per cent children are in primary school.
  • At age six, although all children are expected to be in primary school, over 40 per cent of all six-year-olds in both Telangana and Assam continue in some form of pre-primary class.
  • These varied pathways in the early years have major consequences for what children experience and learn along the way.

ASER 2018 data

  • ASER 2018 data shows that nationally, more than a quarter of children entering primary school are five years old or younger.
  • From the perspective of the primary school, children in Class 1 are far from homogenous in terms of age.
  • Less than 40 per cent are at the mandated age of six years and a third are seven or older.


  • These age-grade distributions have implications for teaching and learning.
  • A four- or five-year-old child is simply not developmentally ready to handle Class 1 curriculum.
  • From the point of view of a teacher, moreover, teaching the same content to a class with wide variation in students’ age is not a trivial challenge.
  • The requirement that teachers complete the curriculum for a given grade in a given year and that the children master the content being taught does huge disservice to both.

Outcome in terms of learning: ASER assessment

  • In the elementary school sector, ASER has demonstrated for more than a decade that getting all children into school is undoubtedly a major achievement but it does not by itself ensure that children are able to learn at the expected level.
  • ASER data shows that gaps between what children can do and what is expected of them emerge very early in children’s school trajectories and widen as they move through the system.
  • A quick look at the Class 1 language textbook in any state provides a good indication of what children are expected to do during their very first year in school.
  • But ASER 2018 data shows that even several months into Class 1, nationally more than 40 per cent of children are unable to recognise letters of the alphabet, let alone read words or connected text.

Way Forward

  • As implementation of the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan rolls out across the country, ASER data on young children suggests that a “one size fits all” solution is unlikely to be successful.
  • Experts are of the view that while helping children get a head start in the early years is important, it is critical to ensure that all stakeholders (parents, teachers, policymakers and textbook developers) understand that the key words are “quality” and “developmentally appropriate”.
  • The continuum envisaged for the early years curriculum should start from and build on what children bring with them when they enter preschool and school. So that they are able to grow and thrive.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Limits of class


Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources..

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the RTE Amendment Bill.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues and challenges in the recently passed RTE amendment bill, in a brief manner.


  • The RTE Amendment Bill, recently passed in Rajya Sabha, has again triggered the periodic debate between anti-detentionists (votaries of No-Detention Policy) and detentionists.
  • The amendment allows states to decide whether to withdraw automatic promotion at the end of 5th and 8th grades, which is the point of contention.

Arguments of Detentionists and Anti-detentionists

(a) Detentionists

  • Detentionists argue that if children know that they will automatically pass, they don’t study, thus learning achievements come down.
  • Since Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) is not implemented seriously, if no-detention is practised then certificate of elementary education will certify no learning.

(b) Anti-detentionists

  • Anti-detentionists argue that fear of failure causes stress and trauma and failure demotivates and pushes children out of system.
  • That stigma of failure mainly harms Dalit and tribal children.
  • They also argue that detention will weaken many other provisions of RTE, like admission in age-appropriate class.
  • According to them, “failing children does not make them learn” and that no-detention is claimed to produce improved learning achievements.

Why Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) cannot be implemented?

  • The shortage of teachers and lack of training are cited as the main reasons for failure of the implementation of CCE.
  • Though these claims are true, a fundamental contradiction in the RTE is ignored in this debate.
  • Unless that contradiction is removed, the CCE cannot be implemented in its true spirit.

The case of term “Class” in RTE

  • “Class” is a very important term in the RTE. The norms for teachers, teacher-pupil ratio, infrastructure and elementary education, are all defined in terms of class.
  • “Elementary education,” according to the RTE means the education from first class to eighth class.
  • Regarding the admission of a child above six years, the act demands that “he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age”.
  • The act is aware that such a child may not be at par with other children in the class, implying that class is associated with some standards of learning.
  • The act itself is “to provide for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years”.
  • Reading this together with the definition of elementary education will give the duration of “class” as one year.

From these and other references to “class” in the act, it can be conclusively established that:

  • Duration of study in a class is one year.
  • A class has its specific curriculum in which learning expectations increase as the order of class increases.
  • That the school is organised class-wise.

Promotion to the next class is not a matter of age

  • Though the RTE does not say anything about textbooks, we do know that they are written class-wise.
  • Therefore, promotion to the next class is not a matter of age, but of learning achievements; implying that the very concept of class as used in RTE contains the idea of detention, if need be.
  • With this definition of class and elementary education, the ideas of no-detention and admission in age-appropriate class completely de-emphasise learning expectations.
  • All that remains is eight years in the school, that too if the child is admitted in class one.

Contradictions in “no-detention” policy

  1. For the child admitted in “a class appropriate to age”, all that remains is attaining the age of 14 years. This happens because “no-detention” is introduced in a school system defined in terms of class.
  2. CCE demands that assessment should be continuous and it should feedback into pedagogy to help the child learn better.

CCE is not for promotion or its denial

  • With age-appropriate admission and no-detention, children in any given class are bound to be at different levels of achievement.
  • If the CCE is to help every child learn, then it cannot be based on the same tasks and assessment criteria for the whole class. But that is precisely the demand of class-wise teaching.
  • CCE on the other hand, demands individual attention in assessment and pedagogy.
  • Therefore, the class-wise structure of curriculum and school on one hand, and CCE on the other, pull the system in opposite directions.

Two ways to resolve this contradiction

(a) Accept the true definition of class or grade


  • That implies, to complete a defined curriculum in one year, and detention on unsatisfactory completion. This is what the government has done.


  • While this is retrograde and hardly improves learning, it resolves the contradiction in the teachers’ minds, and allows them to practice the age old authoritarian rigid system in its true glory.

(b) Working out the implications of a pedagogically sound CCE

The other way is to carefully work out the implications of a pedagogically sound CCE and take on the arduous task to reform the system to implement it.

That would require:

  • defining elementary education in terms of learning standards;
  • organising curriculum as a free-paced learning path, and not boxed into classes;
  • organising schools as ungraded heterogeneous learning groups, composed of children at various levels; and
  • introduce the ideas of self-learning and peer group learning, a necessity to manage a heterogeneous learning group.


  • All this will require systemic reforms and to prepare teachers for this change through massive and serious in-service professional development.
  • Although this is the difficult path, but it does not contain internal contradictions, and may solve the problem of low quality.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap]Learning little


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge about the findings of ASER.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the findings of ASER and what could be the way forward, in a brief manner.


  • The latest ASER assessment of how children are faring in schools in rural areas indicates there has been no dramatic improvement in learning outcomes.
  • It has observed that the reading and arithmetic abilities in rural schools are shockingly dismal.

Findings of the Annual Status of Education Report

  • According to the Annual Status of Education Report, Rural (2018), the picture that has emerged is one of a moribund system of early schooling in many States, with no remarkable progress from the base year of 2008.
  • Except for a small section at the top of the class, the majority of students have been let down.
  • The survey for 2018 had a reach of 5.4 lakh students in 596 rural districts.
  • The administrators must be alerted by the fact that while 53.1% of students in Class 5 in rural government schools could in 2008 read a text meant for Class 2, the corresponding figure for 2018 stood at 44.2%.
  • For comparison, private schools scored 67.9% and 65.1% for the same test in those years.
  • Arithmetic ability showed a similar trend of under-performance, although there has been a slight uptick since 2016: an improvement of about 1.5 percentage points in government schools and 1.8 percentage points in private institutions, among Class 5 students.
  • Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala and Haryana did better on the arithmetic question with over 50% students clearing it, compared to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and even Karnataka, which scored below 20%.
  • A significant percentage of students were not even able to recognise letters appropriate for their class, highlighting a severe barrier to learning.

What needs to be done?

  • Setting up a Review mechanism:Now that the ASER measure is available for 10 years, the Centre should institute a review mechanism involving all States for both government and private institutions, covering elementary education and middle school.
  • A public consultation on activity-based learning outcomes, deficits in early childhood education, and innovations in better performing States can help.
  • At present, children start learning in a variety of environments: from poorly equipped anganwadi centres to private nurseries. Therefore, any policy framework should also consider this aspect

Right to Education Act

  • The enactment of the Right to Education Act was followed by a welcome rise in enrolment, which now touches 96% as per ASER data.
  • Empowering as it is, the law needs a supportive framework to cater to learners from different backgrounds who often cannot rely on parental support or coaching.
  • There is concern that curricular expectations on literacy and numeracy have become too ambitious, requiring reform.

Way Forward

  • The solutions may lie in multiple approaches.
  • The need is to look at innovation in schools and incentivising good outcomes.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

What ASER says about quality of learning in India


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Annual Status of Education Report

Mains level: State of Indian education system and measures required for improvisation


  • The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 published by education non-profit Pratham shows the prevalence of learning deficit and the poverty of basic reading and arithmetic skills among students in Indian schools.

What does the ASER 2018 report say?

  1. The report shows that Indian students, especially those in elementary school (Classes I-VIII), are not learning enough.
  2. To cite a metric, only half (50.3%) of all students in Class V can read texts meant for Class II students.
  3. There seems to have been some improvement in learning levels, especially among students of Class III and Class V, in 2018 compared with those of the previous five years.
  4. However, the improvement is not visible at a higher level, for example among students of Class VIII.
  5. The latest report collected data from 596 districts by surveying 546,527 students from 354,944 homes.

Is this learning deficit prevalent only in government schools?

  1. The deficit is across government and private schools.
  2. Traditionally, students in private schools have fared better than their government school counterparts, but that’s a relative situation.
  3. For example, while 40% of Class VIII students in government schools can do simple division, the figure is 54.2% in private schools.
  4. But this success rate is three percentage points below that of 2012 and the same as in 2014.
  5. Private school students are believed to have better family background, both in economic and education front.

Why is learning level in schools important?

  1. The quality of the learning level bears directly on India’s future workforce, its competitiveness and the economy.
  2. India’s demographic dividend depends on the learning level of students.

Are learning levels improving in government schools?

  1. There is gradual improvement in some segments and in some states.
  2. The reading ability among Class V students in Kerala jumped 10 percentage points in 2018 from that in 2016.
  3. In Himachal Pradesh, the growth is nearly 8 percentage points and in Chhattisgarh and Odisha it is around 7 percentage points between 2016 and 2018.
  4. Still, data from states such as Jharkhand, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu shows a marginal dip in the same criterion for the same cohort.

Do private schools have more students?

  1. The situation has been almost static in the last five years.
  2. While 30.9% of students in the 6-14 age group were in private schools in 2018, the figure was 30.6% in 2016 and 30.8% in 2014.
  3. This is less than a percentage point growth since 2014.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

70 point Performance Index to assess states on schooling system


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: 70 Point Grading Index

Mains level: Schooling Reforms


  • A 70 Point Grading Index for assessing schooling systems across states, four year integrated BEd to train teachers for Std. 1 to 10 and the Digital Board are three of the key missions that the government will drive to implementation before it enters the next general election cycle.

70 point Performance Grading Index (PGI)

  1. The government will use a 70 point Performance Grading Index (PGI) to assess areas of deficiency in each state’s school education system.
  2. The 70 indicators will grade state schooling systems on areas like number of existing teacher vacancies, number of direct entry recruitments especially at leadership positions, school infrastructure etc.
  3. The Index will assess states on a 1,000 point grading system with 10-20 points per parameter- is aimed at helping states understand where they may be lagging behind.
  4. It will thus prioritize areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level.
  5. The NITI Aayog which was earlier developing its own School Education Quality Index, will be using 33 of the 70 criteria under the PGI for their own assessments.

Why such move?

  • The move is in keeping with the government’s overall thrust on quality improvement, teacher training and learning outputs.

Enhanced training of Teachers

  1. The HRD ministry is also readying plans to launch a four year integrated Bachleors in Education (Bed) course next year.
  2. This will be an integrated course to prepare teachers holistically for teaching from Class 1 to Class 10 level.
  3. This course will have a strong focus on internship and be launched with teacher training institutes under Central Universities and state universities besides private institutes that opt to go for it.
  4. The idea is as much to create a pool of well equipped teachers for the schooling system as to create a parity between teachers of all grades.
  5. The course structure will ensure modern pedagogical tools, e-learning material and global best practices.

Other measures

  1. NCERT is helping the HRD ministry set up a Central institute of Assessment to strengthen Continuous and Comprehensive Education/.
  2. It will handhold states in ensuring customized teacher training and work on pedagogical improvements.
  3. The Mission to equip every school with a Digital Board is also on full throttle to reach e learning material in various languages to schools.
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