An open letter to Aam Admi Party (AAP) on educational issues

Dear Mr. Arvind Kejriwal,

I write this without knowing whether your party will win the elections in Delhi. I seek to draw your attention to the pathetic state of education in Delhi due to mindless privatization which has taken away the basic right of poor and other marginalized section to be educated and be at par with anybody else irrespective of whether the person comes from public or private education system.

The education system needs a complete overhauling. The farcical Right to Education Act would never make education a fundamental right and anybody with even a bit of critical mind can realise how farcical the act has been. In fact, it was an act that the ruling classes needed to get through due to pressure from the so-called civil society organisations. It also makes evident the skewed vision of education of even non-state actors and educationists who whole-heatedly supported this Act.

No doubt the enrolment figures have gone up and many new schools have also been opened but it is clear that the inaccessibility is still a major issue along with high drop out. And these are issues for those sections who cannot purchase education of good quality. What is also evident is a stark distinction between the education that the poor and deprived population gets compared to the classes which can buy education. The condition of government schools has been pathetic though in past many “progressive” academics and activists were part of the machinery that runs these schools during earlier regimes. Their vision was always dictated by subservience to the business classes because like the state they could not think of improving the condition of government schools because it would bring them at par with or make them much better than the private schools. At least whatever happened on the ground reflects this and has led me to this conclusion.

I realise that if your government comes to power it would not be able to radically control the private schools because of many factors but there will be still possibility to work towards certain things that can improve the condition of government schools. Globally, there has been a history of high quality public education coexisting with private schooling till neoliberalism completely destroyed public education system in those places as well. You must be aware that though the number of private schools has been increasing but the public education system is still the dominant one. And if your government works towards improving the condition of these schools it will have far reaching impacts. I believe the following areas need to be prioritised in education to start with if your party comes to power:

  1. Improve the infrastructure of public schools and bring them at par with Kendriya Vidyalayas of pre-contractualisation stage
  2. Ensure that there is a government school within one km radius of each habitation
  3. The schools must hire regular teachers instead of contractual teachers
  4. Class sizes must be cut
  5. Any traits of communalization of education system must be dealt with strictly by the government
  6. All schools – private or public – must have Parent-Teacher-School Administration councils to check undue things happening at the school and to control the whimsical nature of school management
  7. The teachers must undergo rigorous training after the teacher training institutes are overhauled in terms of their content unlike now when the teacher training is not a priority
  8. Education must try to impart critical education and it is important to define what is ‘critical education’
  9. Critical education must aim at preparing citizens which believe in democracy, social justice, secularism and equality. This needs to be done across the curriculum. Children should be taught to question the world in front of them and the curriculum needs to address this.
  10. Critical education must constitute basis of education and not the uncritical skill based education which the corporate houses want so that uncritical people are produced to serve them
  11. The public education can be strengthened to an extent that it can offer better education than private education system but the governments in past have always aimed at destroying and delegitimising public education system so that the corporate houses can spread their business
  12. In higher education all state managed institutions must be made more transparent, less authoritarian, freed of contractualisation
  13. The government must ensure that there are teacher and student unions in higher education institutions that would ensure the above mentioned aspects
  14. The institutions must not be brought under unnecessary pressure to provide only skill-based education because this would subsequently destroy social sciences and humanities and any space for critical thinking

While I am writing counting of votes is still to happen and one does not know who would win the elections. I would not have written such a letter if your party would have had a history like that of other parties who have made it clear that their interest is no longer in improving public education system or public health system. I do not need to tell you how desperate the corporate capital is to take over the two primary social sectors as indicated through their numerous calculations about how much profit can be earned if the state opens up these two sectors. Education and health are two crucial needs of the poor in an economy where the income and wealth gap between rich and poor has been growing.

I hope that if a new government comes it will act towards improving the education system and not become another instrument of private capital.

Best of luck