education reform

Niti Aayog and Union HRD ministry compete over state education roadmaps

Both want states to take their advice in restructuring their primary schools.

Government think-tank Niti Aayog’s collaboration with three state education departments appears to have set off friction with the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. An official of the Niti Aayog, who did not want to be identified, said the ministry has objected to the think-tank’s programme called Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital, or SATH. Under the programme, the Niti Aayog has signed agreements with the governments of Odisha, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh to draw a roadmap to restructure their education systems.

Officials at the ministry did not respond to Scroll.in’s emails seeking to confirm the objections and understand the reasons for them.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development is the Union government’s main body to fund and regulate education in India. But beyond setting the terms for centrally-funded schemes, the ministry has little say in how states organise their school education.

Last year, however, the ministry produced a roadmap of reforms, complete with timelines for implementation, for Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, on the request of the two state governments. Now, the Niti Aayog is also doing the same.

But while the ministry’s collaboration with Uttar Pradesh was the result of an “informal discussion with the state’s education officials”, as a ministry official told Scroll.in in August, SATH is a 30-month long programme backed by formal agreements with the participating states. The states and Niti Aayog are paying an equal share of the Rs 26 crore earmarked for the project in each state.

Another difference between the ministry and Niti Aayog’s programmes is that while the ministry created its plans in collaboration with the state education departments, the states were free to implement the plans autonomously. The Niti Aayog, however, has placed teams – consultants from two private firms – within the education departments of the three states to ensure that the plans are executed.

The first phase

Unlike the Planning Commission, which advised the Union government, the mandate of the Niti Aayog, which replaced the advisory body in early 2015, was to design “strategic and long term policies and programmes for the Government of India” and also provide “relevant technical advice to the Centre and states”. One of its stated objectives is to “radically” redefine the Centre-state relationship. The Niti Aayog also describes itself as “a platform for cooperative federalism” facilitating “the working together of the Union and States as equals”.

In May, the Niti Aayog wrote to all states offering assistance with improving their health and education sectors. According to the official from the Niti Aayog, 16 states responded. “We basically needed a commitment from their chief ministers,” said the official. That month itself, management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group and Piramal Foundation for Education Leadership, a philanthropic firm run by the Piramal Group, were signed up to assist participating states.

On June 10, state officials from 14 of the 16 interested states presented details of their health and education sectors, as well as their plans to improve them, before members and officials of the Niti Aayog. The Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital was subsequently launched. In early August, Odisha, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh were selected for the programme. The ministry of Human Resource Development was involved till this stage. A director from the ministry was even part of the committee that picked the three states.

“But after that, the ministry objected to Niti Aayog’s drawing up plans,” said the Niti Aayog official. “We have kept the ministry informed and will take suggestions – it is the main funding and implementing agency – but Niti Aayog and the two [private teams] are doing the planning.”

On November 25, the Odisha government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Niti Aayog. Madhya Pradesh entered into a similar agreement in December, and the Niti Aayog official said that the deal with Jharkhand “is almost done”. The official added that the work on reforms began immediately after the selection of the three states.

Over December, the Niti Aayog and education departments of the three selected states organised workshops with education officials, non-governmental organisations and others involved in education in those states – Odisha on December 7, Madhya Pradesh on December 18 and Jharkhand on December 23. Officials from the ministry did not attend these meetings.

“We had invited them [the ministry] and have been keeping them informed but no representative came,” said the Niti Aayog official. “The ministry has now sent us its plans [for Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir] and told us to follow them, but our teams in the states are already framing their own policies.”

Mergers and closures

For all the competition over roadmaps between the Union ministry and Niti Aayog, there is one major objective common to both sets of policy makers: the merger or closure of a large number of public schools that have a low enrolment rate. The ministry’s policy for Uttar Pradesh had suggested that schools with less than 50 students be merged with other schools within a one-km radius. The Niti Aayog official said that planning such mergers is one of the major activities its teams will engage in.

Odisha, which has made maximum progress with the Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital programme so far, has identified 4,200 schools that have under 10 students each. This list is based on data from the District Information System for Education, the only national-level public database on schooling.

“We are now in the process of verifying the actual situation on the ground after which all schools with less than 10 students and with other schools within a one kilometre [radius] will be closed,” said Chintamani Seth, Odisha’s director of elementary education. “Where a school is not available within a kilometre, we plan to provide a transport allowance.”

According to the plan, neighbouring primary (Classes 1 to 5) and upper primary (Classes 6 to 8) schools will be merged next and brought under the charge of one head of school. Similarly, upper primary and secondary (Classes 9 and 10) schools situated close to each other will also be merged.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Movies can make you leap beyond what is possible

Movies have the power to inspire us like nothing else.

Why do we love watching movies? The question might be elementary, but one that generates a range of responses. If you had to visualise the world of movies on a spectrum, it would reflect vivid shades of human emotions like inspiration, thrill, fantasy, adventure, love, motivation and empathy - generating a universal appeal bigger than of any other art form.

“I distinctly remember when I first watched Mission Impossible I. The scene where Tom Cruise suspends himself from a ventilator to steal a hard drive is probably the first time I saw special effects, stunts and suspense combined so brilliantly.”  

— Shristi, 30

Beyond the vibe of a movie theatre and the smell of fresh popcorn, there is a deeply personal relationship one creates with films. And with increased access to movies on television channels like &flix, Zee Entertainment’s brand-new English movie channel, we can experience the magic of movies easily, in the comforts of our home.

The channel’s tagline ‘Leap Forth’ is a nod to the exciting and inspiring role that English cinema plays in our lives. Comparable to the pizazz of the movie premieres, the channel launched its logo and tagline through a big reveal on a billboard with Spider-Man in Mumbai, activated by 10,000 tweets from English movies buffs. Their impressive line-up of movies was also shown as part of the launch, enticing fans with new releases such as Spider-Man: Homecoming, Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, The Dark Tower, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Life.

“Edgar Wright is my favourite writer and director. I got interested in film-making because of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the dead. I love his unique style of storytelling, especially in his latest movie Baby Driver.”

— Siddhant, 26

Indeed, movies can inspire us to ‘leap forth’ in our lives. They give us an out-of-this-world experience by showing us fantasy worlds full of magic and wonder, while being relatable through stories of love, kindness and courage. These movies help us escape the sameness of our everyday lives; expanding our imagination and inspiring us in different ways. The movie world is a window to a universe that is full of people’s imaginations and dreams. It’s vast, vivid and populated with space creatures, superheroes, dragons, mutants and artificial intelligence – making us root for the impossible. Speaking of which, the American science fiction blockbuster, Ghost in the Shell will be premiering on the 24th of June at 1:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M, only on &flix.

“I relate a lot to Peter Parker. I identified with his shy, dorky nature as well as his loyalty towards his friends. With great power, comes great responsibility is a killer line, one that I would remember for life. Of all the superheroes, I will always root for Spiderman”

— Apoorv, 21

There are a whole lot of movies between the ones that leave a lasting impression and ones that take us through an exhilarating two-hour-long ride. This wide range of movies is available on &flix. The channel’s extensive movie library includes over 450 great titles bringing one hit movie premiere every week. To get a taste of the exciting movies available on &flix, watch the video below:

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of &flix and not by the Scroll editorial team.