The biggest promise the Bharatiya Janata Party made in its manifesto for children and youths in the 2014 elections was that it would frame a new education policy, implying a new look at school and higher education and sweeping reform. That remains unfulfilled.

The BJP had also stated its intention to increase public spending on education, universalise secondary schooling (Class 9 and above) and a range of reviews and reform of existing schemes and programmes.

Here is a look at what was promised and what was achieved.

For Children

Special emphasis on “vulnerable children and especially those belonging to the vulnerable communities like SCs, STs, OBCs, migrants, slum dwellers, street dwellers and those with disabilities”.
No scheme has been introduced to encourage either inclusion or retention in schools. However, the merged school education scheme, Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, does provide for both.

Ensure effective implementation of the Right to Education, Right to Food Security Act. Review, amend and strengthen the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2012 and Integrated Child Protection Scheme.
Status: The Right to Education Act was diluted with an amendment permitting states to make children repeat classes. Another amendment extended the deadline for training teachers. The Rules were also amended to set class-wise targets for learning or learning outcomes. The child labour law was also diluted on its watch, allowing children under 14 to work in family businesses. However, it did increase the penalty for engaging child labour. Effective implementation in the case of entitlements under education and food security laws has essentially meant digitisation of the benefit delivery process and linking it to the controversial unique identity number, Aadhar.

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School Education

Public spending on education “would be raised to 6% of the Gross Domestic Product”, and “involving the private sector would further enhance this”.
Status: Public spending on education has not reached 4% of even the total outlay, let alone 6% of GDP. In 2019, the ministry claimed the government’s outlay had touched 4% but this was only after factoring in loans sanctioned by a finance agency, not just grants.

Performance audit of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the main scheme to support the Right to Education Act 2009, and “real time information” about its performance. Programme shall be strengthened and expanded with a goal to remove illiteracy.
Set up a number of online systems and websites to capture data on schools and also for parents to track the progress of their children.

Universalisation of secondary school education and skills development shall be “seriously pursued with particular focus on rural, tribal and difficult areas”.
Status: No new legal provision or plan for universalising secondary education. NITI Aayog identified 101 most developmentally backward districts – many of them in tribal areas – and launched the “Transformation of Aspirational Districts Programme” in 2018. Among other things, it is meant to address educational backwardness. It added 5,000 seats in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas in 2019. More Eklavya Model Residential Schools were mentioned in the 2018-’19 budget but not enough funds were allocated.

Girls shall be provided all possible help to continue and complete school education.
Status: Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, a scheme jointly managed by three ministries including human resource development, launched in 2015. By 2018, it covered 161 districts with the lowest child sex ratio.

School children travel to school on a packed auto-rickshaw in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, November 25, 2014. (Credit: Reuters/Amit Dave)

Reduce the daily burden of carrying books to school for children, which would also entail use of technology for education as a mission mode project.
Status: The National Council for Educational Research and Training is reducing the content of textbooks, in some cases deleting entire chapters. In November, the Ministry of Human Resource Development issued guidelines on how much school bags should weigh by class. Operation Digital Blackboard was mentioned at a meeting in 2018 but not launched formally till February 2019 for Classes 9 and above in schools. The manifesto also proposed a “national E-library to empower school teachers and students”. It has set up the National Digital Library with IIT Kharagpur but its target audience is not restricted to teachers and students.

Creative talents of students will be recognised and encouraged.
Status: The Ministry of Human Resource Development has been organising Kala Utsav every year since 2015. It was under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, now subsumed within the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan.

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