Ashok Pandey is principal of the CBSE-affiliated Ahlcon International School (AIS), Delhi, and former chairman of the National Progressive Schools Conference. An alum of Allahabad University and former physics teacher at Mayo College, Ajmer, Pandey was founder-principal of DPS, Jammu, with teaching and administrative experience at the International Indian School, Dammam, Saudi Arabia and the Amity Group before he was appointed principal of AIS in 2003.
Are you satisfied with the Union Budget 2018-19 allocation of Rs.85,010 crore for education?
The education budget has been increased by a mere 10 percent. In 1966, the Kothari Commission recommended that government spending — Centre plus states — be increased to 6 percent of GDP. We are way behind this target. The budget is inadequate to meet the challenges of improving the country’s faltering education system. We need to invest heavily in research, teacher development, and infrastructure to improve students’ learning outcomes.
Across the country, state governments are increasingly interfering with the autonomy of private independent schools, particularly through fees regulation. What’s your comment?
That’s a real tragedy. The country’s private schools provide education to over 40 percent of India’s school-going children. State governments acknowledge the high standards of private schools, yet when it comes to autonomy, they are controlling. Even in the matter of fees regulation, the government is not transparent. The law is clear: the fee should be commensurate with facilities provided. Private schools should also do their best to overcome the negative perceptions around their functioning and management.
What is your solution to the challenge of increasing government regulation of private K-12 education?
Performance is the most potent regulator. Moreover lack of parental involvement, trust and communication is a serious challenge and is responsible for the growing demand for external regulation. School managements and teachers must fulfill their duty as nation builders and co-opt parents in this important task.
Top 5 suggestions for reforming K-12 education
• Encourage and motivate youth to take up teaching as a preferred career.
• The Central government should accord top national priority to education and demonstrate it by increased funding.
• Remodel and modernise teacher training institutions.
• Address the challenges of student diversity, inclusion, learning styles, and assessment.
• Implement a national policy for digitalization and integration of technology in K-12 education.