New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposal to prevent teenage dropouts with 6,000 “model schools,” an initiative announced on Independence Day last year, will reach the cabinet in a few days—and is likely to look pretty much as he laid out.
Human resource development (HRD) minister Arjun Singh had tried to tack on a demand for 1,000 of the schools to be Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs, or central schools) and 700 of them to be Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs, or state-run residential schools for children in rural areas). But this may not be included in the proposal put up for approval.
But the ministry said the decision is not final. “We have not dropped it, but we are having a re-look at it because of shortage of funds”, said Subhash Khuntia, joint secretary and a top bureaucrat in the HRD ministry, which oversees education.
The HRD minister had proposed in December last year that these schools be treated as part of the proposed model schools. This, and an earlier plan on similar lines to start 500 KVs and 500 NVs, had drawn strong protests from the Planning Commission, which saw them as being against the spirit of inclusion.
The commission, which helps the government allocate money for various programmes, was worried that KVs will be viewed as elitist as they mostly cater to children of government employees.
The exchange of letters between the Planning Commission and the HRD ministry on this issue was reviewed by Mint and reported on 27 February, two days before the national budget.
The budget for the year to March 2009 allocated Rs650 crore to start the model school scheme. The Planning Commission expects the total cost of the schools to be Rs12,750 crore in the 2007-12 plan for government spending and programmes.
In the fresh proposal that will reach the cabinet shortly, the ministry has proposed 3,500 schools be operated by giving them to state governments—but with stiff standards and targets on performance. The remaining 2,500 schools from the Prime Minister’s plan will be started in public-private partnership (PPP) mode as was proposed by the Planning Commission all along. The model schools will have parameters for teacher-student ratios, usage of computer education, and the infrastructure of library and laboratories.
“Even some existing schools can be converted to model schools. We are very clear that it will not be a one-size-fits- all,” said Khuntia, speaking on the sidelines of a conference on the PPP model schools organized by an arm of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd that focuses on building social infrastructure. “Learning outcome surveys (for the model schools) can be done by an independent agency.”
The model school programme has not been widely welcomed by education experts, since many feel the government should focus on improving learning outcomes in its current secondary school system instead of starting new schools.
The government has said it hopes the model schools have a trickle-down effect in improving the quality of education.