NEW DELHI :
In May 2015, two weeks before the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government completed the first 100 days in office, deputy chief minister and education minister Manish Sisodia came out of his house for a quick interview. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and the Delhi government, Sisodia said, were in favour of improving the quality of education and adopting “a model that benefits the public".
For five years, AAP worked on its education promise ably supported by its Oxford- educated leader Atishi and made education an election agenda. On Tuesday, soon after the Delhi assembly election results showed a massive victory for AAP, Kejriwal amplified his education achievements and spoke about how people had rewarded the party for this.
“Delhi people have given their message. The vote will go for building schools. It’s a new kind of politics.... An election has been won on the basis of work. It will take us to the 21st century," said the Indian Institute of Technology-educated Kejriwal.
Soon after, his party posted pictures of a well-furnished government school and smart classrooms on Twitter. “Dear Delhi Govt schools and Mohalla Clinics, this is your victory. In the last 5 years, you’ve made Delhi proud," it said.
The words are not without substance. For the last five years, the Delhi government has been allocating a quarter of its annual budget for education, a proportion that is far in excess of what is put into education by the central government or any other state government. In 2019, of the ₹60,000 crore budget, the AAP government allocated ₹15,300 crore to education. The previous Congress government in Delhi spent 16% on education.
The state government has built 16,000 classrooms, and improved the infrastructure that caters to more than 1.5 million students and 65,000 teachers. It also trained hundreds of teachers at top Indian B-Schools and foreign universities to hone their leadership skills and help them keep abreast of the latest education trends.
Last year’s success percentage of Delhi government schools in the Class XII board examination was almost eight percentage points more than that of 2016. Besides, 473 students from Delhi government schools cleared the joint entrance exam for admission to top engineering and architecture schools including IITs. The AAP government also curbed the fee hike by private schools, a constant worry for the middle class, and earned their goodwill.
However, Delhi is still behind some developed states in education outcome in national surveys and the Kejriwal government will have to work its way up and build schools and colleges for a growing migrant population by convincing the Union government to grant it land parcels. AAP is still working to establish an education board for Delhi, an unfulfilled promise, and has announced a sports university. The 2020 AAP manifesto also talks about making students job-ready through vocational education and introducing a ‘deshbhakti curriculum’ to inculcate nationalism.
“Education in India is representative of aspiration and if any political party delivers on this front, it gets rewarded. I believe, the dividend from education is always higher than let’s say roads. The Delhi government has not solved all problems of education in the city but its consistence stand has earned it goodwill and now votes. People are now conscious about who is delivering. The 2019 general elections and now the Delhi results show that people do take into account the development agenda seriously," said Navneet Sharma, an educationist and dean of IFIM Business School in Bengaluru.