The story so far: The Union Cabinet has approved a new government scheme for the transformation of over 14,000 schools across the country into model institutions to achieve the objectives of the National Education Policy, 2020. This comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the centrally sponsored ‘Pradhan Mantri ScHools For Rising India Schools scheme’, or PM Shri Schools, on Teacher’s Day, to provide improved infrastructure, innovative pedagogy and technology in selected schools.
What is the scheme?
The first mention of the scheme was made in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s 2021 Budget speech where she spoke about the Centre’s vision to transform education in the country. More than 15,000 schools will be qualitatively strengthened for effective implementation of the new national education policy, she said.
Earlier this year, Union Minister for Education Dharmendra Pradhan said at a national conference of education ministers that the Centre was in the process of establishing PM Shri Schools. “These state-of-art schools will be the laboratory of the new education policy,” the minister remarked.
On September 7, the Cabinet approved the scheme. Under the scheme, 14,597 existing schools selected from amongst those managed by the Central government, States, Union Territories and local bodies will be redeveloped as model institutions, or PM Shri Schools, to fulfil the objectives of the NEP 2020.
These schools will “deliver quality teaching for the cognitive development of students and strive to create individuals equipped with key 21st-century skills,” the Union Ministry of Education said in a statement.
The Centre expects 18 lakh students to directly benefit from the scheme. “Further impact will be generated through the mentoring and handholding of the schools in the vicinity of the PM SHRI Schools,” the ministry said.
The centrally sponsored scheme will be implemented with a total project cost of ₹27,360 crore, with ₹18,128 crore being the Centre’s share, for five years from 2022-23 to 2026-27, the ministry added.
Which school will be selected and how?
All elementary schools (Classes 1-5 or 1-8), secondary (Classes 1-10 or 6-10) and senior secondary schools (Classes 1-12 or 6-12) that are managed either by the Centre, State, UT, local bodies and have a UDISE+ (Unified District Information for Education Pus) code can apply. UDISE is a platform which collects information on a school’s profile, physical infrastructure, teachers, enrolments, results, etc. through an online Data Collection Form that contains information on multiple performance indicators.
The selection process will be application-based— schools will have to first self-apply online on a portal to be considered. This portal will be opened four times a year, once every quarter, for the first two years of the scheme. Selection will be through a three-step process.
States or UT will sign a memorandum of understanding agreeing to “implement the NEP in entirety”. In the MoU, the Centre will lay down commitments for supporting these schools for achieving specified quality assurance as PM SHRI Schools. Schools that fulfil the minimum benchmark (by analysis of UDISE+ data) will be shortlisted.
The last stage will be challenge-based. Teams from States, Kendriya Vidyalaya or Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya schools will visit the applicant institution to inspect and verify claims.They will then recommend the selected schools to the Ministry of Education.
The ministry will select a maximum of two schools — one elementary and the second either secondary, or senior secondary — from a block or urban local body, as applicable. The final decision will be taken by an expert committee. Details about potential members of this committee have not been disclosed so far. Schools will be geo-tagged to monitor implementation of the scheme.
Are all States eligible?
The Ministry of Education said in its statement that States and UTs will have to “sign an MoU agreeing to implement the NEP in entirety in schools.” This means that schools will be considered only if the State government agrees to implement the NEP in its entirety. However, a few States like Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal have opposed the new NEP for imposing a centralised education system when education is a State subject. Hence, it remains to be seen if these states will sign the MoU with the Centre for their schools to be considered for the scheme.
What are the key features of the scheme?
As per the education ministry, the PM Shri Schools scheme will provide high-quality education in an “equitable, inclusive and joyful environment that takes care of the diverse background, multilingual needs and different academic abilities of children”.
Some key features of the PM Shri scheme are:
- Improvement of existing school infrastructure and provision of more facilities.
- Early childhood care and education including Balvatika and foundational literacy and numeracy.
- Development of ‘Green schools’. These will be equipped with solar panels, LED lights, nutrition gardens, and waste management, water conservation and harvesting systems. Students will also be made aware of traditions and practices related to the protection of the environment and encouraged to adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
- Modern facilities including ICT (information and communication technologies) facility, smart classrooms, library, digital library, science labs and vocational labs etc. Schools will also get science and maths kits and annual school grants for library or sports.
- Counselling focused on well-being and career
- Sports and arts for every child.
- Provision of safe and appropriate infrastructure for girls and those with special needs.
- Mother tongue and local languages to be encouraged.
- Teachers are expected to adopt more experiential, holistic, integrated, play or toy-based, learner-centred, discussion-based, flexible and enjoyable methods.
- Students to be taught about India and made aware of the country’s contribution to the world. Another feature includes “character-building, citizenship values, fundamental duties and responsibilities towards nation-building”.
- A student registry will be maintained for tracking enrolment and learning progress. PM Shri schools will be monitored regularly to assess progress and understand challenges faced in the implementation of the NEP, the Centre has said. A ‘School Quality Assessment Framework’ is being developed to measure the progress and performance of these schools.
- The government has said it is exploring the possibility of collaborating with Sector Skill Councils of the National Skill Development Corporation and local industry to enhance employability and provide better employment opportunities. Schools will be connected to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and to higher education institutions for mentoring.