Making public education inclusive

Odisha’s reforms in the public education sector are on their way to making government schools better than private schools

November 20, 2023 01:17 am | Updated 01:17 am IST

Odisha’s OAV model aims to bridge the rural-urban gap by providing accessible, qualitative and affordable English-medium education. Representational image.
Photo: Rawpixel.

Odisha’s OAV model aims to bridge the rural-urban gap by providing accessible, qualitative and affordable English-medium education. Representational image. Photo: Rawpixel.

There is no denying that education is a human right. It ought to be accessible and affordable for all sections of society so that development is truly inclusive. Yet, a study by IIM Ahmedabad’s Right to Education Resource Center confirmed the well-known but disconcerting truth that parents lack trust in government schools due to poor quality of education and prefer to admit their children into private schools even if that means spending significantly more on tuition and other fees.

However, the Odisha government’s revolutionary reforms in the State’s public education sector through the Odisha Adarsha Vidyalayas (OAV), the ‘Mo School’ Abhiyan, and the 5T- High School Transformation Programme are on their way to making government schools better than private schools in all parameters — infrastructure, affordability and quality.

English-medium education

Education World India School Rankings 2022-23 ranked the OAV in Polasara block of Ganjam district the fifth-best school in the government-run day school category, and two more OAVs among the top 10. In order to address the struggle faced by students in securing admission to the Kendriya Vidyalaya schools after the first standard, the OAVs provide admission at the secondary stage. Odisha’s OAV model aims to bridge the rural-urban gap by providing accessible, qualitative and affordable English-medium education. There are 315 English medium co-ed OAVs in all 314 blocks in rural and semi-urban areas (as of February 2023). They ensure representation for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, and female students through reservations. This has led to a higher enrolment of female students (43,410) compared to males (30,949). Thirty-one vulnerable children who had been victims of child abuse, trafficking, child labour, and child marriage were rescued and prepared for the OAV entrance in 2021. OAVs also provide different types of coaching facilities to enable students crack national-level tests. Twenty-four OAV students cracked the NEET exam in July 2023. OAVs have promoted social equity by providing a level-playing field to students from rural and poor socio-economic backgrounds.

To address pedagogical gaps, the OAV model focuses on continuous teacher education programmes and maintains a teacher-pupil ratio of 1:25. It has also leveraged digital technology to enhance the accountability and transparency of the system. The Enterprise Resource Planning system and OAV Sangathan website help track the academic and non-academic progress of each child alongside monitoring the performance of each school, enabling timely strategic interventions. Plans are afoot to transform the OAVs into scientifically upgraded Centres of Excellence to foster an ecosystem of innovation and inquiry-driven learning.

The alumni connect

In 2017, Odisha launched the Mo School Abhiyan, a one-of-its-kind initiative that strives to motivate and mobilise the alumni community to contribute towards revamping the government schools in Odisha. Founded on five pillars — connect, collaborate, contribute, create and celebrate — the programme connects the schools with alumni from various fields and promotes alumni mentorship for the students. Deeper collaboration between the alumni, school authorities, and the district administration facilitates students’ exposure to exchange programmes, sports and cultural events, and also helps in creating stronger infrastructure. More than 33,000 schools in about 30 districts in Odisha have seen engagement from over six lakh alumni members under the Mo School Abhiyan.

The School Adoption Programme (SAP), under the above programme, enables the alumni to make financial contributions to the schools adopted by them. More than 5.5 lakh contributors including ministers, MPs and MLAs, bureaucrats, professionals, and judges have contributed more than ₹797 crore in 40,855 schools.

High school transformation

The 5T-High School Transformation Programme is rooted in the 5T concept of transparency, technology, teamwork, and timeliness leading to transformation. Launched in 2021, the programme focuses on the adoption of educational technology, in the form of smart and digital classrooms, e-libraries, modern science laboratories, improved sanitation facilities, and sports facilities in all high schools. As of today, a total of 6,872 high schools have been transformed at a cost of ₹3,411 crore. The programme also caters to the needs of specially abled children. It provides assistive devices and tailored teaching-learning materials for students with autism, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities. The government has also launched campaigns like ‘Mo School Hockey Clubs’ and ‘Football for All’, thus enabling holistic development of students’ personalities.

This proactive approach to transforming the education system has led to an unprecedented shift in enrolment patterns. In 2019-20, private schools had 16,05,000 students; in 2021-22, this number dwindled to 14,62,000. Currently, 81% of students in the State are studying in government schools. The interventions by the Odisha government led by Naveen Patnaik have ensured that education is treated as a public good in essence and spirit and have created a strong legacy of an education model founded on equality and excellence.

Amar Patnaik is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha from Odisha and an advocate by profession. He was a former CAG bureaucrat. Views are personal

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