Starting and maintaining the pipeline: improving primary and secondary education

One can not improve the GER numbers without paying attention to the primary and secondary education. Unless more students get into the school and graduate with a high school degree there will not be enough of them going for colleges. So even though there have been some major central initiatives, the state has to come up with its own plan.

Central Initiatives

  1. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan
  2. Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan (RMSA) - Class VIII to X
    1. The Framework
  3. Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill
  4. The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley - A personal journey into how the world's poorest people are educating themselves. (Review, SepiaMutiny posting)

The state has to use the above opportunities but at the same time use some innovative methods as well as take advantage of some of the features of the state. For example, while Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan (RMSA) may increase accessibility of schools, they do not go far enough on the quality of education. So the state needs to go beyond RTE (Right to Education) to Right to Choice of Education and create a competitive atomosphere so that childrne do not just have a school to go, but have a school to go where good teaching is done. In that regards one may notice that the Saraswati Vidya Mandirs have been doing very well in terms of academic performance. So following are some suggestions.
  • In backward areas, areas with lot of BPL population and remote areas the state should have minimal rules on establishing private schools and even encourage them through incentives. State should have no restrictions on the number of students in the school, the teachers having CT or B.Ed degrees, or the schools having a playground of size X, etc. Let there be lots of private schools giving choice to the students and parents. 
  • Moreover, the state (with center's help) should start a voucher program through which parents will get vouchers to send their kids to schools of their choice. (The voucher can not be spent for things outside school.)  The voucher program can be targeted towards BPL families in backward districts.

Right to School Choice

  • With the mushrooming of the private engineering colleges, they now have a vested interest in more students passing +2. Thus many of them are opening +2 schools. In general, there is a big increase in the number of +2 colleges. The state should encourage these colleges to go down till the 8th grade and give them any benefits through the RMSA program.
  • Currently, the state has many junior (+2) colleges with pretty good faculty. The state should rename them to "academies" and add Viii-Xth grade to them. 
  • The state needs to open some science magnet schools and culture magnet schools for students with abilities and interest in either.
  • The Orissa government should pursue and entice some of the top coaching institutes to set shop in Bhubaneswar. Some of the ones not yet in Orissa are FIIT JEE, Bansal, and Vidya Mandir. 
  • English must be made compulsory from Class I. In addition there must be a state-wide campaign on improving the English skills of students at all levels.