Sunday, May 19, 2024

Rights group gives Karnataka govt’s education policies a “fail” grade in report card

B. C. Nagesh, education minister, Karnataka.

Ahead of state poll, a rights group in Karnataka released a report card and alleged that the failure of education policies and programs in the southern state has resulted in pushing students from marginalised groups out of education for the first time after Independence.

Bahutva Karnataka, a forum for justice, harmony and solidarity, has announced a series of report cards evaluating the incumbent BJP government’s policies in Karnataka.

The reports will be released periodically over the next three weeks, and the first report card, which is on education, was released on April 12, 2022.

Bahutva Karnataka has analyzed the government’s performance in relation to its own stated goals and the constitutional vision of education, which is a fundamental right in India.

The report card has evaluated the extent to which the government has achieved its stated goals of making education more accessible to all, equipping children with knowledge, skills, and values, and enabling them to become good human beings and socially responsible citizens.

The report card finds that the government has failed in several areas, which have resulted in a crisis in the state’s education system. The government has been awarded a “Fail” grade in the report card.

The closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with poorly planned and implemented National Education Policy (NEP) programs, has caused serious education deprivation for students, particularly those in government schools and poor private schools who could not access online education or have meaningful home support, the group alleged. As a result, learning levels have been falling drastically in the state, with only 8.6% of Class 3 students being able to read Class 2 level texts. This figure was 19.3% in 2018, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER).

The report card also notes that the government has weakened the public education system in several ways. For instance, 57.7% of teaching posts are vacant in government schools, which is the highest in the country.

Only 23% of Karnataka’s government schools have basic infrastructure facilities mandated by the Right to Education (RTE) Act. The government’s plans to shut down 13,000-plus government schools on the basis of low enrolment, while calling it a merger, will severely affect the access to education of disadvantaged groups and regions, observes Bahutva Karnataka.

The report card also highlights that the government has permitted six new private universities to be set up in the state without adequate discussion and review in the Assembly.

Additionally, the report card points out that the government has attempted to promote vegetarian or “sattvic” food in schools, despite criticism from civil society, nutritionists, and the food commission, and against the interest of disadvantaged children.

The sudden hijab ban in government Pre-university Colleges has led to the communalisation of educational institutes, the denial of education to students, and caused violence across the state. “The way the hijab ban was enforced, with no written orders, with Hindu students being provoked into aggression and Muslim students being denied dignity, has communalised the classroom. This will take years to undo,” read the report card.

Members of the Sangh Parivar with inadequate professional expertise in education have been selectively appointed as heads of committees and chairs to revise school textbooks, replacing significant contributions by Dalit and leading progressive authors with articles that distort history, it alleged.

“Scholarships for SC, ST, BC and OBC students at post-school levels have either been delayed for prolonged periods or ceased entirely. Several hostels run by the Dept of Social Welfare for disadvantaged groups are also underfunded and mismanaged. This, coupled with increased privatisation, has contributed to more exclusion. Reservations for Muslim students have been removed without any basis and without following the right procedure as per law. Moving them to EWS, where they compete with privileged communities, will lead to denial of opportunities,” read the report card.

The report card calls for significant increases in education budgets to address the deprivation, fill existing teacher vacancies, recruit additional teachers, provide learning resources, and support community level learning.

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