The past couple of decades in India have witnessed a consistent surge in Public- Private Partnership (PPPs) in the arena of education; a trend triggered by the launch of the District Primary Education Programme to universalise primary education in 1994 funded by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The past couple of decades in India have witnessed a consistent surge in Public- Private Partnership (PPPs) in the arena of education; a trend triggered by the launch of the District Primary Education Programme to universalise primary education in 1994 funded by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Since then, PPPs have strengthened and the process of marketisation and privatisation in the education sector was set in motion.
Meanwhile, the central government is caught between two opposing forces; on the one hand, there is pressure to reform education systems along market lines to create an army of human resources to help capitalist forces perpetuating their hegemony over both power and capital at both domestic and international front. On the other, there are constitutional obligations to provide equality of educational opportunity to all and to serve the purpose of equity and social justice.
The National Curriculum Framework 2005 and the Right to Education Act 2009 reflect these constitutional aims. Both these policy interventions transformed the Indian school landscape in terms of infrastructure, the demographics and also introduced contemporary pedagogical practices such as constructivism, inclusion, and multilingualism amongst others. In 2017, the Framework of Learning Outcome was released, which, though situated within the broader context of the National Curriculum Framework 2005, juxtaposes it in many ways. Introducing integrated, inclusive practices, NCF 2005 aspired to bring the learner to the centre of the educational process.
With an aim to inculcate critical inquiry and critical thinking, it recognises the voices of the learners as well as the teachers. Therefore, envisioning teachers as facilitators, it perceives them in the context of social interrelationships mediated through cultural, linguistic identities and provides the liberty to customise curriculum and teaching practices according to culturally responsive pedagogy. As a facilitator, the teacher helps students to amalgamate new experiences with existing ones to construct knowledge. The cultural background including the language remains at the centre stage of this knowledge construction process requiring teachers to be aware of the socio-cultural background of their students and to incorporate this in their classroom processes.
However, the neoliberal forces- the corporates, and the foundations, consider teaching as an isolated act devoid of any social mediation, seeing education largely in terms of an educated workforce and the labour market. Accordingly, education means better achievement scores on standardised high stake tests so that improved learning outcomes in terms of competencies and skills can be measured.
Teachers need to implement a stipulated curriculum within a given timeframe and perform in terms of improved learning outcome of students. A person skilled in some specific techniques aligned with such curricula may employ these in classrooms to raise the learning level of students. The Learning Outcomes at Elementary Stage 2017, certainly is an end product of such discourses.
The challenge before a teacher is therefore to use a child-centric curriculum which underpins the holistic development of students, and to improve learning outcomes-focused on subject- specific skills and competencies; both these concepts just do not go together.
This comes at a time when advocacy groups using popular media have built a narrative around government schools depicting their worsening condition and tarnished their image. Almost all the narratives centre on the poor quality of teachers, substandard curriculum and inefficient ways to enact curriculum in the classrooms. Simultaneously, education is being projected as a service and not fundamental right to be ensured by the government implying that the application of market principles such as competition and deregulation is the best way to improve its quality.