April 12, 2023
Recently about seven hundred State Board affiliated schools in Karnataka were in news for following CBSE curriculum and hoodwinking the parents that their wards are studying in CBSE schools. The fraud came to light when the State Government planned to conduct public examination to grade 5 and 8. It is then that the schools asked their students to study the sate board textbooks to prepare for the public examination.
This fraud by the school managements has unearthed a perennial problem plaguing our school education system in the country: lack of uniformity in school curricula. Primary education in the country is a fundamental right. But diversifying the school curriculum to meet the wallet capacity of parents is a clear pointer to the commercialization of education.
We have at least three categories of schools offering primary education to different socio-economic strata of society. While the State Board schools in the vernacular medium cater to the needs of parents below poverty line such as laborers and small -scale farmers, the English medium schools affiliated to State Board cater to the lower middle class parents. Another level of socio-economic strata of parents prefer to send their children to schools offering Central Board curriculum such as CBSE and ICSE. As these schools have made their inroads to every city and prominent towns in rural areas, the people clamor to send their children to these schools even though many of them can’t truly afford.
Another kind is the so-called international schools offering international curriculum such as IGCSE and IB which is afforded by only the elite parents living in the metros of India. Foe example, the annual fee of in Dhirubhai Ambani International School offering IGCSE curriculum charges annual fee of 5.9 lac per year to high school grades. The amount far exceeds the total fee required to study the entire 12 years of school education in a state board school!
It is true that the fees prescribed by a school depends on the amenities it offers, the salary it pays to the teachers and other staff and so on. It may be argued that as a democratic nation people have a choice to make for educating their children depending on their financial capabilities. However, we must remember that primary education is not a luxury but a fundamental right of every child. As such, is not every state in the country morally obligated to provide the best to the economically marginalized children?
According to the information obtained under Right to Information Act, 23 sates are following NCERT textbooks of CBSE schools as on 2021. This clearly shows that there is a huge demand for the CBSE curriculum. So the question that obviously comes to the fore is what is the need to have separate State Board curriculum and CBSE curriculum ? In Karnataka, the govt has introduced NCERT textbooks to senior grades 9, 10 and commerce and science streams of PU classes. Why can’t the Karnataka Govt adopt the NCERT curriculum for all the classes right from the grade 1 instead of spending crores of tax payers money on setting up State Board curriculum panel and committees? Why can’t we have one nation, one syllabus policy? Of course, except for regional language textbooks which could be prepared by local experts.
One Nation, one syllabus policy will revolutionize our education system, would reduce the clamor for CBSE and ICSE schools and bring in uniformity in what children study across the nation. This would provide equal access to quality education to all the children especially the economically weaker sections of the society. It would put the rural students at par with their counterparts from the urban areas in facing national level competitive exams such as NEET, JEE etc.
Although primary education is a subject that comes under the concurrent list, is it not practical and advantageous for the States to adopt well researched NCERT curriculum for all the common subjects and develop its own curriculum for the additional subjects such as regional languages. Let not the vested interests of the few corporate education institutions deter the Government from bringing in a policy to introduce uniformity in curriculum and assessment across the country.
The other day our PM Modi mooted the idea of ‘One Nation, One police Uniform’. Don’t you think, ‘One nation, one curriculum’ is the pressing need of our Primary school education in the country today?