PM SHRI promises to transform schools; is it tacitly pushing NEP?

PM SHRI promises to transform schools; is it tacitly pushing NEP?

The first stage involves states and UTs signing MoUs agreeing to implement NEP in its entirety, with the Centre laying down the commitments for supporting these schools for achieving specified quality assurance

The devil in the PM Schools for Rising India (PM SHRI) scheme approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday lies in the details. Under the centrally sponsored scheme, more than 14,500 select existing schools managed by the Union or the governments or the local bodies will be ‘upgraded’ across the country.

The Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved ₹27,360 crore as the project cost of the scheme for the period of five years from 2022-23 to 2026-27.

Also read: Explained: How PM SHRI seeks to transform 14,500 govt schools

Govt schools in focus

The Cabinet nod for the development of model schools, touted as a laboratory of the bogged new National Education Policy (NEP), comes at a time when the condition of government-run schools in India for a change became an issue of political discourse following a report last month in the New York Times lauding education system in the AAP-ruled Delhi.

Many BJP leaders, including Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, had joined the chorus to take the credit away from the Delhi government headed by Arvind Kejriwal. The chief ministers of Assam and Delhi even engaged in Twitter spat over the condition of schools in their respective states.

Banking on its Delhi “success story,” the AAP put education at the centre of its ‘Make India No. 1’ campaign launched by Kejriwal on Wednesday eyeing on the 2024 general elections.

Stating that India could not become No. 1 country because it did not give importance to education after gaining Independence, Kejriwal, while launching the nationwide campaign from Haryana, said, “We have to ensure good and free education in the country in war mode.”

Also read: Modi announces PM-SHRI scheme for upgrading 14,500 schools

‘Counter’ to Delhi model

The PM SHRI is the Modi-led BJP government’s ‘counter’ to the AAP’s Delhi model of education system.

Kolkata-based educationist Arundhuti Roy Choudhury, however, said even if the Centre’s initiative becomes successful it would be insignificant.

“There are 10.32 lakh government schools in India. Out of them, only 14,500 would be developed under the new scheme. This will not bring any major change to the system even if the scheme succeeds in achieving the goal it set,” she said.

Also read: How Delhi govt transformed its schools, and the challenges it faces

A government press communiqué said PM SHRI will “provide high-quality education in an equitable, inclusive and joyful school environment that takes care of the diverse background, multilingual needs, and different academic abilities of children.”

The PM SHRI schools will provide leadership to other schools in their respective regions by providing mentorship, it further said listing eight such “key features” of the scheme.

Also read: NEP 2020: Absorb ancient Indian knowledge, but view it critically

The selection of the schools will be done through “challenge mode” wherein schools will compete to get enlisted. Interested schools would be required to self-apply on the online portal. The portal will be opened four times a year, once every quarter, for the first two years of the scheme.

The selection will be done through a three-stage process.

Pushing NEP?

The first stage involves states/union territories signing MoU agreeing to implement NEP in its entirety with the Centre laying down the commitments for supporting these schools for achieving specified quality assurance as PM SHRI schools.

Many see this condition as an attempt by the Centre to push the NEP 2020 through the backdoor.

Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, at a conference of school education ministers in June, admitted that the implementation of the new NEP slowed down because several states, particularly those ruled by non-BJP parties, are against certain provisions of the policy.

The Federal had reported in April that no state or union territory implemented the new policy that promised drastic changes in the country’s education system.

Also read: In jolt to NEP 2020, Bengal forms panel to draft its own education policy

Many non-BJP states like West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu decided to draft their own education policy.

“The Centre by linking the PM SHRI with the NEP is trying to put pressure on the states to implement its new policy,” argued an official of the West Bengal school education department.

His argument is not without basis as Pradhan himself had said the PM SHRI schools would be the ‘laboratories’ for implementation of the NEP.

Also read: NEP 2020 has little to offer in realm of curriculum and pedagogy

Also read: NEP focuses on ‘how to think’ rather than ‘what to think’: PM

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