On an autumn afternoon in the capital, Delhi, a crowd of young students, some of them in their early 20s, have gathered in the courtyard of a government school.
They have assembled for a debate on a new government policy aimed at making the Indian education system more affordable.
The debate, organised by the Education Reforms Policy Institute (ERSPI), aims to “give students and teachers the knowledge and tools they need to build their capacity to lead in the global economy and beyond.”
The debate will be led by Professor M.C. Srinivasan, a senior lecturer in education at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and will take place at the Raj Bhawan on Wednesday evening.
It is part of a new strategy launched by the government to attract students and give them the tools they want to develop their skills and learn.
This is a crucial development for students and the education system, said Prof Srinasan, whose group has been campaigning for more affordable higher education.
“We want to provide them with the information, the tools and the tools that will enable them to become the next leaders of the world,” he said.
The government is also trying to boost the teaching profession.
The National Council of Secondary Education (NCSE) has asked teachers to “make a difference” by getting involved in policy debates and by providing feedback on programmes that have been developed.
The NCSE is in charge of setting up the government’s policy on the teaching of children’s reading and writing skills.
It is also responsible for ensuring that the curriculum is in sync with the curriculum of all the state and central government schools.
“I have to emphasise that the primary aim of our policy is not to create a better education for children but to develop the teaching capacity of teachers,” said NCSES secretary Rajeev Kumar, referring to the education minister, Nitin Gadkari.
“Our policy is to make teaching a good career choice for teachers.”
In the past, students have been reluctant to join debates.
This time, however, the students are enthusiastic and eager to share their ideas.
“There is no doubt that education is an important subject and the students have the right to discuss it,” said Rishi Vaidya, a 17-year-old student.
He was one of the three invited speakers.
“It will be a good platform for our voices to be heard,” he added.
The debates will be broadcast on the National Broadcasting Service (NBAS), the national broadcaster, and the NCSEs’ online portal.
The programme is being hosted by the Centre for Policy Research, an independent think tank.
The students will also share their opinions on the programme on their Twitter accounts.
The first round of the debate will run from 8am on October 15 to 2pm on October 18.
The other two rounds of the programme will take up the same topics, including a proposal to make colleges offer courses in reading and spelling.
The final round of debates will run between 8am and 9pm on the same day.
The Centre for Education Reform (CER), which has a large student body, has organised several forums and seminars for teachers to discuss the issues raised by the students.
The government’s flagship policy for the sector, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), was launched in 2013.
The policy aims to give students and their teachers “the knowledge and skills they need” to “build their capacity” to lead the world.
This has created a shortage of teachers in the Indian middle class, said NCPE secretary Rishi K. Vaidyanathan.
It has also created a demand for more qualified teachers in all levels.
The current government has set up an expert group for the teaching sector to provide “guidance” to teachers and students.
“In addition to education, we need to develop infrastructure,” said a senior NCPEs spokesperson.
The organisation has also set up a centre for teaching and learning.
The students in the first debate on the NCEP are among the most well-qualified students in India.
The NCPES has said it has been trying to recruit more qualified teacher-teachers for the last two decades.
“The current government, through the policy of education reform, is attempting to improve the quality of education in India by increasing the number of qualified teachers and giving them the skills they require,” said Dr. Anand Singh, a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The government is “trying to make teachers and teachers themselves accountable for the quality and efficiency of education”, he added, while highlighting that the students’ views on the policy are being listened to.
The second round of debate will take a closer look at the NCPER’s plan to provide free high school education in the state of Haryana, which has one of India’s highest proportion of students without a degree.
The proposal was announced during the recent cabinet meeting.
In the last three years, the NCHS had recorded an increase of