Improving School Quality

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One of the main aims of PACS on the issue of education has been to improve the quality of educational establishments so that they are more inclusive and meet the standards as outlined under the Right to Education Act (2009). PACS has been doing this by working with School Management Committees and other educational bodies whilst also investing in research on social exclusion and learning.

Working with School Management Committees

Section 21 of the 2009 Right to Education (RTE) Act requires all schools to constitute a School Management Committee (SMC). The role of a SMC is to manage, monitor and support a school in its functioning, and to ensure that it is meeting requirements as outlined under the RTE Act. Find out more about the role and remit of SMCs.

PACS has been working with SMCs (and other educational bodies such as Village Education Committees and Bal Panchayats) to improve the quality of schools by:

Mid-Day Meal watches

The Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme was launched by the Government of India in 1995 to provide a free lunchtime meal to all children who attend elementary school. It aims to encourage attendance and improve nutrition.

However, there have been reports of irregularity in the provision of MDMs, a lack of nutritional quality and discrimination in who MDMs are given to (with children from dalit communities being discriminated against most widely).

PACS has supported SMCs to carry out MDM watches in 3439 schools across all seven PACS States. These MDM watches have regularised and standardised MDM provision, ensuring that discrimination-free, quality food is provided to all children.

Members from the School Management Committee in Ammapatti village, Bihar, carry out a Mid-Day Meal watch, ensuring that good quality food is distributed fairly to all children.

Monitoring budgets

SMCs have been trained by PACS partners on how to use the Right to Information Act (2005) to ensure that the Right to Education Act is being properly enforced.

Under the Right to Information Act, citizens can request to see information that is held by the government on a range of issues, including education. The requested information has to be provided in a “timely manner” (which differs by State, but is usually around 15 days).

SMCs have been supported to submit requests for information about education, such as the budget paid to schools, the number of books that schools say they have bought, or the number of classrooms that schools have reported to build. If the information that comes back shows discrepancies, SMCs can then use the data to address an issue directly with the School Principal, or follow the correct grievance procedure to highlight the issue.

In West Bengal PACS ran a pilot project with 1000 SMCs to help them to use GIS technology to monitor work that has been carried out on schools. For example, if a school had been given a budget to build two new classrooms, satellite pictures helped to prove whether the classrooms had been built or not.

 This SMC in the Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh was supported by PACS partner SSK to use the Right to Information Act to expose a misuse of funds, ensuring that more money goes to running the school.

School Development Plans

Under the RTE Act, every SMC has to make an annual School Development Plan (SDP) as part of its school monitoring and assessment. These plans should review school infrastructure (like toilets, kitchens and classrooms), equipment (like books, uniforms and teaching materials) and staffing (including teacher/pupil ratios).

It is common for the decision-making positions on a SMC (such as the President, Vice President and Secretary) to be held by people from higher castes and for decisions to be made without consulting other group members. As a result SDPs are often not inclusive and are prepared without the involvement of all SMC members.

PACS partners have helped SMCs to prepare 431 inclusive School Development Plans involving all SMC members, including those from socially excluded groups. As a result 96,797,000 rupees have been demanded for school improvements that should benefit all children. As of February 2016, 26,230,500 rupees had so far been released and utilised against SDP budgets.

Inclusive teaching materials and methods

PACS has also invested in research on the impact of social exclusion on children’s learning, and developing and promoting the use of inclusive teaching materials and methods that are best suited to community needs.

This includes a report on the status of inclusive primary education in Bihar, and a book on social diversity and inclusive education in India. Both these publications were authored by partner Deshkal Society.

 Following an inclusive education training by Deshkal Society, the teachers in this school in the Gaya district of Bihar now plan creative lessons involving all children, especially those from dalit communities, improving learning and decreasing drop-out rates.

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