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In 1986, India drafted the National Education Policy with the aim of improving education in the country. They decided to do this by increasing the number of schools and the number of teachers who join the system. The other big goal of that policy was to reduce gaps in education by focussing on basic literacy and numeracy. In 2015, a committee headed by K Kasturirangan came together to draft a new NEP of which the aim now had shifted to transform India’s education system. 

In June of 2020, the National Education Policy was released and one may really say that the entire education system and people came together to break it down, analyse it and critique every line of it. Opinions, thoughts and questions were raised towards this draft. Most of these changes are welcome but the question still stands – Is the system designed to accommodate this new idea of world-class education?

The NEP covers everything that is needed to be thought about while we seek to create holistic education for a child. It talks about the role of the teachers, the governance of the state and district, the infrastructure of the school, the management of the School Management Committee (SMC) and the decision making authorities in the school.

It talks about methods of using the schools more optimally by clustering schools and creating school complexes. If one reads the NEP, the word school complexes will come up multiple times but it’s chapter 7 that talks in detail about the structure and governance of school complexes. 

What are School Complexes? 

It’s a cluster of schools comprising 1 secondary school, other schools and Aaganwadis within a radius of 5-10 km. These would be governed and managed by the School Complex Management Committee (SCMC) consisting of school heads, selected teachers, members of the community, students and parents. 

While the purpose of using the current schools optimally is a great strategy, the governance of these complexes is ambiguous and centralised in nature. ‘School will be organised into school complexes which will be the basic unit of governance and administration.’ The principal of the secondary school will be the head of the whole school complex and take decisions for all the schools under the complex with regard to resource allocation, finances and accounting. What makes all of this ambiguous is the lack of clarity, raising some key questions:

  1. How will the principals/ heads be upskilled and trained to manage multiple schools? The current scenario with schools has shown multiple times that principals struggle with managing one school strategically. This has multiple reasons ranging from overburdening principals with administrative tasks to lack of motivation in the principals. With more schools, the efficiency and the quality of the work will further diminish resulting in unequal attention to all schools in the complex.
  2. What will be the role that power will play when it is concentrated in the hands of a top few?  Power plays a very important role in seeing actions take place effectively and equitably. With power being centralised towards one school’s principal, resource allocation, competition and financing may become extremely imbalanced. If a principal for one school is taking decisions for all the schools in the complex, these might not serve the same benefits for everyone as it’s not possible for the principal to have complete context of all the schools. 
  3. Under the New Policy of Education (1986), at least one Educational Complex may be established in every district during the Eighth Five Year Plan, so as to develop a functional model” – An educational complex was intended to be established for the same reasons as the current School Complex proposition. Hence this idea of school governance has been in implementation for more than 35 years and has not completely been functional in urban and rural India. What is currently making us believe that with the new NEP the implementation is going to be stronger? 
  4. And finally, as the infrastructural compositions of schools change, principals/heads of schools also need to get accustomed to the other big changes, as mentioned above, that come with the implementation of the NEP. Even bringing one small shift into the school system requires training and developing teachers, informing and investing stakeholders and making time for long-term strategic planning. 

While the structure of school complexes in its essence works towards problem-solving the poor resource allocation in the different schools of a region, it tragically doesn’t lay down how will these big changes in power and increase in roles and responsibilities work towards building capacity and efficiency in schools, their governance and in the school complex system overall. 

On the surface, the NEP comes up as one of the most ambitious policies to be taken up by any government and promises a lot. It is bold and far-fetched in theory and comes forward to not shy away from change. But when one dives deep, this policy falls short of clearly laying out well-thought-out strategies and plans for its implementation – of assessments, regional languages or even School Complexes and hence leaves its observers and implementers uninspired and conflicted.

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The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.