Unsmart city 2015: Thumbs up for technology, poor report card on RTE plan, fee controlhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/unsmart-city-2015-thumbs-up-for-technology-poor-report-card-on-rte-plan-fee-control/

Unsmart city 2015: Thumbs up for technology, poor report card on RTE plan, fee control

As Pune enters 2016, riding hopes of donning a new avatar, Newsline takes stock of areas in the city that remained more or less ‘unsmart’ in 2015.

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Pune failed to implement RTE

THE YEAR 2015 was an important one in the education sector that saw many ‘firsts’ happen. A change of guard and a new government at the helm brought a lot of important changes, including some positive ones like a second chance for students failing Std X to take re-exams the same year, emphasis on tech-literacy and identification of tech-savvy teachers across state, a decision to reign in schools deliberately holding Std IX students and the Pune University making it to the top 300 varsities in the world. However, the year also saw the sector facing some serious challenges that nearly put at stake the future of students across the state.

RTE admissions mess
In what stood out as a landmark failure, Pune just couldn’t implement the 25 per cent reserved quota admissions for economically-weaker students under the RTE successfully. Some of the factors that led to large number of economically-weaker students awaiting admissions were — confusion prevailing over the online-offline admission process for RTE; inability to reign in schools refusing to admit the RTE students; a weak administration that was often clueless about rules themselves and often reluctant to take action.

Std XI admissions
The failure on part of the education department in streamlining the Std XI online admission process is evident from the fact that a special committee had to be set up after this year’s fiasco to ensure that the same is not repeated next year. After having promised a 100 per cent online process and just three rounds, officials kept conducting multiple rounds and finally resorted to an ‘offline counseling’ round. Until September, the admission process was still dragging.

Fee hikes
Even if the Fee Regulation Act is in place, in the absence of a district-level committee that will hear fee-related complaints, it is effectively toothless. The year 2015 saw a plethora of fee-related protests by parents’ groups, many of whom approached the court. However, there was no resolution in sight with schools not lowering the fees and orders taken by education officers being ignored, in absence of the committee.

Forward planning
The lack of planning was clearly visible as many decisions that started as an image-building exercise, often ended up backfiring. The baseline and summative assessment tests that were a part of quality education improvement backfired as no plans were executed well and the first test that was to be held in June, ended up in October. The biggest embarrassment was when the government had to pull down the state report on new school education policy after it faced severe criticism, only to re-modify it and upload it again.