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Policy Institutions and Practice

Term Paper
By Bhanu Jain

Common School System

Introduction

Common School System (CSS) is a much talked system as one of the most possible
solution to the social evils of Indian society or for any society for that matter. Sadgopal,
strongly recommended that Common school system is a must step that should be taken to
insure the development of India as a super power and as a developed country. Although
it has been well recognized decades ago that CSS is an essential step for attaining
equality, social justice and social change but till now no concrete and effective steps have
been taken for its implementation. Even its inclusion in policies or proposals has been
more name sake kinds than for real purpose of implementation. For several reasons, CSS
has remained only a recommendation and has never turned into the reality. In the present
paper, there is an attempt to discuss about the aspects of common school system and
various hurdles faced by it in practice.

Historical Background

The Education Commission (1964-66) aimed for equal opportunities of quality education
to all children irrespective of caste, creed, sex, or class. The Kothari commission dreamed
of a society which will be free of all discriminations and education having the key role of
bringing the social change which creates a socially just and equal society for all. For
fulfillment of this dream, the commission recommended a school system which will
provide equal opportunities to all to gain quality education and equal schooling
opportunities. In other words, the commission recommended common school system
such that all schools act as common government funded schools where in all the children
belonging to any caste, sex, creed, class, language or color (i.e. all economic and social
backgrounds) will have the right to gain good and equal quality education. The education
given in these schools will be free for all in all respects. Also, the commission intended to
include private schools as well under this obligation. The system recommended by the
commission is not supposed to be uniform but of equitable quality such that it serves the
local needs, however, there will be certain uniform norms and standards of quality which
needs to be fulfilled by all the schools. The commission recommended such quality in
schools so that parents themselves do not feel the need to send their children in private
funded schools. Certain essential components of common school system as recommended
by the commission are – public funded common schools open to all, free education
including tuition fees, textbooks, uniforms, notebooks, stationary, shoes etc., minimum
level of infrastructure facilities like building, drinking water, toilet facilities, libraries etc.,
well trained teachers, optimal student-teacher ratio, quality education with some core
components of curriculum but flexibility at the level of textbooks, pedagogy, syllabus
etc., mother tongue as the medium of instruction at primary level, decentralization at the
level of school management etc. Apart from all these components, neighborhood school
is the most crucial component of Common School System as that is the main medium
through which the aim of concept school system can be established. This implies that
each community will have a neighborhood school which can be attended by all the
children in the neighborhood.
The commission felt that ‘common school system’ will bring the children of poor and
rich together in a common school which is very important for the true education for both
the class groups. Also, this in the long run will end the divide between rich and poor in
the society in general. Hence, the idea of ‘neighborhood’ school gain even more
importance in the recommendations of the commission to ensure that this goal of equal
society where there is no discrimination on the basis of any economic or social grounds.
Also, the compulsion on rich and poor to send their children to common schools will also
help in ensuring the quality of schools as interest of the haves will be lying with the
school. This shared stake in quality of the school will compel rich and advantaged group
of people to take interest in the improvement of the school. After the recommendation
made by the commission, common school system as a recommendation was included in
the following national policies of 1968 and 1986 (modified in 1992). The NPE 1968
accepted the recommendation and dedicated a section in the report on ‘equalization of
opportunities’. Although NPE 1986 also accepted the same in a restated form of what
was written in 1968 policy but the POA under NPE 1986 made no reference to CSS what
so ever. Moreover, till now there have not been any concrete or effective steps taken to
implement the system in reality.
Although the Kothari Commission itself recommended the common school system but
contradictions within its own stated components is visible. At one side where the
commission talks about neighborhood schools, on the other side it allows parallel system
of schools to run i.e. government schools, private schools, non-formal schools, vocational
schools etc. Addition to this the commission talks of special provisions for schools for
gifted children and ‘good’ quality private schools. The criteria for this ‘good’ quality
have not been clarified. The commission itself suggests that parents who can afford
private schools can choose to send their children in the private schools. The question that
arises after recommending neighborhood school as a common school where all children
from the community will be going, doesn’t giving the choice of choosing the schools
where parents will send their children violate the very concept of ‘neighborhood’ and
‘common’ school. The commission itself somewhere accepts that the government schools
are of poor quality and can not reach to the level of quality of private schools; hence, it
encourages their existence. To allow layers to exist within the government schools itself
like Navodayas, Pratibha Vikas etc. itself violates the concept of ‘common’ school
system as these schools only cater differently to different group of children.

Implementing ‘Common School System’

Right to Education

Right to Education Bill is considered as a major step towards the implementation of a


common school system first proposed by Kothari Commission, where every child gets an
equal right to equitable education and quality schooling. After the Unnikrishnan versus
Andhra Pradesh case in 1993, the Supreme Court ruled ‘Education to be a
fundamental right’ which follows from the Right to Education in Article 21 of the
constitution. After this beginning, towards giving education the status of fundamental
right, now the bill of ‘Right to Education’ stands in waiting to get the approval and
get pass in the parliament. The bill has undergone many changes from 2004 to now
i.e. 2009. However, in so many years the chances of it being drafted and formed in
the sense it should really seems feeble. Since 2003 to 2005 and then to 2008 although
changes have been made from first draft to the second but all the later drafts seems to
be the diluted form of the earlier ones.

RTE seems to be a failing step towards common school system. As recommended by


the Kothari Commission, the RTE also states (Chapter 2- Section 3) that it will
ensure that equitable quality of education is available to all the children in their
respective neighborhood school. However, there is a lack of inclusion of standards of
this quality like infrastructure, medical facilities etc.

Looking at some of the main points of the bill, one feels that common school system
has been rather delayed than focused in the bill. The RTE doesn’t include private
schools completely within its terrain to provide the said quality education to the
children. The RTE gives the right to the parents for all government run schools but
the private schools are left with the responsibility of catering to only 25% of
economically weaker section of the society. Firstly, the RTE has not made much
attempt to insure that the quality in government and private schools will be at par and
equal. Secondly, by allowing private schools, minority institutions etc to stay out of
this obligation of providing free and compulsory education open to all people, RTE
has allowed for parallel layers of school to exist. Then reservation in schools for the
children from economically weaker section, it self denies the whole concept of
common school system and neighborhood schools as still the people don’t have the
freedom to an equal and quality education as promised by the bill. The idea of
reservation is can’t co-exist with common school system as they imply separate
things. Common School system at one hand ensures full freedom to choose the
school and surety of quality of education, on the other hand, reservation acts like a
carrot to certain percentage of poor people to accept their fate with no noise and stay
in government schools only. Neighborhood has been a crucial concept in common
school system but with such a provision with respect to admission in schools as
stated in RTE no private school will ever behave as a neighborhood school. It is
rather restricting the choice of poor parents back to the available government schools
with low quality of education.

Bihar Common School System

In 2007, the report came out submitted by the commission set up in Bihar on the
blueprint of common school system to be implemented in the state. The commission
aimed at universalizing school education up to class X and 70% transition from class X to
senior secondary school and ensure free and compulsory education from 5 to 14 year old
age group. Unlike the recommendation made in various policies with respect to providing
free and compulsory education till Class VIII, the commission recommended till Class X
and transition from Class X to senior secondary to make schooling meaningful for the
child at professional level. Instead of focusing on government schools only, the
commission recommended that the entire schooling system needs to be changed. The
commission also included pre –elementary education in consideration for establishing an
effective school system. The commission intends to reprioritize the outlays so as to be
able to find required resources for the implementation. Also, the commission recognizes
that parallel streams of schools need to stop strictly if common school system has to be
implemented in true sense. Following the recommendation made by Kothari commission
to include all schools whether government or private schools under the obligation of
providing free and compulsory education to all, the commission also accepts the same
rather it intends to put the condition on school to necessarily cater to all children equally
without any kind of discrimination or denial. The commission also lays similar emphasis
of inclusion at a different level though for the minority institutions to fulfill certain norms
under the common school system. The commission even prepared a draft legislation to be
adopted by the Bihar Legislature. In spite of the fact that such planning took place in
Bihar for implementing a common school system but still it remains a proposal only. The
implementation never took place and like always the recommendation of common school
system still remains a recommendation only. The proposal remained to be a proposal only
and never actually reached even near to the implementation level.

Failure of implementation of the Common School System

In the report by CABE committee on girl’s education and common school system, the
report shares that the upper middle class section of society carries prejudice against the
common school system and neighborhood school concept. With the news of reservations
for children of deprived families in private schools, the parents of high class created such
a uproar and protested against the decision. Some called it harmful for the child coming
from the deprived family only as it will put her in an embarrassing and a tough situation
as the child will keep comparing her condition with that of the children from stronger
financial background. Hence, it is very clear that the vested interests of the rich class lies
somewhere else. People belonging to affluent group do not support the concept of
common school system and hence, due to this lack of support the idea has never gained
much momentum.

One of the most crucial reasons assigned with failure of implementation of the Common
School system has been lack of financial resources. The funds have always been lacking
to support such a grand scale reform in the Indian education system so as to implement
common schools. Tapas Majumdar committee set up in 1997 gave a different point of
view on the other hand. It stated that there is no dearth of resources in the country and
that lack of resources is a myth. It suggested that changes in the priorities of national
economy are required to be able to find enough resources. According to the report of the
committee, if the national economy is prioritized keeping in mind the masses, enough
resources can be allocated for education. However, this suggestion was never paid
attention to. In the RTE 2008 there have been no attempts to make to even calculate the
financial implications for ensuring the said quality education and free education. Bihar’s
proposal for common school system also can be seen as an ambitious policy in terms of
the financial requirements of the plan. How the funds will be allocated and generated for
implementing the system has not been considered in the suggestive policy paper. Also, it
seems that the policy paper has not been made keeping in consideration the political and
social scenario of the country. People’s interest and will to send their children has been
assumed to be there. The quality difference in private and government schools has not
been addressed to in the policy proposal. The practicality of the suggestions has not much
been considered while formulating them, it seems.

Even though in the RTE 2008 the provision of having neighborhood schools has been
mentioned but the definition of neighborhood school is given in relation to the child
rather than in relation to the school. This excludes unaided private schools from the
obligation of providing free and compulsory education to all.

From the above discussion, it is very evident that in all the policies and draft
formulations, common school system has never been a real agenda as it always found
space in the papers but has been thought in realistic and practical terms nor proper
provisions have been insured so as to implement the same. Vested interests of the people
in power and with high financial status have been against common school system rather
than in favor of it. The political interests also lie in maintaining this gap between rich and
poor rather than diminish it. Also, lack of financial resources has been another reason
which accounts for the failure of the implementation of common school system. Apart
from that because of these two reasons the policies that follows Kothari commission
formulated themselves in such a way that they don’t implement common school system
but do make provisions so that it seems that have taken a step further.

Concluding Remarks

In Canada, the CSS is followed in a true sense. There are government funded
neighborhood schools where all the children, belonging to any class or parents belonging
to any line of profession, will go the common school. The parents don’t have any choice
but to send their children to these government funded common school. There is no role of
private schools therefore. Due to this reason, the stake with respect to the quality of
education in these government schools is common to all and hence, is taken care of well
jointly by the government and the people. It has been observed that all powerful G-8
nations apart from Canada like USA, Japan, Germany, France etc. have proper functional
public funded school systems which surely has lead them to reach to the level where they
are counted among the developed countries. Sadgopal shares that without such system of
education, it would have not been possible for these countries to reach where they are
today. U K is another example of such a nation which has moved from privileged
specialized grammar schools to comprehensive school system. Even other Scandinavian
countries like China, Switzerland, South Korea, Cuba and other members of Soviet
Union have records of achieving universal education long ago.
With this respect, Sadgopal shares his doubt whether India will be able to achieve similar
levels of development without creating an equitable and justifiable common school
system. He questions the possibility of India becoming a developed and a powerful nation
without achieving common school system unlike other developed nations as history
shows. According to him, India has no option but to adopt for common school system if it
really wants to reach the heights of development and become a super power.

However, seeing the present political and social situation of India where there is such a
wide gap that exists between different sections of society, between the qualities of
different types of schools etc, is common school system even possible? Although
Sadgopal’s vision for India is the dream nation but still can the education system of India
even comparable with that of Canada, UK and nations like them. The quality and
standard of education have been different and so the conditions in the countries.
Considering the differences, will it be right to say that common school system is the only
solution to all differences existing in Indian society? If it is assumed that yes, it is the
only possible solution then practicality is highly required at the planning level. The
current social and political scenarios needs to be understood thoroughly and changes need
to be brought in the whole education system. Changes keeping in mind the current
scenario might make the implementation of common school system possible.

References:

• http://www.doccentre.net/docsweb/Education/common_school_system.ht
ml
• http://www.indiatogether.org/2004/jul/edu-kothari.htm
• http://www.karmayog.org/redirect/strred.asp?docId=19170
• http://radicalnotes.com/index2.php?
option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=61
• http://www.caclubindia.com/forum/message_display.asp?
quote=121927&group_id=18490
• http://www.educationforallinindia.com/CSSReport.pdf
• Right to Education Bill, 2008
• “Right to Education: Basic principles and core agenda in the Indian
context” by People’s campaign for Common School System
• Sadgopal, A (2005), “A compilation of notes on Common School System
(with special reference to medium of education and NCF 2005)”
• Report of the CABE committee on Girl’s Education and the Common
School System, MHRD, New Delhi (June 2005)
• Amendments to the Right to Education Bill 2008
• Debating Right to Education Bill, 2005 by People’s Campaign for
Common School System