State Intervention in Education and the Role of SIEMAT

 

By Dr. Sudhanshu Bhushan, paper presented in a Seminar on State, School and Community Role of Educational Management and Training in a Changing Perspective held at SIEMAT Bihar, Patna, March 20-21, 1999 and Edited by Dr. Sudhansu Bhusan, Additional Director, SIEMAT Bihar, Patna.

 

Introduction

 

It is difficult to understand the dynamics of state intervention in terms of education policy and planning without a conception of the state. It is thus imperative to analyse the dynamics of progress in education in terms of social, political and economic inner-connections and the emerging contradictions which the apparatus of state mechanism attempted to resolve. If the contradictions of state intervention reflect in terms of dualism of policy and planning, the recent shift in the paradigm of policy and planning from the centralisation to the decentralisation, too, may be the resultant of the loss in the relative autonomy of the state. If this is so, then the question is whether this shift amounts to the retreat of the state or, in fact, it is the genuine effort to restructure the state intervention by establishing the links with the community for improving school effectiveness. The potent danger is that if this restructuring fails, education will be thrown open to the market forces.

 

The objective of the paper is to briefly understand the dualism of policy and planning. The establishment of SIEMAT, too, may not be free from the above dualism of policy and planning. If SIEMAT fails to be established in various states it may reflect the failure in the restructuring of the state to meet new challenges in developing plan competencies and the administrative preparedness in the context of decentralisation. Therefore, it is pertinent to seek answers of state intervention through SIEMAT only in terms of dual role of state. The role perception of SIEMAT in developing plan competencies needs to be brought into sharper focus against this background.

   

I

Adam Smith notes that 'The education of the common people requires, perhaps in a civilised and commercial society, the attention of the public more than that of people of some rank and fortune' (Smith, Wealth of Nations, p.718). The justification of state intervention in education is nonetheless not free from the contradictions that a capitalist state may have to face. Adam Smith's candid view that the "civil government is instituted primarily in the defence of private property" (Bhaduri, Macro Economics, p.245) raises an important contradiction. The contradiction consists of the fact that the role of the capitalist state in curbing the power and privilege of private property is severely limited by the logic of its own existence.

 

From this point of view, the analysis of socio-economic and political inner-connections throw sufficient light on the nature of state intervention. The political aspect of the state is that a democratic state in terms of a one man-one vote principle may reflect the interests of the masses. The economic aspect of the state is that in terms of unequal voting of the market mechanism, it may reflect the interests of the economically powerful sections. A socially and culturally heterogeneous society still throws a greater challenge to the state apparatus to serve and oblige the interests of the varied groups of the society. The democratic state which attempts to reconcile the political and economic aspects of democracy through continuous redistribution of income from propertied to the property-less can only do so up to a point beyond which it faces severe contradictions. The dynamics of state intervention must thus reflect in a gradual loss in the relative autonomy, paving the way for the dominant sections to pursue their our interests.

 

Dualism of Education Policy and Planning

 

In the realm of education policy and planning, the role of state in trying to resolve the demands of politically dominant, economically powerful and socially heterogeneous groups of society reflects in the dualism of policy and planning.

 

At the dawn of independence, the planning models relied upon the commodity - centred approach to development. To support the capital intensive process of development, education was supposed to create a skilled manpower. There was thus great reliance upon higher education as an engine to growth. Although economic strategy was in favour of higher education, the political and social compulsions of constitution makers pointed towards different directions. It declared to achieve the goal of UEE within ten years in the hope to pacify the social and political interests of the people who would have otherwise challenged the state prioritisation of higher education. It was, however, a mere wishful thinking on the part of the state to achieve the goal of UEE within ten years. The efforts made in this direction were mindless expansion of schools. The centralised planning exercise in this direction later showed that government effort in this direction was non-sustainable as the state was caught in a web of contradictions that in the realm of economics was reflected in terms of financial crunch.

 

The state, on the other hand, fuelled the process of growth by developing universities, engineering, medical and other technical institutions. It was also instrumental in developing and managing schools to cater to the interests of its own employees.

 

The UEE remained simply a pipedream to be realised at some unknown future date. The dualism of policy and planning reflected in the failure of centralised planning in creating huge infrastructure without a proper institutional planning at the micro-level as well as the failure of managing the huge infrastructure.

 

I shall not go into the aspects of various contradictions that were reflected in the content and choice of subjects in education. Various educational thinkers have touched upon these aspects in great detail.

 

I shall refer here to the problems of dualism of policy and planning in respect of the recent shift in the policy of decentralisation in planning. The community was the reference point of educational planning in its own way for a long time. The colonial policy was later responsible for alienating the community from the process of educational planning. After independence, the initiative of the community to manage schools was further restricted due to state dualism of policy and planning. In this process, privileged section from the community withdrew themselves completely from the government schools. The education policy of fulfilling the goal of UEE, therefore, primarily amounts to reaching the target group.

 

The essential elements of education policy are following :

 

1. To reach the target group to achieve UEE.

2. To make an effort towards decentralisation of planning and management.

3. To establish links with the community through Panchayati Raj institutions.

 

Failure of the state to mobilise financial and physical resources required to achieve UEE itself is a reflection of the fact that there are compulsions that restrict the state to pursue egalitarian objective of fulfilling UEE.

 

Compulsions were the result of the state's role in managing various contradictions in the economic, political and social realm. Policy to achieve them becomes a wishful thinking, nonetheless, essential on political and social grounds. State's efforts towards decentralisation then may be interpreted as either of the following : (a) retreat of the state from direct intervention (b) restructuring of state intervention by allowing community to be equal partners in education.

 

Even, to begin with, we interpret that policy reflects (b) rather than (a), then planning to achieve (b) must reflect state government's efforts to clearly perceive the process of empowering the community and to restructure the educational administration to allow the community to partly share the responsibility to improve school effectiveness. So long as the process of empowering and restructuring is imposed from above and through external agencies, through the strategy of (b) the goal of UEE cannot be achieved. It is important to note that state government resilience towards this approach shows that (b) would lead the way probably towards (a) which simply means that social sector, too, may be thrown open completely to the forces of privatisation. The delay in the implementation of Panchayati Raj system clearly points to the dualism whereby in terms of policy pronouncement, the UEE is supposed to be achieved through decentralised planning and management. However, the state in managing the social, economic and political contradictions appears to be delaying the implementation of the policy.

 

The upshot of the argument is that the shift in the recent policy pronouncements of decentralisation is the result of the contradiction that the state is managing in the realm of economics, politics and sociology. If the state fails to resolve these contradictions satisfactorily in favour of the masses, then again any attempt to restructure the educational system through decentralisation may fail and ultimately the state may have to retreat. The retreat of the state may then take the form, from its role as direct intervenor, to one of managing and regulating the private education system.

 

II

 

The dualism of policy and actual planning is quite evident in so far as SIEMAT's establishment and its role are concerned with respect to planning exercises. N.V Varghese in his paper "A note on SIEMAT" notes "while visualising an institute one may have to keep a long-term development of the educational system of the state in mind rather than the short-term demands put by any particular sector of education". He further notes, "the immediate demand for setting up such an institute, as mentioned above, comes from the DPEP; the funding support, too, is provided by the DPEP. However, it may not be a desirable proposition to setup the institute strictly within the framework of the DPEP. This is very important because DPEP is envisaged in a project mode.". Dr. Varghese clearly and candidly refers to the contradiction between institutional need and project mode of establishment of SIEMAT. I am, in addition, referring to a principal contradiction. It refers to the need of SIEMAT like institutions; whereas when actual implementation comes in the wake of Structural Adjustment Programme as a result of new economic policy, establishment of an institution is bound to face problems unless state government shows its willingness to develop it as an independent institution.

 

Even if SIEMAT is established, another important point concerns the role ambiguity with respect to planning. SIEMAT is supposed to develop, firstly, the plan competencies at the district level as decentralised planning is to be followed in the years to come. Various state governments facing the financial crunch have already dropped various planning schemes and a state like Bihar has so far not introduced PR system within which a role specification of planning has to take place. Thus for whom SIEMAT is supposed to develop plan competencies at the district level ? Of course, within DPEP district level plan is prepared and it seems State Level Office as state level agency of DPEP is naturally suited to develop the plan competencies at the district level or at best it may ask SIEMAT to develop the plan expertise to support SLO in the district level planning.

 

Another area that is open for SIEMAT is to provide support to some sort of block level planning. The problem here is that BEEOs are ill equipped with necessary infrastructure so that they can hardly undertake block level planning. Besides, their role is seen more as an inspecting officer rather then ground level planner. Most of the time they are engaged in managing the field problems. In the present situation they can hardly make any planning effort. The utmost that they can do is to make block level planning on an individual basis by systematically using the information that they possess within a block.

 

The most challenging job at present for SIEMAT then turns out to be in the area of micro level planning and school mapping and the institutional planning at the school level. The objective of micro level planning is to induce the community to develop school, health services, roads, etc. with whatever limited resources that they possess in a systematic manner. This is a question that relates to the empowerment of community for communities take over/sharing of the problems of education. This is necessarily an issue of developing a synergy between state's role in education with that of community's role in education. This is a problem that relates to its operational aspects for which various forms of synergy has to be tried out and experimented with. Given this SIEMAT can at best impart training to the education officers and the Headmasters. In the latter case, its resources and infrastructure have to be commensurate with the responsibility, otherwise it may confine itself to the training of educational officers leaving it to the sweet will of the latter to spread the message in the field. Other course could be to train the NGOs in this regard and expect them to spread the knowledge to their respective field of operation.

 

The most important area of planning is the institutional planning at the school level. The role of SIEMAT in this context seems important. SIEMAT may spread the message of school development planning to the educational officers. However, the problem does not end here alone. The spread of primary schools in large geographical areas, the contextual problems relating to teachers and educational officers and the infrastructural difficulties always come in the way of effective teaching-learning processes. DPEP efforts through BRCs, CRCs and VECs will have to be implemented in a holistic perspective so that teachers ultimately get prepared to begin proper dialogue with the community, amongst themselves and with the students. Institutional planning in our context simply means systematic efforts to make school's teaching-learning processes effective.

 
                                                                                                                                                     
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