When we talk of transforming the system, it has to be state-wide transformation of the government schools, most of which even lack basic infrastructure.
It is known fact that many government schools function without having building and not to talk of classrooms. It's also a fact that any best transformation plan drafted on paper eats dust for want of funds. And the budgetary constraints posed by revenues are not new to the system. These constraints prevent our state exchequer to lend a much desired support to priority projects like our school education system.
So the basic treatment to the ailing system lies in the financial resources. Before coming to a financial solution to the starving situation, there is dire need to institutionalize data-driven accountability in the entire education hierarchy. In the given scenario, now is the time to bring into force the scientific learning level assessments of students and implement a state-of-the-art information system to deliver actionable data to teachers and administrators while freeing up time to focus on actual teaching and roll out large scale remedial measures to close learning gaps. Training institutes imparting trainings to the teachers, well known as DIET, also need transformation so that these training centres enhance the skill of teachers in real sense.
As already stated, all this kind of fundamental transformation is entirely based on the availability of funds. Now the basic question – how to pull the system out of this starvation? Finding appropriate financial resources for priority sectors like education has always remained a big challenge for the government. However, a ray of hope now lies in the amended Companies Act 2013 throwing open corporate social responsibility (CSR) window.
The provision regarding CSR in the New Companies Act 2013 has brought within its ambit all the companies with at least Rs 5-crore net profit or Rs 1,000-crore turnover or Rs 500-crore network, making its mandatory for them to spend 2 per cent of the three years' average net profit before tax on CSR activities.
This presents a big opportunity for the school education sector to seek CSR funding in most sustainable manner. Notably, access to these CSR funds received a shot in the arm when, few days back, the State Administrative Council (SAC) evolved a framework for implementing projects in J&K through CSR funding. A CSR Fund has been set up now. As per the modalities of the new framework, companies, philanthropist, NGOs etc. falling under CSR rules have to pool their CSR funds earmarked for utilization in the state in this State CSR Fund. All government department/agency or state owned PSU/Corporation stand barred to receive contributions under CSR initiatives directly from any company or corporate.
It's here the governing body of the CSR Fund has to lay emphasis on earmarking substantial funds for creating infrastructure in terms of school buildings, state-of-the-art classrooms etc. and other relevant enablers in the school education system.
Let various committees are framed to look into the affairs of infrastructure and school development institutes; student development and capability building of teachers; school management and state institutes. This would help in effective utilisation of CSR funds for welfare of students and other stakeholder. It would also be in the fitness of things to glance at the CSR policies of the companies/ corporate houses as they come out with novel innovative ideas for implementation of CSR activities in the field of education sector. All this together can lead to transformation of the school education system in real sense.
Last but not the least. The CSR funds should not be deployed in a one-off, short-term and inputs-oriented manner, like the adoption of a few schools. Utilisation of funds should be in a most sustainable manner on long term basis. Otherwise, fragmented approach will have minimal impact.
(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)