Centre for Civil Society

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Translating policy into practice, New Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society (CCS) envisions a world where students receive quality education of their choice. In a brief conversation with The Progressive Teacher, Parth J Shah, president, CCS reveals how the centre is reshaping the landscape of school education policy to bring equal opportunities among students from different economic strata, bridging the barrier between the rich and the poor.

Parth J ShahA flashback to the inception CCS would date back to the year 1997 when Parth J Shah, who used to teach Economics at the University of Michigan, returned to India to establish this centre designed to trigger social changes through public policies in education, civil society and various other parameters. Core vision of CCS is to help each individual lead a life of their choice in personal, economic and political spheres. The centre constantly carries out campaigns and programmes viz. School Choice Campaign (SCC), Right to Education, Jeevika, Azad Me, among others.

Flexible system
On the CCS’ move towards reshaping the country’s education policy, Parth remarks, ‘With our philosophy that every child is unique, we believe that an education system can be called truly successful when it is flexible enough to cater to each student equally. So, we aim to reform education policy through School Choice Campaign (SCC) to make it more responsive to the needs of each child and provide parents the choices to decide what is best for their kids, whether it is government or convent or budget private school.’ He further mentions that under the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 for free and compulsory education for all children, CCS looks forward to calling schools ‘socially inclusive’ only when children of different economic backgrounds in all classes enjoy privileges as equally as possible.

‘RTE Act makes it compulsory for every private unaided school to admit 25 percent of its entry-level classes, children from underprivileged groups. For students from the weaker economic background, the state governments shall reimburse schools an amount equal to either the fees charged by the school or per child expenditure, whichever is lower,’ asserts Parth. So, CCS believes that the most powerful component in this Act is the reservation of 25 percent seats in private schools across the country for economically weaker students.

Strategic platform
National Independent School Alliance (NISA) is yet another platform of CCS where budget private schools from all over the country come together to raise their unified voice to address concerns about laws and legislations that apply to them, to facilitate improvement in overall quality. As of today, NISA represents around 36,400 private schools and 26 state associations of private school owners from 20 states. Systemic level change is what NISA is striving for. Focusing on building a strong platform and creating awareness around budget private schools, NISA aims to create an ecosystem for quality improvement by partnering with different organisations working in the education space.

Learning outcomes
A change required so significantly in the current education policy of the country, according to Parth, is shifting the focus of government rules and regulations towards the perfect garnering of learning outcomes of students. ‘Whether a person is qualified with B Ed or not, if she/he is capable to provide students better learning we should not stop her/him from becoming a teacher,’ he opines adding that the legal requirements of making sure that a teacher completes the syllabus are perverse and it undermines the larger purpose of education. ‘Since learning outcome is of prime importance, teachers should be judged according to the ability of the students they teach, to read and comprehend,’ he reasons.

Now that the world has been caught up in ultra-modern technologies sweeping across all spheres of life, Parth urges teachers to be part of the revolutionary change, so that they do not remain traditional orators in confined classrooms but evolve into good modern facilitators of knowledge with an open mind.