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The Panchyat and Education

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The Panchyat and Education: The 73rd Constitutional Amendment established the three-tier panchayati raj system in the country, with el...

The Panchyat and Education

The Panchyat and Education:

The 73rd Constitutional Amendment established the three-tier panchayati raj system in the country, with elected bodies at the gram, taluk and zilla levels to enable people to think, decide and act for their collective interest, to provide for greater participation of the people in development, to ensure more effective implementation of rural development programmes in the state, and to plan and implement programmes for economic development and social justice. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment identified 29 subjects for transfer to the panchayats, including primary and secondary education, adult and non-formal education, libraries, technical training and vocational education. All state governments enacted their state Panchayati Raj Acts in order to realise the constitutional mandate of decentralised democracy and development. 

Overlaps and Ambiguities in Functions:
Several states in the country have identified functions and activities for implementation at different tiers of panchayat raj functioning. In several states, a vast array of functions is assigned to PRIs at every level. In practice, however, PRIs, especially taluk and gram panchayats, discharge few tasks. Barring disbursement of salaries in some states, taluk and gram panchayats discharge practically no functions of any significance in the sectors of education, health, women and child development, and social welfare. Moreover, there are huge ambiguities and overlaps in the functions and tasks to be discharged at different levels. These ambiguities often result in conflicts between the three-tiers, especially with respect to: Who plans? Who decides? Who selects? Who accords approval? Who implements? Who releases funds? Who monitors? Indeed, there is no role clarity between the functions at the different levels. 

Principle of Subsidiarity :
The principle of subsidiarity is the bedrock of panchayat raj. The principle of subsidiarity stipulates: 'What can be done best at a particular level should be done at that level and not at higher levels. All that can be done optimally at the lowest level should be done at that level.' This necessitates a rational and realistic analysis of the functions that are required to be discharged at different levels of PRIs, devolution of those functions to those levels of panchayati raj, simultaneously ensuring that required funds are devolved to that level for discharging that function and transacting the activity. 

Strengthening Panchayati Raj :The practice of setting up parallel bodies in the form of autonomous registered bodies, for example, Zilla Saksharta Samitis, DPEP Societies, SSA Societies at the state level, and similar bodies at the taluk and village level, has severely undermined the powers of PRIs. These parallel bodies have emerged in large numbers across different sectors. Each village has them; there are village education committees, watershed committees, Rytu Mitra committees, forest committees, water users associations, none of which are answerable to panchayats. These committees receive large funds from external donor agencies, and are dominated largely by the village elite. In short, the major problems in Panchayat Raj functioning are that there is: 
• No one-to-one correlation between the functions assigned to the different tiers of Panchayat Raj and the funds developed. 
• The tendency to form parallel committees at the village level marginalise democratically elected bodies. These committees undermine the stature of democratically elected bodies and make a mockery of peoples' participation in local planning. 

Over the recent past, there has been a growing emphasis on maintaining a large database at the block/ district level on indicators such as rates of enrolment, drop-out, achievement, etc. These are also used as yardsticks for monitoring schools and for larger school management. While official insistence on the regular maintaining of detailed records in relation to these indicators has burdened schools, it has also led to an unnecessary emphasis on quantitative indices of school performance (often leading to data of questionable quality) at various levels without adequate steps to link academic planning and the process of curriculum transaction. 

Block Resource Centres (BRCs) and Cluster Resource Centres (CRCs) are now present in almost all districts for monitoring schools and teachers through follow-up. In order to provide training, DIETs have been set up at the district level. Lack of role clarity and overlap of activities afflict the functioning of these organisations. Quite often, personnel in resource centres are mostly reduced to administrative and data-collection functionaries. Given the perspective of decentralised school-level academic planning, and the active and creative involvement of teachers in defining the nature of curriculum transaction for addressing the needs of children, it is urgent that BRCs and CRCs are energised so that they can play a facilitating role. It would be necessary to define the roles of resource persons in these centres, to build their capacities by deepening their subject knowledge and training competence, and to provide them space to function with some autonomy. Rather than routinely conducting workshops designed elsewhere, these centres could focus on conducting workshops along with follow-up activities based on the needs they identify locally. Norms for schools visits, guidelines for systematic monitoring, feedback and academic support will also have to be evolved. There is also a need for institutional mechanisms that coordinate and build upon the work done by resource centres at different levels in order that synergies can emerge. 

In order to strengthen school-based academic support for teachers, it is necessary to identify and create a pool of resource persons at the level of the village, cluster and block, and similarly in urban areas, that can contribute to the regular inputs that teachers require, provide support to new ideas and practices, and help work them through. It should be possible to institutionalise such support at the level of the cluster/ block, which can then be integrated into a regular teacher-support programme; funds should be made available for it.
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CLEAR CTET: The Panchyat and Education
The Panchyat and Education
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