11th School Choice National Conference

School Choice National Conference 2020

COVID-19 has wreaked unimaginable damage across the world. One sector, particularly hit hard, is school education. Schools all over have been shut for at least seven months. In India alone, the World Bank estimates a loss of $400 billion due to school closures. These closures have adversely affected nearly 320 million students. Long-term impact on learning outcomes is still undetermined. How do we make our regulatory framework accommodate and adapt to these changing realities?

We need to create a principles-based light-but-tight regulatory architecture. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 recognizes the need for this. The Policy proposes to change the “overemphasis on inputs, and the mechanistic nature of their specifications” make requirements “more responsive to realities on the ground”. Given the overarching message of the Policy on achieving quality, innovation and equity and the challenges introduced by COVID-19, we need to focus on three aspects: envisaging regulations for new realities, exploring the future of schooling, and ensuring access and equity in education.

Through the 11th School Choice National Conference, we aim to address the question of how governments can build an effective institutional framework for private schools towards the goal of quality education for all. With three panels comprising state and Union government officials, educationists, and public administration experts, we propose to delve into each of the three aspects laid out above and assist government functionaries to develop an implementation blueprint for their respective states.

You can read more about our previous School Choice National Conferences here.

Conference Dates: 22 and 23 January 2021

Day 1 | 22nd January 2021

16:30 - 17:15 IST | Keynote Address on “Governance for Quality education”

Prof Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, Professor, University College London


17:30 - 19:00 IST | Session 1: Envisaging regulations for new realities

Anirudh Khaitan, Vice Chairman, Khaitan Public School and Treasurer, FICCI ARISE

Dr E Prasad Rao, Quality Advisor NISA and Founder, Paramita Schools

Parth J Shah, President, Centre for Civil Society

Bhuvana Anand, Founder Director, Trayas Foundation>


Day 2 | 23rd January 2021

10:30 - 12:00 IST | Session 2: Moving towards 21st-century schooling

Vishnu Karthik, CEO, Xperiential Learning Systems (The Heritage Schools)

Vidhi Jain, Co-founder, Shikshantar

Neal McCluskey, Director, Center for Educational Freedom, CATO Institute


13:00 - 14:30 IST | Session 3: Ensuring access and equity in education

Ashok Thakur, Founder, Muni International School

Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, TeamLease Services Ltd

Ekta Sodha, Vice President, Quality Control, NISA

Tanaya Kilara, Head, Education Services at Varthana


15:00 - 16:00 IST | Closing Address on “Implementing NEP in Uttar Pradesh”

Vijay Kiran Anand, Director-General of School Education, Uttar Pradesh

 Keynote Address on “Governance for quality education”

Professor Geeta Gandhi Kingdon delivered the keynote address at the Conference and talked about the role of governance in ensuring quality education. She discussed the role of varying stakeholders like teachers, school leaders and politicians in India's school education system.


Panel 1 | Envisaging regulations for new realities

The first panel discussion was on "Envisaging Regulations for New Realities" for which we were joined by Parth Shah, President, Centre for Civil Society; Anirudh Khaitan, Vice President, Khaitan Public School, Dr E Prasad Rao, Founder, Paromita Schools and Bhuvana Anand, Founder Director, Trayas.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the crisis in Indian school education. The Indian Cabinet released the National Education Policy 2020 which recognizes the need to re-engineer our regulatory processes in a manner that not only ensures a safe learning environment but also improves learning outcomes. It recommends the formation of regulatory bodies such as state standard-setting authority, PARAKH, and strengthening the National Institute of Open Schooling. For this, the first panel discussion addressed the role of regulatory agencies in a post-COVID world.


Panel 2 | Moving towards 21st century schooling



The second panel discussion was on "Moving towards 21st century schooling". We were joined by Vishnu Karthik, Director, Heritage Schools; Vidhi Jain, Co-founder, Shikshantar and Neal McCluskey, Director, Center for Educational Freedom, CATO Institute to discuss how in the absence of in-person classes during Covid-19, children had to turn to ed-tech and online education platforms.

The definition of a school has undergone significant changes this year. In the absence of in-person classes, ed-tech and online education platforms saw a strong boost in enrollment. What are the different ways in which children can learn? How do we recognize these forms of education? One of the key focus areas of the panel was imagining a world where children can easily be certified on their learning levels without needing to enroll in a physical school. In addition, the panel focussed on re-aligning the education system to focus on funding students, and not schools.


Panel 3 | Ensuring access and equity in education



The third panel discussion was on "Ensuring access and equity in education" for which we were joined by Mr Ashok Thakur, Founder, Muni International School; Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, TeamLease Services Ltd, Tanaya Kilara, Head, Education Services, Varthana and Ekta Sodha, CEO Cadmus-Sodha Schools. Budget private schools charge nominal fees, and cater to economically weaker sections across India. As parents struggled to pay fees, many of these schools had to shut down. This has only widened the “disadvantaged” gap between children from different income-classes in India. How do we ensure our policies accommodate the new realities? This panel discussed the need for schools to be recognized as “industry” or as micro, small, and medium enterprises to allow them to access bridge-financing to tide over disasters such as the current pandemic.


Closing Address on “Implementing NEP in Uttar Pradesh”


The closing address at the Conference was delivered by Vijay Kiran Anand, the first Director-General of School Education, Uttar Pradesh. He talked about the Basic Education Department's mandate, his work on ensuring education for all in UP and his experience with implementing the NEP in Uttar Pradesh.